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How to prepare your PC for the Windows 11 upgrade

Windows 10 to 11 upgrade preparation
Windows 10 to 11 upgrade preparation (Image credit: Windows Central)

Although Windows 11 is now shipping pre-installed on new computers, if you have a device running Windows 10, it will need to go through the upgrade process to access the new experience.

If this is your case, since the upgrade process requires full reinstallation, there are a few things you want to do to prepare the device before the installation to minimize errors and problems along the way.

For example, even though Windows 11 is available as a free optional update for Windows 10, the device must meet the new system requirements. Otherwise, you won't be able to proceed with the setup. You need to ensure that the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) and Secure Boot are enabled on the computer. You also need to make sure the device has enough space and there are no problems before continuing with the upgrade. Furthermore, you want to create a backup in the case you need to roll back, check the activation status, and create installation media.

In this Windows 11 guide, we walk you through the things you need to do to prepare a computer before upgrading it to the newest version of the OS.

How to check compatibility of Windows 11

Although Microsoft offers the new version of Windows as a free upgrade for computers already running Windows 10, it does not mean that you can upgrade any device. Windows 11 is increasing the minimum system requirements significantly compared to previous releases, meaning that even before planning to upgrade, you want to confirm whether the device can handle the new version.

Windows 11 requirements

Here are the minimum requirements to upgrade Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 to Windows 11:

  • CPU: 1GHz or faster or System on a Chip (SoC) with two cores minimum.
  • RAM: 4GB.
  • Storage: 64GB or larger.
  • Firmware: UEFI with Secure Boot capable.
  • TPM: Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0.
  • Graphics: Compatible with DirectX 12 or later with WDDM 2.0 driver.
  • Display resolution: High definition (720p) display greater than 9-inch diagonally, 8 bits per color channel.

If you plan to upgrade to Windows 11 Home, an internet connection will be required to complete the initial setup.

PC Health Check app

Microsoft has released an app to make it easier to confirm whether your computer meets the minimum requirements.

To check if a device will run Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open PC Health Check download page (opens in new tab).Quick note: The download option is at the bottom of the page.
  2. Under the "Check for compatibility" section, click the Download PC Health Check App button.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Double-click the WindowsPCHealthCheckSetup.msi file.
  2. Click the I accept the terms in the License Agreement option.
  3. Click the Install button.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Check the Open Windows PC Health Check option (if applicable).

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Finish button.
  2. Under the "Introducing Windows 11" section, click the Check now button.
  3. Click the See all results button to display the final report.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Once you complete the steps, you will know if your computer meets the requirements to run Windows 11. If there's a requirement the device didn't pass, use the available links in the report to determine the steps to fix them

How to enable required features to run Windows 11

In addition to the processor, memory, and hard drive space requirements, Windows 11 needs two security features, including a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) and Secure Boot, to be enabled on the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). Furthermore, if you plan to upgrade with a clean installation, you will also need to make sure the computer can start from a USB flash drive.

If you have a system that is still using the legacy Basic Input/Output System (BIOS), then before switching to Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), you first need to convert the main drive using Master Boot Record (MBR) to a GUID Partition Table (GPT) partition style using the MBR2GPT command-line tool. Otherwise, if you enable the UEFI mode and Secure Boot, the computer won't boot.

It's important to note that if there's no TPM version 2.0 on the computer, and you have an AMD processor, the chip might be built into the processor under the fTPM (firmware-based TPM 2.0) or AMD fTPM switch name. Also, in the case of a computer featuring an Intel processor, the TPM module will be noted as Platform Trust Technology (PTT). You can always confirm this capability by checking your manufacturer support website.

Configure TPM, Secure Boot, and boot order within Windows

On Windows, you can access the settings to change the boot order from within the desktop environment.

UEFI settings on Windows 10

To change the UEFI boot settings on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Update & Security.
  3. Click on Recovery.
  4. Under the "Advanced Startup" section, click the Restart now button.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Troubleshoot button.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click on Advanced options.
  2. Click the UEFI Firmware Settings option.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Restart button.
  2. Open the Security page.
  3. Enable the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) option (if applicable).

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Enable the Secure Boot option (if applicable).
  2. (Optional) Open the Boot page.
  3. Set the boot order to start from the USB flash drive with the Windows 11 installation files (if necessary).

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Save the changes.

After you complete the steps, the device should be able to boot from a USB installation media and pass the minimum system requirements check.

UEFI settings on Windows 8.1

To change the UEFI settings on Windows 8.1, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Update and recovery.
  3. Click on Recovery.
  4. Under the "Advanced Startup" section, click the Restart now button.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Troubleshoot option.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click on Advanced options.
  2. Click the UEFI Firmware Settings option.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Restart button.
  2. Click the UEFI Firmware Settings option.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Restart button.
  2. Open the Security page.
  3. Enable the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) option (if applicable).

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Enable the Secure Boot option (if applicable).
  2. (Optional) Open the Boot page.
  3. Set the boot order to start from the USB flash drive with the Windows 11 installation files (if necessary).

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Save the changes.

Once you complete the steps, the computer will be able to start from the USB flash drive to continue with the clean installation process.

Configure TPM, Secure Boot, and boot order from boot

If you do not have access to the Windows desktop, you can configure the UEFI settings with these steps:

  1. Start the computer.
  2. As soon as the computer starts booting up press the power button to shut down the computer.
  3. Repeat steps No. 1 and 2 two more time or until the device starting in the recovery mode.
  4. Click the Advanced options button.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click on Troubleshoot.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click on Advanced options.
  2. Click the UEFI Firmware Settings option.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Restart button.
  2. Open the Security page.
  3. Enable the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) option (if applicable).

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Enable the Secure Boot option (if applicable).
  2. (Optional) Open the Boot page.
  3. Set the boot order to start from the USB flash drive with the Windows 11 installation files (if necessary).

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Save the changes.

After you complete the steps, the computer should be able to boot from the Windows 11 USB flash drive.

If the computer doesn't meet the minimum requirements, then it might be time to upgrade. You can check our guide with best laptops you buy right now with support for Windows 11.

How to free up space on your computer before install of Windows 11

This time around, devices need at least 64GB of storage space, but the process will still take several gigabytes to process the upgrade. Usually, you want to make sure the device has at least 20GB of free space to prevent running into installation issues.

Clearing up space with Temporary files

To free up space on Windows 10 before upgrading to Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Storage.
  4. Under the "Local Disk (C:)" section, click the Temporary files item. (If the item is not available, click the Show more categories option.)

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Check all the items you want to remove to optimize the space — for example:
    • Downloads.
    • Windows Update Cleanup.
    • Recycle Bin.
    • Delivery Optimization Files.
    • Thumbnails.
    • Microsoft Defender Antivirus.
    • Temporary Internet Files.
    • Temporary files.
    • Windows error reports and feedback diagnostics.
    • DirectX Shader Cache.
    • Previous Windows installation(s).
    • Temporary Windows installation files.
    Quick tip: The available items may be different in your setup. If you want to select the Downloads item, before clearing these files, make sure to understand that this option will erase everything in the "Downloads" folder.
  2. Click the Remove files button.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

After you complete the steps, the selected files will be deleted permanently, freeing up space to process the upgrade.

Clear space with Storage Sense

To use Storage Sense to free up space, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Storage.
  4. Under the "Storage" section, click the Configure Storage Sense or run it now option.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Under the "Temporary Files" section, check the Delete temporary files that my apps aren't using option.
  2. Use the Recycle Bin drop-down menu to specify how to clear items in the trash.
  3. Use the Downloads drop-down menu to specify how to clean up internet files.
  4. Under the "Locally available cloud content" section, use the drop-down menu to specify how long OneDrive content synced to the device becomes online-only.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Under the "Free up space now" section, check the Delete previous versions of Windows option (if applicable).Quick note: If this option is available, you may be able to free up close to 20GB of space.
  2. Click the Clean now button.

Once you complete the steps, Storage Sense will delete unnecessary files from the device to reclaim space to run the Windows 11 update without storage problems.

Clear space with Apps & features

You can also uninstall apps you rarely use to free up space. If you have a lot of games installed on the computer, deleting some of them can help make enough space to proceed with the upgrade process.

To uninstall apps and games on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Apps.
  3. Click on Apps & features.
  4. Use the "Sort by" filter and select the Size view to quickly identify the apps and games using the most space.
  5. Select the item you want to remove.
  6. Click the Uninstall button.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Uninstall button again.
  2. Continue with the on-screen directions (if applicable).

After you complete the steps, repeat the same instructions to remove additional apps and games from the computer.

You can check this guide with virtually all the methods you can use to clean up space on your Windows 10 computer.

How to repair current installation to avoid problems with Windows 11

If you have had the same installation for a long time, you might need to analyze and repair the current setup to fix missing or damaged files. Otherwise, during the upgrade process, the chances of running into issues will be high. However, if you plan to proceed with a clean installation using a bootable USB flash drive, then you can't skip this suggestion since the previous installation will be erased during the process.

You can repair the system using two command-line tools, including the Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) and System File Checker (SFC).

To repair the current setup before upgrading to Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Command Prompt, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.
  3. Type the following command to repair the locally available image of Windows 10 and press Enter:DISM.exe /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Type the following command to fix problems with the current installation and press Enter:SFC.exe /scannow

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Once you complete the steps, the Deployment Image Servicing and Management tool will repair any problems with the local image. Then the System File Checker tool will use the already repaired image to fix issues with the current installation.

How to create backup of device before upgrade of Windows 11

The Backup and Restore feature lets you easily create a full system backup to an external hard drive. You only need to connect a USB hard drive with enough storage to save the backup.

Important: Microsoft no longer maintains the backup feature, but you can still use it to create a temporary full backup while it's still available.

To create a full backup on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Control Panel and click the top result to open the app.
  3. Click on System and Security.
  4. Click the File History setting.
  5. Click the System Image Backup option from the bottom-left corner.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Create a system image option from the left navigation pane.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Select the On a hard disk option.
  2. Use the "On a hard disk" drop-down menu and select the Windows 11 full backup destination.

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  1. Click the Next button.
  2. (Optional) Select any additional drive to include in the backup.
  3. Click the Next button.
  4. Click the Start backup button.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the No button.Quick note: You'll also receive a prompt to create a system repair disc, but you can skip it. If you need to roll back to a previous installation, you can use USB installation media to access the recovery settings.
  2. Click the Close button.

Once you complete the steps, a backup of the entire system will be created with everything on the primary hard drive and other drives you may have selected.

Create file backup (optional)

Although a full backup should be more than enough, creating a backup of your files separately to an external drive or cloud service is also recommended.

To create a file backup manually, connect a drive with enough storage, and use these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Type the following path in the address bar and press Enter:%HOMEPATH%Quick tip: You can access other profiles folders from C:\Users.
  3. Use the Ctrl + A keyboard shortcut or use the mouse to select all the folders.
  4. Right-click the selection and choose the Copy option.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Navigate to the external USB storage.
  2. Right-click on an empty space and select the Paste option.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

After you complete the steps, repeat the instructions to back up the files on the remaining accounts (if applicable). In addition to making a copy of your files, it's also recommended to create a list of the installed programs with their respective product keys (if applicable) to know what you need to reinstall in the new setup. If you usually do not sync passwords and bookmarks with an online service, this is a good time to export your browser credentials and links.

How to check current activation to reactivate Windows 11

You don't need to provide a product key to activate Windows 11 if you had a previous installation correctly activated on the same computer. After the installation, the device will reactivate automatically.

Check Windows 10 activation

To check if Windows 10 is activated, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Update & Security.
  3. Click on Activation.
  4. Under the "Windows" section, confirm the activation. If the device has been properly activated, you'll see one of these messages:
    • Windows is activated with a digital license: The installation has been activated, but it isn't linked to your Microsoft account.
    • Windows is activated with a digital license linked to your Microsoft account: The installation has been activated, and the license is linked to your Microsoft account.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

After you complete the steps, Windows 11 should automatically reactivate after the upgrade.

Check Windows 8.1 activation

To check whether Windows 8.1 is activated, use these steps:

  1. Open PC settings.
  2. Click on PC and devices.
  3. Click on PC info.
  4. Confirm activation.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Once you complete the steps, Windows 11 will reactivate automatically.

Get Windows 11 product key

A computer that never had an installation of Windows will need a valid license, which you can purchase from the Microsoft Store (opens in new tab), Amazon, or another retailer. A Windows 11 installation should activate using a Windows 11, 10, 8.1, or 7 product key.

How to uninstall non-essential apps to avoid conflicts with Windows 11

Apps that were not specifically designed for Windows 10 or higher releases and security software may cause compatibility issues during the installation. It's always recommended to uninstall these apps before proceeding with the Windows 11 upgrade.

To uninstall apps on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Apps.
  3. Click on Apps & features.
  4. Select the app you want to remove, and click the Uninstall button.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Uninstall button again.
  2. Continue with the on-screen directions (if applicable).

After you complete the steps, repeat the instructions to uninstall any other app that may cause conflicts.

If you have a third-party antivirus or firewall, confirm with your software support website for specific details on how to disable or uninstall the program. After the installation, you can reinstall the apps one more time.

How to create installation media of Windows 11

If you do not plan to use the Windows Update settings or it's not working, as part of the preparation process, you will need a bootable USB flash drive, Windows 11 ISO file, or the Installation Assistant to proceed with the upgrade.

Creation USB flash drive

To create install media with the Media Creation Tool, connect a USB flash drive with at least 8GB of space, and use these steps:

  1. Open Windows 11 download page (opens in new tab).
  2. Under the "Create Windows 11 Installation Media" section, click the Download now button to save the file on the device.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Double-click the MediaCreationToolW11.exe file to launch the tool.
  2. Click the Accept button to agree to the terms.
  3. (Optional) Clear the Use the recommended options for this PC option.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Select the correct language and edition of Windows 11.
  2. Click the Next button.
  3. Select the USB flash drive option.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Next button
  2. Select the USB flash drive.Quick tip: If the device is not in the list, click the "Refresh drive list" option to make it available.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Next button.
  2. Click the Finish button.

Once you complete the steps, the tool will download the files and create an installation media, which you can then use to upgrade a compatible computer to Windows 11.

Download Windows 11 ISO

To download the Windows 11 ISO file, use these steps:

  1. Open Windows 11 download page (opens in new tab).
  2. Under the "Download Windows 11 Disk Image (ISO)" section, select the Windows 11 option.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Download button.
  2. Select the ISO language.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Confirm button.
  2. Click the 64-bit Download button.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

After you complete the steps, the Windows ISO will download on your computer, and you can double-click it to mount it and start the in-place upgrade.

Download Installation Assistant

The Installation Assistant is a tool you can use when it's not possible to upgrade through the Windows Updates settings, or the new version of Windows is yet not available through Windows Update, but you know your computer is compatible.

To download the Installation Assistant, use these steps:

  1. Open Windows 11 download page (opens in new tab).
  2. Under the "Windows 11 Installation Assistant" section, select the Download Now button.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Save the tool on your computer.

Once you complete the steps, the package will download, and you can then use it to upgrade any computer that meets the minimum requirements. However, you will need an internet connection to proceed with the upgrade.

After you have done preparing, you can use this guide to upgrade to Windows 11 from Windows 10. If you prefer using a clean installation, follow these instructions.

More Windows resources

For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10 and Windows 11, visit the following resources:

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.

3 Comments
  • I recommend not updating to Windows 11 for a while longer, at least until it is more stable and MS got rid of more of the kinks and bugs, also maybe wait until MS see some sense if they ever do and sort out the taskbar and start menu
  • Really good & detailed article.
  • This is mostly Microsoft's fault but the CPU has to support specific virtualization features like VBS. It's not the speed of the chip. In fact, windows 11 will run WORSE are unsupported hardware because of this. Secure Boot is a good idea as it's the number way ransomware attacks are done. They load an unauthorized OS. TPM should have never been a requirement. Yes, you have to turn it on and it's a hardware key for BitLocker but you can disable BitLocker so what's the point really? Microsoft did a bad job of promoting 11 as a huge UI change. It's biggest changes are security, which is why those virtualization options are needed for the CPU. Why they didn't come out and say, hey, we are trying to curb ransomware is beyond me. It's meant for Enterprise users at the moment. You can set up a group policy or local gpo (or use MSs built in list. If you click on the link in a suspicious email and you have Windows defense guard set up. It opens a completely virtual edge window. 100% isolated from the OS. There are extensions for Chrome and Firefox. I mean you have to have terrible security but that's how ransomware attacks are typically done. Someone clicks on a malicious email, there is no security or good scanning software. Software so it spreads for months until it can boot an unauthorized OS which is where secure boot comes in and at that point they can encrypt your data. It doesn't matter if you are already have your hard drive and crips with bit locker, you can still encrypt and encrypt it hard drive. Why they didn't advertise this and kept there mouth shut about the CPU compatibility list is beyond me. TPM 2.0 and secure boat have been around since probably 2014 or 2015. They are just disabled in the BIOS by default. 85s 5he CPU, and if it isn't supported, Windows will run slower and you will have more blue screens. The odd thing is if you have a supported CPU you can get every security feature in Windows 11 in Windows 10, but you won't get Android apps for me eventually come out. And I do have to say having GUI Linux apps is pretty nice