You can install Windows 11 on your computer in two different ways. You can perform an in-place upgrade or a clean installation, and whatever approach you use will have different benefits.
The in-place upgrade will install the new version of Windows preserving your files, settings, and apps (in most cases), and the process will be faster. On the other hand, a clean installation will give you a more stable setup, but you will need to restore your files from backup, reconfigure your settings, and reinstall your apps, which will take more time.
Also, if you have a computer that doesn’t meet the minimum system requirements, it’s still possible to install Windows 11 through the upgrade or clean installation process, but the setup will be in an unsupported state.
In this guide, you will learn the different ways you can install Windows 11 on your device.
- Windows 11 in-place upgrade
- Windows 11 clean installation
- Windows 11 install on unsupported hardware
Windows 11 in-place upgrade
The in-place upgrade refers to the process to upgrade the current installation to Windows 11. When using this process, the new version of Windows will install, preserving your files, apps, and most of your settings.
Also, the setup will create a copy of the current installation in case something goes wrong and roll back to the previous version is necessary.
Microsoft offers several ways to upgrade to Windows 11, depending on where the device is running Windows 10, 8.1, or 7.
The easiest method to upgrade to Windows 11 is using Windows Update. When the new version of the OS is ready for your device, you will get a notification through the Windows Update settings to proceed with the upgrade. The process will download and install the new version of Windows like a monthly update, but it will take longer to complete because this is a new version, and reinstallation is necessary.
This method is available for devices already running Windows 10, and it’ll preserve your files, settings, and applications. After the installation, if something goes wrong or you are not ready for it, you can roll back to the previous version during the first ten days.
The other recommended upgrade method is using the Installation Assistant. The Installation Assistant is a tool that allows you to upgrade a laptop or desktop computer through a process similar to Windows Update. However, the difference is that you can use it to force the installation at any time. This option is only available for computers already running Windows 10.
You can also upgrade using the Windows 11 ISO file. An ISO is an image file format to store content like a physical disc. Software companies usually use this medium to distribute their products without the need to ship physical media.
Although this is not new, it wasn’t straightforward to obtain the installation image in the past, but this has changed. Starting with Windows 11, Microsoft is making the ISO file an option for anyone to download directly from the official website.
Once you have downloaded the Windows 11 ISO file, you can use it to install the new version of Windows on a virtual machine, or you mount it in File Explorer to begin the upgrade process.
You can use the Windows 11 ISO file to upgrade a device running Windows 10, 8.1, or 7.
If you upgrade from Windows 7, the setup won’t let you keep settings or applications. Only the files will be preserved.
Windows 11 clean installation
A clean installation refers to the process that deletes everything on the hard drive and installs a fresh copy of Windows 11 without keeping your files, apps, and settings.
Usually, this is the best option to install a new version of Windows because it minimizes the chances of issues during and after the installation. Also, it can help to fix existing problems with the current setup, such as performance issues, problems shutting down, booting up, etc.
Since the clean installation process erases everything on the computer, it’s the method of choice to upgrade from an older version, such as Windows 8.1, 7, and even older, if the hardware meets the minimum requirements.
You can perform a clean installation of Windows 11 in a number of ways. You can create a USB bootable media with the Media Creation Tool to start the computer and continue the setup. Usually, this is the option to upgrade a system or install Windows on an empty hard drive. You can also use connect the USB flash drive media to the computer to start the setup and use the keep nothing option to perform a clean installation.
You can mount the ISO file to File Explorer, launch the Windows 11 installation, and choose the keep nothing option to perform a clean installation.
Alternatively, if the device is already running Windows 11, but it is causing problems, you can perform a clean installation using the “Reset this PC” recovery option.
Reset this PC is a feature that wipes out the hard drive and reinstalls Windows 11 without using additional tools. The feature offers the ability to reinstall Windows using the locally available image, or you can use the option to download the fresh image from the cloud.
The cloud option comes in handy if one or more installation files in the local image are damaged, or the computer uses a custom image from the manufacturer, and you want a clean installation without custom settings and pre-installed applications.
If the device does not boot, the Advanced startup options environment includes the same options available with the “Reset this PC” feature.
You can only use this option to reinstall the same version of Windows 11 already installed on the computer.
Windows 11 install on unsupported hardware
If you have a computer with unsupported hardware, it’s still possible to install Windows 11, but it’s not a supported method since the device may experience performance and reliability issues. You won’t be offered to upgrade to the next version. You may encounter more errors, such as Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) and problems with drivers.
If you want to proceed with the unsupported method on a device that doesn’t meet the minimum system requirements, you have three options. The first option is creating a Windows 11 USB bootable media using the Media Creation Tool or a third-party tool like Rufus that you can use to boot the device to begin the Windows setup. Then you can use modify the Registry to bypass the TPM and Secure Boot checks to continue with the Windows 11 installation. (When using this option, the computer doesn’t need to have a TPM chip.)
The second option involves using the MediaCreationTool.bat script to modify the Registry of the current installation to bypass all the system requirements. However, using this option, you can only start the upgrade process from the Windows 10 desktop using an ISO file or USB installation media.
Finally, Microsoft also offers a workaround to bypass the Windows 11 requirements and continue the setup process by editing the Registry. However, the device still needs at least TPM 1.2, and UEFI firmware with Secure Boot enabled.