Ever since Microsoft announced Windows 11 would have much stricter hardware requirements than it’s predecessors, people who don’t want to go and replace all of their computers have been looking for work arounds. Here is the easiest way to install Windows 11 on an unsupported CPU, including virtual environments like VMware or Virtualbox. No need to edit files, mess with an ISO file or disk image or Rufus or the registry editor.
The easiest way to install Windows 11 on an unsupported CPU is to delete one file, appraiserres.dll, from your installation media. This trick will hopefully keep some usable computers out of landfills a little while longer.
Hacking the Windows 11 installation USB for unsupported CPUs
There are many ways to get around the compatibility check and install Windows 11 on unsupported hardware, including virtual machines, that work. This one is just the easiest one. The first thing you need to do is go and download the official Windows 11 media creation tool. After it downloads, plug in an eight or 16 gigabyte USB stick, and then run the tool. Let it write the image and any updates at once to the USB stick as normal. Now you have a bone stock Windows bootable USB drive.
Next, after it finishes writing, close the media creation tool. Open Windows Explorer, which I typically do by hitting the windows key along with the letter E, and locate the USB drive on the left. It will usually be named something like ESD-USB. Don’t ask me what that means. Click on that, then navigate to the folder named sources. You might want to sort the folder contents by name by clicking on the name column header. Look for a file named appraiserres.dll. Either rename that file or simply delete it. It doesn’t matter which one you do. I prefer to rename it in case I need to restore the file back, but deleting it should be just fine.
Installing Windows 11
And that’s it. Any Windows 10 device that you want to upgrade to Windows 11 will now boot off this USB stick and Windows setup will skip checking for the processor, trusted platform module (TPM), and secure boot requirements. If it asks for a license key, Windows 11 accepts any key from Windows 7, 8, 8.1, or 10. If your key isn’t printed on a sticker on the machine, recover your key before you boot. I use a utility from Nirsoft for this.
There are at least four other known ways to bypass the requirement, but this one is the fastest and easiest, especially if you have more than one PC that you want to upgrade. Which a fair number of us do. Boot off the bootable USB drive, accept the license agreement, and you’ll notice there’s no check for minimum system requirements. It just works.
Well, there’s one condition that can cause a weird error. If you get a weird error once you get past the license agreement, try another USB drive.
You can also bypass the Microsoft Account requirement if you want and create a local account, while we’re being all subversive and stuff.
One more thing
Once you boot off this hacked installation media, you have three options. You can upgrade, keep just your settings and data, or do a clean install. On marginal hardware, I recommend the clean install, but do what’s most convenient for you. You can always upgrade, see how the thing runs, and come back and do a clean install later if it runs poorly.
After the installation finishes, I strongly recommend you download a utility called ThisIsWin11. It gives you the option to uninstall all of the preloaded apps that come with Windows 11. The default Windows 11 install is really starting to resemble the OEM installs from the Windows 7 days, with a lot of crapware you don’t want. After running this utility, I uninstalled all of the built-in apps except for Edge, Notepad, Sound Recorder, and Paint. Only Edge is non-optional.
My system boots very quickly, has single digit CPU usage, and is using minimal RAM immediately after boot. On marginal hardware, this is really nice. It lets me have a minimal installation like the ones I had way back when, around the turn of the century. I find it makes the new operating system much more enjoyable.
The pros and cons of running Windows 11 on an unsupported CPU
Running windows 11 on older hardware that Microsoft does not officially support does come with some risks. It is up to you to decide whether you want to take those risks. Given the difficulty of finding inexpensive PCs that officially support Windows 11, I like the idea of being able to buy myself some additional time if I need it.
Microsoft has stated that you may stop receiving security updates at some point if you do this. And if that is the case, this is a really big deal. You will absolutely hear it from me if that happens.
The greater risk is that certain security features that Microsoft wants to implement impose a negligible performance penalty on recent CPUs, basically 8th generation Intel CPUs or the AMD equivalent from 2018 or newer. But the penalty is more like 40% on older CPUs. So that means your 4th or 5th generation i5 CPU goes from being a reasonably good mid-range performer to the equivalent of a Celeron or Pentium entry level CPU. That’s not so great. But then when you think about how a new system with a Pentium or Celeron CPU that is supported costs twice as much as that i5 system, then it’s not so bad. Eventually performance is going to drop, but then it’s going to drop to the level of a system the cost more than yours is worth now in the first place.
And of course you can forget about any manufacturer warranty or anything other than the very most basic support.
I think the warnings about future compatibility issues are probably overblown. But I do recommend having one PC running in a supported configuration, and just doing this on secondary PCs.