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Windows 10 vs. Windows 11 requirements force PC upgrades

Microsoft's new operating system will bring default security features for enterprises. Installation will be akin to a Windows 10 update for IT shops with the right hardware.

Microsoft recently shared the hardware requirements for Windows 11, revealing an OS upgrade that requires much more compute power than Windows 10 with few tangible benefits for enterprises.

When it introduced Windows 11 in June, Microsoft did not disclose specific requirements for installation. The company has since released details about what hardware, OS and feature requirements will allow it to run properly. There may be a few changes to these requirements before the OS rolls out in the fall.

For hardware, Windows 11 will require a 1 GHz or faster processor with two or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or system on a chip, 4 GB or greater RAM, storage of 64 GB or greater and a graphics card compatible with DirectX 12 or later with a WDDM 2.0 driver. Other requirements include Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0 and a high-definition display of 9 inches or greater with 8 bits per color channel. 

There are also feature-specific requirements to take advantage of Windows 11's capabilities; 5G support requires a 5G capable modem, and Wi-Fi 6E requires new WLAN IHV hardware and driver and a Wi-Fi 6E capable AP/router, for example.

Compare that to Windows 10 hardware requirements of 1 GHz or faster processor or SoC, 1 GB of RAM for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit, 16 GB of hard disk space for 32-bit OS or 20 GB for 64-bit OS and DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver.

Windows 11 hardware requirements likely mean many enterprises will have to invest in new laptops or PCs to upgrade from Windows 10. Windows 10 has been around since 2015 and ran on legacy hardware, Steve Kleynhans, an analyst at Gartner, explained.

Windows 10 vs. Windows 11 hardware requirements
Windows 10 vs. Windows 11 system requirements

"As long as they kept updating Windows 10 it was very hard for them to say that these older machines are no longer supported," Kleynhans said. "By moving to Windows 11, they're able to draw a line in the sand."

Most of the benefits of installing Windows 11 will be felt by consumers. For example, the user interface will change: the start menu will be centered similar to a Mac. It will include pinned apps at the top and a menu of recently closed apps and documents at the bottom. The OS will also allow people to download Android apps.

These changes have left enterprises wondering whether there will be any benefits for them

Windows 11 start menu
Windows 11 start menu

Microsoft said the greatest benefit to enterprises will be the security Windows 11 offers. Multifactor authentication, hardware-based isolation, TPM and other security settings will be on by default. 

Most of the time when we talk security, it's not a lack of features, it's that organizations haven't rolled them out fully.
David SobelHost, 'Business of Tech'

While enterprise IT admins already have the ability to set those settings as default, David Sobel, technology analyst and host of the Business of Tech podcast, said that few actually did so. According to Microsoft, only 18% of customers have MFA turned on.

"Most of the time when we talk security, it's not a lack of features, it's that organizations haven't rolled them out fully," Sobel said.

Microsoft also said Windows 11 will offer IT administrators greater simplicity but not differ from Windows 10 so much as to be unfamiliar. The company claims upgrading to Windows 10 is akin to a Windows 10 feature update.

Maintaining the same endpoint management process is a benefit to IT, Sobel said, because retraining staff and reworking processes is a cost companies want to avoid.

Kleynahns said the mild changes also mean enterprises don't need to rush to download the new OS.

According to Kleynhans, the requirements are not something enterprises should be too concerned with. Large businesses already update hardware every five years or so. By the time Windows 10 stops receiving updates in 2025, enterprises will have upgraded to hardware that can handle Windows 11.

"Most enterprises will not be seriously deploying Windows 11 until 2023," Kleynhans said.

Microsoft added that there will be at least one feature update for Windows 10 called version 21H2 later this year. The update will add WPA3 H2E standards support for Wi-Fi security, among other things. The company declined to comment on further updates to Windows 10.

Maxim Tamarov is a news writer covering mobile and end-user computing. He previously wrote for The Daily News in Jacksonville, N.C., and the Sun Transcript in Winthrop, Mass. He graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in journalism. He can be found on Twitter at @MaximTamarov.

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