Move over TPM 2.0: Windows 11’s CPU generation requirements are even more confusing. Windows 11 requires a minimum of an 8th-generation Intel CPU or AMD Ryzen 2000 processor. Microsoft can’t seem to obviously explain why, and therefore the company is already backpedaling on this.
Which CPUs Does Windows 11 Officially Support?
Immediately after Windows 11’s announcement, Microsoft had several contradictory sites up listing different CPU requirements. However, after the primary few days, the company’s communication had become more clear. consistent with Microsoft, Windows 11 will only guarantee support the subsequent CPUs:
- Intel CPUs: 8th generation or newer. (See list of supported Intel CPUs.)
- AMD CPUs: Ryzen 2000 or newer. (See list of supported AMD CPUs.)
Intel launched its eighth-generation chips in 2017 and AMD launched second-generation Ryzen processors in 2018, so Windows is demanding some seriously recent CPUs! Considering Windows 10 supported most CPUs that Windows 7 ran on, this is often an enormous shift.
RELATED: Why Does Windows 11 Need TPM 2.0?
What About 7th Generation and Older CPUs?
Initially, Microsoft’s compatibility documentation said some older CPUs, including 7th generation Intel CPUs, would be partially supported. Specifically, Microsoft said people with these CPUs would be allowed to upgrade, but the upgrade process would warn folks that their CPUs weren’t properly supported and would advise against the upgrade.
That was shortly edited out of Microsoft’s web page. Later, Microsoft changed its mind yet again and put up a blog post explaining Windows 11’s minimum system requirements.
As of June 28, 2021, Microsoft says it will test whether Intel 7th generation and AMD Zen 1 processors could run Windows 11 during the Insider Preview process. Specifically, The Windows Team writes:
As we release to Windows Insiders and partner with our OEMs, we’ll test to spot devices running on Intel 7th generation and AMD Zen 1 which will meet our principles. We’re committed to sharing updates with you on the results of our testing over time, also as sharing additional technical blogs.
Of course, this is often pretty confusing on its own: Will Microsoft only allow the upgrade for specific “devices” with these processors instead of all devices with these processors? Who knows! Microsoft hasn’t decided yet.
Here’s one more wrinkle: In the initial version of this blog post, Microsoft’s Windows Team wrote that it was confident older CPUs would not be supported:
We also know that devices running on Intel 6th generation and AMD pre-Zen won’t [meet our principles around security and reliability.]
Microsoft quickly edited this line out of its blog post with none further comment, so it’s unclear whether Microsoft will stick with blocking 6th-generation and earlier CPUs.
Why Does Microsoft Say Windows 11 Is So Strict?
The real question is why Windows 11 is so strict about CPU support. After having the ability to upgrade computers from Windows 7 to Windows 8 to Windows 10, it’s rather jarring. (Okay, maybe you skipped Windows 8.)
Microsoft is talking a lot about security. Like with the TPM 2.0 hardware requirement, requiring a contemporary CPU ensures access to the newest security measures . This includes virtualization-based security and hypervisor-protected code integrity enabled always and be default all Windows 11 PCs. Because of TPM 2.0, all Windows 11 PCs can have Device Encryption to store files in an encrypted form. they’re going to also all have Secure Boot, protecting the boot process from malware.
Security is that the first “principle” Microsoft says is driving its CPU requirements. The second is reliability. Microsoft writes that “CPUs that have adopted the new Windows Driver model…are achieving a 99.8% crash free experience.”
The third principle is that CPUs be “compatible” with the apps you employ with “the fundamentals of >1GHz, 2-core processors, 4GB memory, and 64GB of storage.” in fact , that doesn’t have much to try to to with CPU generation.
Microsoft Won’t Talk About the Spectre in the Room
There’s something almost right here. Do Microsoft’s security requirements really necessitate a CPU made within the previous couple of years before Windows 11 was released?
Well, maybe they are doing . Here’s a theory:
In early 2018, we learned that modern CPUs were suffering from serious design flaws that enabled the Spectre and Meltdown side-channel attacks. Microsoft had to release patches for Windows that bogged down PCs with older CPUs. This let Windows work round the security problems in these CPUs.
Spectre wasn’t alone. The ZombieLoad attack worked similarly and was also discovered in 2018. After ZombieLoad was announced in 2019, we wrote that only new CPUs could truly fix ZombieLoad, Spectre, and similar attacks. Intel (and other CPU manufacturers, to some degree) would need to rearchitect their CPU designs to really patch these security weaknesses.
Intel said that Spectre and Meltdown were addressed with hardware-level changes starting with Intel 8th-generation CPUs.
Isn’t it interesting that Windows 11 requires 8th-generation CPUs or newer? We imagine this is often related.
Of course, Microsoft isn’t screaming from the rooftops that PCs with older CPUs running Windows 10 are fundamentally insecure at a hardware level compared to new devices. That wouldn’t be good for business. But it looks like Microsoft wants to quietly move everyone to new hardware so Microsoft knows it only has got to support Windows 11 on CPUs with these security fixes.
Windows 10 remains Supported Until 2025
It’s worth bearing in mind that Windows 10 will still be officially supported with security updates until October 14, 2025. If you’ve got a PC running an older CPU that can’t upgrade, you’ll continue using Windows 10 with security updates for years to return .
Even if you propose on sticking with Windows 10 for subsequent few years, you’ll probably need a new PC sometime before October 2025, anyway. At that time , you’ll get a more moderen system that supports Windows 11’s higher requirements.