Microsoft’s initial announcements on Windows 11 in June left many IT admins with more questions than answers. The minimum requirements needed for existing devices to get the free Windows 11 upgrade were at best unclear. In an attempt to bring more clarity to the update situation, Microsoft has taken another swing at it. But for many IT admins, it was just another swing and a miss.
Here’s what’s new and changed: First, Microsoft says the Windows 11 free upgrade will start rolling out on October 5. Because of the sheer number of PCs eligible for the upgrade, it may take months before Windows 11 is rolled out to your devices. Some newer PCs appear to be at the head of the line, however. Microsoft has more details on this in a blog post.
In addition, Microsoft has added Intel’s Xeon W-series and Core X-series to the list of processors that qualify for the upgrade. But in the biggest change, Microsoft now says that even older PCs that don’t hit the minimum requirement benchmarks can get Windows 11 installed. Great news, right? Not exactly. These older or unsupported PCs will still not be able to get the upgrade automatically. IT admins (and home users) will have to download an ISO file instead and upgrade the PCs manually. For IT admins who thought they would never have to worry about ISO files again, welcome back to the 20th century.
But it gets even worse. If you upgrade your old PCs using an ISO file, it appears the machines will not be eligible for updates, including critical security patches. This obviously makes the ISO route a nonstarter for most IT admins. And even if you can accept this draconian condition, Microsoft says that installing Windows 11 on machines “that do not meet the minimum system requirements had 52% more kernel mode crashes.” So, unless you’re a big fan of the Blue Screen of Death, this is a no-go. On the other hand, Microsoft says, “Devices that do meet the minimum system requirements had a 99.8% crash-free experience.”
Microsoft says it will have further information about whether your PC can upgrade with its PC Health Check tool. Here’s the link — but it comes with a caveat. As of today, the tool is not yet available; there’s a “coming soon” disclaimer attached. But you can bookmark the link and keep returning to see if it’s been activated.
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