Windows 11 is the hottest new computing platform in town. Microsoft new OS is rolling out through the end of 2021 and promises to upgrade on Windows 10 in several key areas. Importantly, Windows 11 is also a free upgrade for Windows 10 users. However, whether you are able to upgrade or not is another matter because Microsoft is slamming the door firmly shut for some users.
One of the core pillars of Windows 11 is that this is a consumer-centric operating system. Microsoft is known for chasing enterprise, but with Windows 11 it is saying consumers are invited to the party. Whether you want to watch movies, play Android apps, browse for pro gambling tips, or yes, get some productivity done, Windows 11 wants to be all things to all people.
Accept that it will not be for all people. Microsoft is putting a very clear divide across the PC landscape. Millions of Windows 10 users will not be able to upgrade to Windows 11 unless they are willing to buy a new PC. Of course, some will buy a new Windows 11 laptop, but others simply do not have the means to do so.
There are two significant hardware requirements that will be a problem for many PC users. The first is 4GB of RAM, and the second and most problematic is a requirement to have CPUs supporting Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 of higher.
Trusted Platform Module is a chip on the motherboard that offers security through full disk encryption. This works by the chip sending a cryptographic key whenever a PC is powered up. It essentially acts as a lock for the drive and will not unlock if a security threat is detected.
TPM 2.0 is the latest version of the technology and Microsoft says it is essential for Windows 11. While the vast majority of modern PCs already have TPM 2.0, the Windows install base is so vast (over one billion machines), millions also do not have it. Especially in enterprise where many businesses avoid upgrading their hardware so will have older PCs.
It does seem Microsoft is very serious about this matter. During the preview stage of Windows 11, the company was actively removing Windows Insiders who were testing the OS on incompatible hardware. Equally, the company says any user who does a clean install of Windows 11 on incompatible hardware from an ISO image will not be supported, including no security patches.
That latter warning seems like a dangerous threat. It seems unlikely that Microsoft would risk the overall security of the ecosystem by not patching security problems any device. Still, that is what Microsoft says will happen.
As for those who cannot upgrade to Windows 11, the options are clear: buy a new PC with TPM 2.0, or continue using Windows 10. For what it is worth, Microsoft will continue to support Windows 10 until 2025. However, there is no doubt the number of new features coming to the now legacy OS will dwindle over time.