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Microsoft's Windows 11: How to get it now (or later)

Microsoft's global rollout of Windows 11 is kicking off. Here are a bunch of answers to questions I've been getting from readers about availability, hardware-check loopholes and more.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

As the clock turns to 12:01 a.m. in Australia and New Zealand, Microsoft's October 5 rollout of Windows 11 to mainstream users is commencing. Here's what to expect as Microsoft makes its latest version of Windows available to more and more customers.

Who can get Windows 11 today (beginning October 4 at 4 p.m. ET)?

As it turns to 12:01 a.m. on October 5, Windows 11 will start rolling out to the mainstream in each of the more than 190 countries where it will be available. People who buy new PCs from Microsoft and its OEM partners with Windows 11 preloaded on it can get Windows 11 immediately. Some new PCs that meet Microsoft's hardware requirements for Windows 11 also will ship with Windows 10 but will be eligible for an immediate upgrade.

In addition, "seekers" running Windows 10 who have machines that meet Microsoft's hardware requirements (TPM, CPU, etc.) also will be able to download and install it proactively. Users can run Microsoft's updated PC Health Check app to see if their PCs meet Microsoft's hardware bar. To see if Windows 11 is available for a particular device, users can open Windows Update Settings and check for updates. If the device is eligible and deemed ready by Microsoft, the option to download and install will appear.

Is Microsoft using the same, phased rollout approach with Windows 11 that it has been using for Windows 10?

Yes. Machines that Microsoft believes will have a good experience running Windows 11 (based on its own telemetry, testing and self-hosting) will be offered Windows 11 first. Microsoft is saying that it expects it will have offered to all eligible Windows 10 devices the option to get Windows 11 by the middle of 2022.

When will Windows 11 be available using the Media Creation Tool?

Windows 11 installation media will be available starting at 4 p.m. ET on October 4, in line with the global upgrade rollout. Microsoft has renamed the Update Assistant tool to the Installation Assistant concurrent with the launch of Windows 11.

When will Windows 11 be available on the Volume Licensing Center, MSDN subscriptions, the partner portal, etc.?

Windows 11 is starting to roll out today. Officials said it may take up to several days for downloads to be fully available in the VLSC and similar channels across all products, markets, and languages.

Update (October 8): Microsoft added a footnote to its blog post that says Windows 11 will be available in the VLSC and "similar channels" the week of October 11.

How long will businesses and consumers be able to continue to license/buy/upgrade to Windows 10?

Support for Windows 10 will continue through October 14, 2025, and users will be able to license/buy/install Windows 10 up until that time, according to Microsoft. Microsoft officials are not saying at this time if they'll make Extended Support Updates available for Windows 10 so users can keep getting security updates for it beyond October 14, 2025.

Regarding Windows 10, when should we expect the Windows 10 21H2 feature update?

"Very soon" is all Microsoft is saying officially. Rumors have indicated 21H2 should be out in October 2021. The 21H2 update will be a minor one and include only a handful of features.

How will consumers and business users be able to block Windows 11 if it's offered to them if they don't want it and/or aren't ready for it yet?

When a customer with an eligible Windows 10 device is notified through Window Update, they can decide if they want to upgrade to Windows 11 at any time in the future/when they are ready or stay on Windows 10, Microsoft says (without offering specifics). Enterprise customers can use policies to make sure Windows 11 is not offered to end-users until IT is ready for the rollout by using Windows Update for Business, Endpoint Manager and other tools, officials said.

Will everyone in the Insider Beta and Release Preview Channels be able to upgrade from their test builds to the final Win 11? Or is a clean install needed?

Windows Insiders in the Beta and Release Preview Channels do not need to take action as they will be transitioned to the final build at release. However, the details as to how/when this will happen are not available yet.

Is there an end date for when Windows 11 will be offered to existing Windows 10 users as a free upgrade? Or will it always be free to those with a qualifying license key?

The free upgrade offer does not have a specific end date for eligible systems. While Microsoft reserves the right to end support for the free offer eventually, it will be at least one year from general release.

For a while, it seemed Microsoft was going to allow users to get around the new Windows 11 hardware requirements via virtual machines. Is this loophole now closed?

Windows 11 on VMs will have the same hardware floor requirements (as described here) to follow as for physical PCs. Customers using Windows 11 VMs on Azure are recommended to use Trusted Launch to enable TPM 2.0 and secure boot as part of the VM configuration to remain compliant with the hardware floor requirements for Windows 11, the same as all the other (CPU/RAM/OS) requirements.   

With the availability of Windows 11, Windows 365, and Azure Virtual Desktop support Trusted Launch to enable TPM 2.0 and secure boot on the virtual machines.

Windows 365 Enterprise/Cloud PC will support Windows 11 starting October 5.

Speaking of loopholes, Microsoft still will allow users whose systems don't meet the Microsoft-designated hardware bar for Windows 11 to install and run it at their own risks, correct?

Yes. Users who are OK with the uncertainty regarding potential compatibility issues and Microsoft's claim that it may not provide all security updates to those running Windows 11 on unsupported hardware still can do so. By using the Media Creation Tool to do a bare metal or clean install, users can bypass hardware checks "for now," officials say. (We don't know how long Microsoft intends to keep this option open, but there seemingly are no immediate or even longer-term plans to drop it at this time).

What's going on with Windows 11 for Arm processors?

Windows 11 will be available for Intel, AMD and Arm processors simultaneously starting today. In June this year, Microsoft announced a new application binary interface (ABI) for building apps for Windows 11 on Arm that's called ARM64EC ("Emulation Compatible"). Via this interface, Microsoft is delivering the promised X64 emulation on Arm with this Windows 11 release.

How long will Microsoft support Windows 11?

October 4, 2021, marks the start of the 24-month lifecycle for the Home and Pro editions of Windows 11. It also marks the start of the 36-month support window for Enterprise and Education. Microsoft plans to release only one feature update per year for Windows 11.

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