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Guide: How you can fix ‘This PC can’t run Windows 11’ error
Microsoft started a phased rollout of Windows 11 today. But you probably won’t get Windows 11 just yet. If you’re planning on downloading the new OS on your existing PC, you might’ve run into some speed bumps due to the system requirements for the new operating system. (Here’s how to download Windows 11 and how to create a Windows 11 install drive.)
If you’ve tried installing Windows 11 Insider Preview or using the Microsoft PC Health Check app and were greeted with an error message reading, “This PC can’t run Windows 11,” your system might not have two essential security settings turned on: Secure Boot and TPM 2.0. (Here are two other things you must do before downloading Windows 11.) Many modern computers and processing chips from Intel and AMD have these features built in, and both are now required for all machines running Windows 11.
Once you’ve downloaded the PC Health Check app, you can click Check Now to begin the scanning process. The app will tell you whether your computer will support Windows 11, or what it’s missing, and you can click See All Results for more information.
If your machine is new enough to support both, enabling TPM (short for Trusted Platform Module) and Secure Boot is often quite easy. No special skills are needed, and you’ll just be clicking through menus. If you’ve never heard the words “BIOS menu” you might feel out of your element, but don’t be intimidated. With a little patience, any first-timer can do this.
Here’s what you need to know.
What are TPM and Secure Boot?
TPM microchips are small devices known as secure cryptoprocessors. Some TPMs are virtual or firmware varieties but, as a chip, a TPM is attached to your motherboard during the build and designed to enhance hardware security during computer startup. A TPM has been a mandatory piece of tech on Windows machines since 2016, so machines older than this may not have the necessary hardware or firmware. Previously, Microsoft required original equipment manufacturers of all models built to run Windows 10 to ensure that the machines were TPM 1.2-capable. TPM 2.0 is the most recent version required.
TPMs are controversial among security specialists and governments. An updated and enabled TPM is a strong preventative against firmware attacks, which have risen steadily and drawn Microsoft’s attention. However, it also allows remote attestation (authorized parties can see when you make certain changes to your computer) and may restrict the kinds of software your machine is allowed to run. TPM-equipped machines generally aren’t shipped in countries where western encryption is banned. China uses its state-regulated alternative, TCM. In Russia, TPM use is only allowed with permission from the government.
Secure Boot is a feature in your computer’s software that controls which operating systems are allowed to be active on the machine. It’s both a good and bad thing for a Windows machine. On the one hand, it can prevent certain classes of invasive malware from taking over your machine and is a core defense against ransomware.
On the other hand, it can prevent you from being able to install a second operating system on your machine, giving you two to choose from when you first start up your computer. So, if you wanted to experiment with Linux operating systems, for instance, Secure Boot could stop you. Secure Boot also plays a part in preventing Windows pirating.
A few words of caution
Now that you know about the secure technologies you’ll be using, there are a few things you should keep in mind before you dive into fixing the issue on your own.
- Microsoft confirmed there are four types of problems that might have given you a “This PC can’t run Windows 11” error message if you used its PC Health Check tool. If you are missing the hardware or firmware necessary for Windows 11, the instructions below won’t help — you’ll need to buy a new device to run the OS.
- Keep in mind that these instructions are written as broadly as possible. That’s because Windows machines vary so much that it’s not feasible to cover all the possible ways to enable TPM and Secure Boot across every device. For the most part, though, the process is similar enough across machines that you should be able to use the instructions as a guide and, where your computer differs, still identify the equivalent menu or label in your own system.
- If your machine is still covered by a warranty, always speak with the manufacturer first before doing anything that could potentially void it. If your machine is owned and maintained by your company or school, it may have a unique security configuration that your IT staff will need to handle. It’s also a good idea to get in contact with your local PC repair shop; having a qualified professional on standby is the best way to get back on track if you get turned around or encounter roadblocks.
- Always back up your important files before making any big changes to your computer. Always. Just do it. You’ll thank us later.
- If this is your first time working in a BIOS menu, stick close to the instructions and don’t veer too far from the beaten path. We’re on a very simple mission here, and nothing I recommend below will do any damage to your machine or data, but changing firmware settings in your BIOS menu can have a wide-ranging impact. There are few guardrails here, and you can lose a lot of important data very fast. Some mistakes can be permanent and, in most cases, there won’t be any polite pop-ups gently asking whether you’re sure you want to make those mistakes.
You should definitely look around, explore your options and familiarize yourself with what’s under the hood, but avoid changing any settings or saving any of those changes unless you know specifically what’s going to happen when you do.
Is my device capable of TPM 2.0 and Secure Boot?
If the PC Health Checker suggested that TPM isn’t enabled, you should first find out whether that’s an accurate diagnosis. Here’s how.
- From your desktop, press the Windows key next to the spacebar + R. This will bring up a dialog box.
- In the text field of the box, type tpm.msc and hit Enter. This should bring up a new window labelled “TPM Management on Local Computer.”
- Click Status. If you see a message that says “The TPM is ready for use” then the PC Health Checker has misdiagnosed you, and the steps below won’t help. At this point, there are several reasons you might be receiving the wrong error message from Microsoft, so your best bet is to get a professional to take a look at your machine.
If you don’t see that message, and instead see “Compatible TPM cannot be found” or another message indicating the TPM may be disabled, follow the next steps.
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