Windows 11

windows Oct 26, 2021

I love new shinny things! So when Windows 11 was announced I was very excited about it. But my excitement soon turned to disappointment when I ran the system compatibility test on my personal laptops using Microsoft's PC Health Check app. All came back stating that my systems did not meet all the hardware requirements for Windows 11. I was really puzzled as to why (the initial system health check didn't give any information, it just stated that you system was either compatible or not). I did a bit of digging and was even more puzzled since according to the hardware requirements by systems met them all. But it turned out that Microsoft only officially support a limited set of CPUs. Closer to the launch of Windows 11, Microsoft did state that they weren't going to stop anyone install Windows 11 on unsupported hardware, but they weren't going to guarantee updates for these installations. This immediately put me off since I didn't want to be in a position of not getting updates. Updates are absolutely vital from a security perspective.

Periodically I would check the Intel CPU supported list for Windows 11, but to no avail. None of my processors were added to this list. Then the other night, I was just curious what their supported list for older Intel CPUs looked like for Windows 10. I have a 4th generation i7 in my gaming PC (it's getting on a bit now, but don't do that much gaming on it any way), and to my surprise it was not listed! However I'm still getting updates for this system, and have had no issues what so ever. I even created a thread on Twitter showing this:

So this leads me to believe, and I could be entirely wrong, that Microsoft will most likely provide updates for Windows 11 installations that don't meet all hardware requirements, especially if those are simply unsupported CPUs. Now I could be entirely wrong here, and it is still a gamble. But based off my observation it looks like an appropriate gamble. It also doesn't play into Microsoft's interests to prevent these updates. Especially if Windows 11 is going to be showcased as their most secure operating system to date. But I can't stress, if you go down this path, be aware that this may not be the case and you may end up with an operating system with no available security updates.

Installation

Since I don't meet all the hardware requirements, I couldn't do a simple upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11. It requires a clean install, meaning that you will lose anything that you have on your system. If you do have a system which supports all the hardware requirements, you can do the simpler upgrade option and you won't end up losing your data. If you are planning to do this on your own system which doesn't meet all the hardware requirements, make sure that you back your system up! Installation is pretty straight forward, you can download the Windows 11 Installation Assistant which will then allow you to either create a bootable USB with the Windows 11 installation, or download the Windows 11 ISO. Since the Windows activation key is embedded into you BIOS you don't need to worry about that. If if prompts you for the key during the installation, just skip or leave it blank, it will detect it after installation. If you are unsure about whether to take the risk and install Windows 11, one option you can try is spin up a VM and install it on there and see if you like it. An interesting note, when I did the clean install, I didn't receive any errors at all about system incompatibility. Which just makes my suspicions about Microsoft not pulling the updates more comfortable with myself (again I could be entire wrong about this).

Initial Impressions

I know many others have so far not been that impressed, but so far my impressions with Windows 11 have been very positive. The new UI of it is lovely! I mean just look at it!

The new interface is fresh and modern. The fact that WSL on Windows 11 also comes with GUI enabled out of the box is also a huge benefit. This means that you can run Linux based applications directly from Windows (who would have ever though that to be a reality just a few years ago)! These applications are also available just like any other app which you install. I still have quite a bit more exploring to do, something which I will likely do over the coming weeks and months. But so far I'm loving it and have yet (touch wood) to have faced any issues. Everything is working as it should, and I've got the first updates which is certainly a good sign.

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Sean Wright

Lead Application Security SME at Immersive Labs with an origin as a software developer. Primarily focused on web based application security with a special interest in TLS related subjects.

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