c’t 3003: This is how Windows 11 runs on unsupported computers

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Windows 11 will not install even on many reasonably new computers. c’t 3003 shows how it works anyway and how the system runs afterwards.


Transcript of the video:

In this video we show you how Windows 11 runs on computers that don’t actually support it – for example on my old notebook here. And we show how to get Windows 11 installed if you have an unsupported computer or CPU. And of course there are some very, very weird Microsoft embarrassments again.

What you were most upset about in your comments about Windows 11: That the operating system refuses to be installed on CPUs that are actually still quite up-to-date and also wants to have a TPM security chip. I already made my own video about TPM.

In this video I want to take a very close look at how to install Windows 11 on unsupported PCs – and above all how it works afterwards; it would actually be logical for it to run like a bag of screws, because if it didn’t, would Microsoft officially support the computer? So it must be going badly? I’m trying this out with my only four-year-old Acer Swift 7, a notebook that I use as a portable typewriter because it’s so nice and flat and quiet—it doesn’t have a fan. The computer was also rather lame under Windows 10, but it was always enough for a bit of browsing and writing. By the way, the CPU is an Intel Core i5-7Y54, which was launched at the end of 2016. The notebook was bought at the end of 2017, so it’s about four years old – it’s a bit tragic that Microsoft doesn’t want to update it officially.

But first: How do you actually know whether your own computer is compatible? Very simple: Start Windows Update in Windows 10 – and you will either be offered a Windows 11 update or not. Then it says this: “This PC currently doesn’t meet the minimum system requirements to run Windows 11”. And now it gets weird: “Go to the details and see if you can perform actions in the PC Health Check app” “Huh? How to call up details and check whether I can perform actions? Wouldn’t that be much more elegant if the Windows update window simply said why the update didn’t work? Just a tip, dear Microsofties.

But ok, let’s click “Get PC Integrity Checker”. Then a browser window opens with a website, nothing more. So it’s still not clear where the shoe pinches. No, I have to download and install a 14 megabyte program first. Curious: With notebooks, I can use this program to see how much capacity the battery still has – this is otherwise only possible via the command line. But we’re here for the Win 11 update – so click “Check Now” again. And here’s finally the info why Microsoft refuses not to update the system. If you click “Show all results” in the PC health check, you can see that the other things like TPM, RAM, disk space and clock speed are all ok, the only problem is the CPU type.

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So, now very important: If you only have an unsupported CPU type and/or only TPM 1.2 instead of the required TPM2.0 version – THEN you can simply upgrade your Windows 10 system, so you don’t have to reinstall your programs and do not reinstall Windows. I’ll show you exactly how it’s done in a moment.

If you don’t have a TPM at all or less than 2 GB of RAM, you can use Windows 11, but you have to reinstall it, so an upgrade is not possible. The absolute minimum requirements here are: 2 GB of RAM, 20 GB of storage space and any 2-core CPU with a clock frequency of 1 GHz – everything else is irrelevant.

So, but now the simpler case WITH TPM but WITHOUT a supported CPU – as is the case with my notebook.

Actually the upgrade is quite simple, but I found it so illogical that I got totally lost at first. Microsoft itself says how to do this. Namely on the website “WAYS TO INSTALL WINDOWS 11” – and Microsoft has also built in a registry key that unlocks the installation on unsupported CPUs, which is called “AllowUpgradesWithUnsupportedTPMOrCPU”. To set it, type “regedit” in the start menu, start it, go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE then to “System”, then to “Setup” and finally “MoSetup”. Here you press the right mouse button, go to “New”, then to “DWORD value (32 bit)”, type in or past the name mentioned above, double-click on it and then enter a 1.

So now everything is set up for the upgrade – you might think that Windows Update will just download this. But no. It doesn’t work that way, Windows Update still shows that the system is not supported despite the registry entry being set. So go to the Microsoft website again with the INSTALLATION POSSIBILITIES. It then says to select the “Create tool now” option on the Windows 11 download page. ok, uh, huh? English now? OK? But there is nothing about the tool, there is only “Windows 11 Installation Assistant”, “Windows 11 Installation Media” and “Download Windows 11 Disk Images”. I’ll shorten this here: The Windows 11 installation assistant doesn’t work, it also spits out an error message with the set registry key. Instead, you have to click “Download Now” for “Create Windows 11 Installation Media” – and this downloads the Media Creation Tool. So, and now you COULD think that you just start it now and then start the upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11. But hey, that’s how it used to be with the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool. Version 11 actually only has two options: create USB stick and create ISO file. Since my notebook doesn’t have a DVD drive, I opt for the USB stick. First find one with 8 gigabytes, most of those who fly around here with me have less.

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And then, of course, this notebook doesn’t have any USB-A sockets either, only USB-C – so look for an adapter first. Once everything is prepared, the tool just hangs around on the stick for ages – ok. And now you might think you have to boot from it to upgrade. Anyway, that’s what I did first. But that’s not how an upgrade works. For this you seriously have to plug in the boot stick while Windows 10 is running and then start the setup.exe on the stick. Ok, that’s what Microsoft also writes: “Perform an upgrade by starting setup on the medium while Windows 10 is running.” But I just found that so illogical that I didn’t understand it despite reading it several times. Ok, maybe it’s just me – but that’s how it works anyway. And that really only if the registry key is set, otherwise there’s an error message.

Microsoft is also making waves with the registry key: WHAT YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT! PC DOES NOT MEET MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS! Funnily enough, when I click on “Why am I seeing this”, a page comes up that has nothing to do with the Windows 11 update, but with Windows 10. And that’s translated completely absurdly: “If a message about signing flights is displayed – they are trying a pre-release package Windows”! Puuuh, are we here on AliExpress or what? Well, now click on “Accept” and off he goes, Peter. Incidentally, it took more than an hour on the notebook – but it worked without any problems.

Before I say anything about how Win 11 runs on the thing, just a quick bit of information on how to install Win 11 if you don’t have a TPM chip at all or less than 4 GB of RAM. Then, as already mentioned, no upgrade is possible, only a complete new installation. For this you first do the same as I did in this video, only you boot from the USB stick instead of just starting the Setup.exe on it. Very important: BEFORE you download the Bypass.reg file (see description) and copy it to the prepared boot USB stick. After booting from the stick, when it says “Install Now”, press Shift-F10 and then type “regedit” at the prompt. In the menu bar under File you then click on Import and work your way through the browse dialog to the “bypass.reg” file. Open, ask for security, nod, done. Close the registry editor and continue with the installation. In this way, Windows 11 can be installed on any potato, no matter what CPU, how much RAM, whether TPM is in it or not.

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So and now the big question: How does Windows 11 run on my unsupported notebook? You might have already guessed: Absolutely no problems. Everything worked right away, including, for example, all function keys for dimming the display or adjusting the volume. The system even feels a bit spongy with Win 11. I emphasize: It feels like the software doesn’t run really faster, but it doesn’t run any slower either. I also ran a few benchmarks before and after the upgrade – the differences are pretty much within measurement tolerance. And very important: Although Microsoft has repeatedly emphasized that they do not guarantee any updates on systems that are not supported, several updates have already arrived on my notebook via Windows Update. In the c’t editorial team, we also assume that Microsoft has no interest in running Windows in the wild without security patches, so we think that there will still be updates for computers that are not officially supported. If you want to use such a system for a longer period of time, you should keep your eyes open that updates are always coming.

So everything is great so far with Windows 11 on my notebook – the big question therefore: Why did Microsoft decide not to support this CPU? Are they in league with the hardware manufacturers and want to push their sales? Well, one can only speculate about that. One reason could definitely be: In the long term, Microsoft would have liked to have activated Virtualization-based Security (VBS) on all computers, which we explain in this video here. VBS is a real security benefit, but requires compatible drivers and can also cause performance hits. That’s why, that’s our thesis, Microsoft only officially supports CPUs that are 100 percent VBS-safe and for which there are no noticeable side effects when VBS is switched on in everyday life.

Incidentally, VBS is not switched on by default on the Windows 11 systems I have tested so far; You can see if this is the case for you when you enter “system information” in the start menu and start it. Anyway, my conclusion: Windows 11 should run properly on most systems on which Windows 10 runs properly. And fortunately, you can install Windows 11 anywhere – only Microsoft apparently deliberately designed the upgrade and installation process on unsupported systems to be super annoying. But at least it works. What was your experience? Feel free to write here in the comments. Bye!


c’t 3003 is c’t’s YouTube channel. The videos on c’t 3003 are independent content and independent of the articles in c’t magazin. Editor Jan-Keno Janssen and video producers Johannes Börnsen and Şahin Erengil publish a video every week.

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