How to upgrade to Windows 11 from Windows 8.1

Yes, you can upgrade to Windows 11 from Windows 8.1 while keeping your files and apps during the process, and here's how to do it.

Upgrade to Windows 11 from 8.1
Upgrade to Windows 11 from 8.1
  • To upgrade to Windows 11 from Windows 8.1, mount the ISO file, double-click “Setup.exe” to launch the upgrade, then skip the update and driver downloads, accept the terms, and click on “Install.”
  • The installation will preserve your apps and files, and you don’t need to complete the OOBE.
  • Windows 8.1 does not support upgrading to 11 from Windows Update. 
  • You could alternatively proceed with a clean installation, but apps and files won’t be preserved.
  • You don’t need to upgrade to Windows 10 first since a direct path to Windows 11 is supported.

Windows 8.1 computers can upgrade to Windows 11 without losing data or applications using the ISO file since it’s a supported installation path. However, before upgrading to Windows 11 from Windows 8.1, you must ensure that your laptop or desktop meets the minimum system requirements. For example, the device must have a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 and Secure Boot enabled, it must also have UEFI firmware, and the processor must be an Intel’s 8th Gen or newer or an AMD Zen 2 or newer.

Windows 11 is available as a free upgrade for Windows 10 users, but you may still be able to activate it with a Windows 8.1 product key. Also, you will need to create a full backup in case something happens and you need to roll back or recover files for any reason.

Furthermore, before installing the operating system, it’s recommended to uninstall any applications that may conflict with the upgrade to Windows 11, such as antivirus, security tools, and old third-party programs. To reduce the chances of running into issues, you should disconnect any computer hardware, including printers, phones, cameras, external hard drives, and other USB peripherals.

This guide will teach you how to upgrade to Windows 11 from Windows 8.1.

The upgrade is non-destructive, but you can always run into problems. As a result, creating a full backup is a good idea, which you can use to roll back if anything unexpected happens. In addition to the system backup, you should also create a backup of your files to a cloud service (such as OneDrive) or external drive if you need to restore them manually.

Upgrade to Windows 11 from Windows 8.1 from ISO

To upgrade to Windows 11 from Windows 8.1 with an ISO file, use these steps:

  1. Download Windows 11 ISO file.

  2. Right-click the ISO file and select the Mount option.

    Windows 11 ISO mount on Windows 8.1

  3. Click on the mounted drive from the left navigation pane in File Explorer.

  4. Double-click the Setup file to begin the Windows 11 upgrade process.

    Launch Windows 11 setup

  5. (Optional) Click the “Change how Windows Setup downloads updates” option.

    Windows 11 setup update option

  6. Select the “Not right now” option.

    Disable updates during install

  7. Click the Next button.

  8. Click the Accept button to agree to the terms.

  9. Click the Install button to upgrade while keeping your files and apps.

    Windows 8.1 to 11 install

If you want to start fresh with a clean installation of Windows 11, click the “Change what to keep” option, select the “Nothing” option, click the “Next” button, and then click the “Install” button.

Once you complete the steps, the upgrade process from Windows 8.1 to 11 will preserve your files and apps. After the installation, you won’t need to complete the out-of-box experience (OOBE) to choose your privacy settings.

The Media Creation Tool has been updated for Windows 11, but it only works to create a bootable USB flash drive or ISO file. You can no longer use it to perform an in-place upgrade, which is why we are not listing those instructions. Also, the Installation Assistant is only available for Windows 10 devices.

Windows 8.1 support ended on January 10, 2023, which means that the operating system no longer receives maintenance or security updates after that day. As a result, upgrading as soon as possible is recommended to maintain the device supported and secure.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].