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The latest on Windows 11's confusing PC support
In this week's Sunday Edition: Microsoft has once again tried and failed to communicate which PCs will officially support Windows 11 and get reliable updates. Here's the latest.
I’m gonna be honest with you: I don’t understand why this story is so complicated. Microsoft’s eventual rollout of Windows 11 should be simple, easy to understand, and offer an installation process virtually anyone could follow. Instead, we’re getting a rollout that looks to be staggered, difficult to grasp, and boasts an install process that’s either really easy or really hard for average consumers.
This past week, Microsoft seemed to open the door for many more Windows 11 installations than we thought they would support. After originally saying only PCs with 8th-gen Intel processors and up could install the OS, the company confirmed to The Verge that anyone whose PC meets a set of minimum requirements could download a Windows 11 ISO and install it themselves. The company wouldn’t stop them or warn them in any way that the PC they’re attempting to install it on isn’t supported.
Those minimum requirements include a 1.0GHz 64-bit processor with at least two cores, 64GB of storage, and 4GB of RAM. If you were to do a clean install of the OS on these specs, you shouldn’t have any major compatibility problems. In fact, there’s a chance you won’t notice any major issues whatsoever. Things could choke every once in a while due to the limited RAM, but that’s about it.
What’s actually concerning about running Windows 11 on such specs is what Microsoft will do if it finds out. As a follow-up to the confirmation I mentioned above, Microsoft also told The Verge those running Windows 11 on “unsupported PCs” won’t be entitled to Windows Updates, which means things like security patches and feature updates will all require manual installation via new ISOs.
When Windows 10 was released in 2015, every PC running Windows dating back to Windows 7 could install it for free. There was a set of minimum requirements, but that was to guarantee a good experience for people that met them and a so-so experience for those who fell short. Nonetheless, the OS was pretty much available to anyone who wanted it, and it needed to be given how significant it was in its heyday.
But Windows 11, by comparison, feels bigger. Microsoft hinted in the past that the naming scheme for Windows would stay at version 10 and only adopt new features and changes as time progressed. For Microsoft to ship a version of the OS that’s so significant it needs to change its name, you know there are bigger plans on the horizon, so why they’re limiting its potential reach on the consumer PC market is beyond me.
I think there are two ways of looking at this:
On the one hand, Microsoft could have nothing but the best intentions. Given how significant Windows 11 is with its new design, vastly more open Microsoft Store, Android app support, and improved security, the company may want to ensure the experience of using it is the same across as many modern PCs as possible.
On the other hand, it could simply be capitalism at its finest. The PC industry is by no means failing (it actually just experienced its first meaningful growth last year due to the pandemic), but Microsoft could be making a play to accelerate PC upgrades and adoption by telling people “Hey, your computer isn’t gonna run our flashy new Windows 11 operating system, so you better get one that can!”
Regardless of optics, it’s admittedly hard to believe Microsoft will seriously leave people who install Windows 11 via ISO in the dust. It would be especially strange to see the company not ship security updates, at the very least. At my 9-5 job, I’ll be forced to install the OS via ISO since virtually none of our PCs have 8th-gen Intel processors. Is Microsoft going to ditch me and potentially millions of others who do the same?
We’ve seen Microsoft flip-flop constantly on its policies surrounding Windows 11 support. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them doing it again in the near future. Whether that means talking to a publication or simply delivering regular updates to ISO users is unclear, but it would make sense for this topic to make headlines once again soon.
What does that mean for you? Whelp, you better check that your PC has an 8th-gen Intel processor in it. According to Microsoft, that’s the only way you’ll be able to get Windows 11 through Windows Update when it’s released this October. Otherwise, you’ll have to download an ISO to your PC and install it manually (cue the tech reporters writing how-to’s on how to do just that).
Microsoft’s Windows 11 support is confusing, and it’s only gotten more confusing as we approach the season of autumn, the very season when the OS will hit the masses. We’ll just have to hope the company straightens things out once and for all sooner than later. Until that happens, I’ll keep you posted.