Windows 11 – trouble ahead?

Microsoft announced Windows 11 on June 24th and say updates to Windows 10 PCs will start rolling out later this year in “holiday season”. This seems likely to be sometime before Thanksgiving (25 November) but it may well not be until well into 2022 that everyone has been offered the upgrade. The new OS has new Mac-like graphics, with programs at the centre of the taskbar and no sign of the System Tray. Teams is now built into Windows but Skype didn’t get a mention. The new OS will allow use of Android apps, via an Amazon App Store app and will also have great gaming features.

Microsoft say it will be the most secure version of Windows yet but therein lies one of two stings in the tail.

The new security features require the PC hardware to include a Trusted Platform Module v2.0. Tough luck if your PC doesn’t have one – you’ll be stuck on Windows 10. Other hardware requirements include a minimum of 4Gb RAM, 64Gb of storage, UEFI (secure boot capable), DirectX 12 compatible graphics / WDDM 2.x and a 720 HD screen larger than 9″, so old Windows Tablets probably need not apply.

The other sting in the tail is that Windows 10 support will end on 14 October 2025, so no TPM or UEFI and you’ll be looking at installing Linux to keep your PC secure.

We probably won’t know until closer to launch time whether there might be security constraints on running unsigned software such as ham radio programs.

You can check whether your PC will support Windows 11 by installing the Microsoft PC Health Check App from here: https://aka.ms/GetPCHealthCheckApp. Unhelpfully the app doesn’t tell you the reason for the failure.

Testing a random selection of 5 PCs, the oldest PCs unsurprisingly failed the test, two recent laptops passed but the shocker was a 2-year old Dell desktop that won’t support Windows 11.

Update 27 June 2021

Problem on one PC solved: Although Microsoft’s PC Health Check doesn’t (currently) give reasons for failure it seemed likely the 2-year old Dell desktop was failing due to the lack of a TPM. A quick check with the Windows utility tpm.msc found no TPM. None was evident in the UEFI (BIOS) settings either. Further research revealed that there is a firmware equivalent in recent processors from both Intel and AMD. The feature is called PTT by Intel and fTPM by AMD. Enabling PTT on the Dell desktop enabled the machine to pass the PC Health Check W11 compatibility test.

Microsoft has now published lists of supported Intel and AMD processors. Intel processors include Atom, Celeron and Core processors from generation 8 onwards. The AMD list includes Athlon. EPYC and Ryzen processors but again, only relatively recent models. It seems PCs with Gen 1 Ryzen processors may not make the cut. Some earlier processors do support PTT/fTPM so there is obviously an additional factor at work.

It will be interesting to see whether Microsoft will row back on the fairly tight hardware spec and allow Windows 11 on a wider range of hardware.

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