Last Updated on November 16, 2021 by Dave Farquhar
When Microsoft announced Windows 11, they also announced some pretty severe hardware requirements. Windows 11 would only be supported on the three most recent CPU generations, and would require a TPM chip. At the end of August 2021, Microsoft announced a way to work around it. Then they did their best to try to talk you out of doing it. Let’s talk about running Windows 11 on unsupported hardware.
First of all, Microsoft said newer processors have 50% fewer kernel crashes. Those are also known as blue screens. But then they said that PCs that meet the hardware requirements have a 99.8% crash-free experience. So that means PCs that don’t meet the requirements have a 99.7% crash free experience.
What Microsoft isn’t telling you there is that CPUs aren’t the only things that cause blue screens. One common cause of blue screens I’ve run into is video drivers. Frequently when I have an unreliable PC, dropping in a cheap video card with current driver support has made it reliable again.
Based on that, I’m willing to take my chances.
Should you run Windows 11 on unsupported hardware ?
So should you run Windows 11 on unsupported hardware once it comes out? When Microsoft says Windows 11 runs better on new hardware, they aren’t wrong. Windows 10 runs better on new hardware too, at least if it’s the right new hardware. Cheap new hardware isn’t necessarily any better than high quality older hardware.
And the general rule going back several generations has been if your hardware can run the current version reasonably well, it will run the new one reasonably well too, at least at first. As windows 11 ages, I expect hardware that was marginal when it was new to become less pleasant to use. I saw that with Windows 10. For that matter, I saw it with Windows 7. But if you can’t afford to run out and buy a new PC right now, you can install Windows 11 off the ISO image, and buy yourself some time.
That’s also good for households who have several PCs. It is expensive to replace several PCs at once. This will allow people who own more than one PC to stagger those purchases.
And even though Windows 11 is more secure if you have a supported TPM chip, Windows 10 without a TPM is no more secure. For that matter, when Windows 10 goes end of life on October 14th, 2025, then you’ll be running unpatchable software without a TPM. That’s a lot worse.
The thing is, Microsoft really wanted you to have a TPM with Windows 10 also. It helps. But you can live without it. There are people who are going to run Windows 10 unpatched because they think they have no other option, and that’s worse.
How to install Windows 11 on unsupported hardware
To install Windows 11 and bypass the check for supported hardware, you need to download the Windows 11 ISO. There have been some unofficial ways to get one, but they have always made me nervous. If you are part of the Windows insider program, you can log in at insider.windows.com, scroll down to the end, and on the right hand side of the screen, you’ll see a link called ISOs. From there, you can download Windows 10 or Windows 11 ISOs. Choose one appropriate for you, then write the ISO to an 8 GB USB stick the same way you make a Windows 10 bootable USB. Then you will be able to install off the USB stick.
Enter a valid license key for Windows 7, 8, or 10, and it will activate.
You may or may not get the option to upgrade your existing installation. It’s usually a better idea to do a clean install and start over anyway. That may mean upgrading a PC isn’t necessarily a project you can get done in a single weekend. But we have about 4 years to make our plan.
When I haven’t been able to do an upgrade, but I don’t have all of my original software discs anymore, I have successfully used a program called PC mover to pick up and move my software to a new Windows install. I think I am in that situation again with one machine, so I will probably be buying another copy of that to take care of that one.
And while many CPUs are unsupported now, older printers frequently aren’t. Here’s how to get your older network printer going on Windows 11.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.