Upgrading from Windows 10 to Windows 11: Step-by-step

So you want to move to Windows 11 and your PC has the Microsoft-approved hardware to handle it. What do you do? We take you through the process step-by-step and screenshot-by-screenshot.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

Here's my Asus Zenbook Duo proudly running Windows 11. Notice that interesting second screen.

I'm getting ready to incorporate CNCs into my digital fabrication workflow. Both of the CNCs I'll be working with require Windows machines and rather than repurpose one of my older machines -- none of which were Windows 11 compliant -- I wanted to use a machine that would easily run Windows 11. To be clear, Windows 11 isn't required for the CNCs themselves, but if I was going to be doing all this setup, I might as well use the new hotness.

Speaking of new hotness, I reached out to the folks at Asus about becoming a ZDNet DIY-IT project partner and helping me along with the CNC project. They kindly agreed to send me an Asus Zenbook Duo UX482, a very interesting machine that has a normal 14-inch laptop display, and a second wide display above the keyboard on the lower clamshell. We did a full review of the Zenbook Duo earlier in the year, and I'll be following up with a more in-depth piece on that interesting second screen.

I needed to move the machine from Windows 10 to Windows 11. Ed Bott has provided extensive coverage of Windows 11. If you want to know just about everything you need to know, read his excellent piece, "Windows 11 hands on: Microsoft's biggest minor upgrade ever is all about new hardware."  

Even though Ed provided a quick overview of the upgrade process as part of his article, I wanted to take you through the entire process of moving from Windows 10 Home to Windows 11 Home, click-by-clicky-click. In this article, we're starting with a stock Windows 10 Home machine, and by the time we're done, it will be running Windows 11.

So let's get started.

Checking for compatibility

Not all Windows 10 machines can run Windows 11 (at least without an ill-advised hack). It's a good idea to check whether Microsoft thinks you'll have an easy install. I always like to start on the Check for Updates screen, which I reach by typing "windows update" into the search bar.


This machine was already up to date (because I'm obsessive about running updates). While it's not required that you fully update Windows 10 first, before moving to Windows 11, I'd recommend it. That may be superstition because, after all, you're about to install a whole new OS. But I'm always more comfortable if I know I brought the old OS forward as far as possible before diving into the upgrade process.


Go ahead and hit the Check hardware requirements link. It will launch Edge (or your default browser) and take you to a page that tells you about Windows 11.


Go ahead and click Learn More, and you'll get another page:


Click Check for Compatibility.


Go ahead and download the PC Health Check App.


Launch it once it's in your Downloads directory.


I don't see any reason to put a shortcut on the desktop. You're probably only going to run this thing once. So let's run it. Hit Finish.


Now, punch that Check now button.


Boom! If everything's good, you'll see that. If not, well, Ed's your friend. Read his article, then search "Windows 11 Ed Bott" on ZDNet. He knows all. 


The easiest way to get Windows 11 if it's not already showing up on your PC and Microsoft's not already nagging you to upgrade, is to point your browser here.


You'll want to use the Windows 11 Installation Assistant.


But before you do, check out Before you begin. Here are some cautions and prerequisites Microsoft wants you to be aware of:


At least they're not making you promise to make them pancakes every week (although it's still possible that requirement is buried deep on page 49 of their EULA). In any case, now's the time to click Download Now. And be prepared to kiss Windows 10 goodbye.


There you go. I'm still convinced there's some sort of pancake making requirement buried in that thing. But heck, how bad could it be to be required to make pancakes? Click Accept and Install.


It didn't take me very long to get my download, but I have epic bandwidth. Definitely assume you're going to be having a cup of coffee during the wait.


This part takes a while. My wife and I had a very long conversation between 79% and 82%. Go make those pancakes. Watch a movie. Raise your kids. It's not fast, is what I'm saying. And even when it's done, it's not done.


And you thought you were done when it rebooted. Foolish, foolish person. But if you wait long enough, you'll be rewarded with a "welcome".


Another glorious wait. The little circles chase each other for so very, very, very long. So very long. But eventually, if you stay very still and wait very, very quietly, you will be rewarded with that tasty middle of the screen Start button.


Beyond the spiffy new UI, there are ways to tell that you're running Windows 11. The search bar is now up on top.


Go ahead and type "About" and click on in. And there it is, bigger than life, in shining letters, the words you were waiting, hoping and dreaming for, lo all those long minutes ago:


Final thoughts

I like Windows 11. It feels like Windows 10, but with some of the inconsistencies resolved. I haven't given it a huge workout yet, but I also haven't had any problems. I did my upgrade on a fresh Windows 10 machine, and the upgrade went off without a hitch. I found it long and boring (but, to be fair, so are some of my articles). It worked, and that's all that matters.

What about you? Are you upgrading to Windows 11 or staying with Windows 10? If you've upgraded, how did it go? Was it smooth or rocky? How do you like Windows 11? Let us know in the comments below.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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