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Install Windows 11 on unsupported hardware

Install Windows 11 on unsupported hardware

Categories: Technology
Posted: October 06, 2021

Windows 11 has been released and comes with some new hardware requirements like the need for TPM 2.0 and secure boot. Also, some older processors are no longer supported even though they should be perfectly capable of running the OS. In case your system does not meet one of these requirements, you will not be able to install Windows 11 in a supported way. As I worked on overcoming these requirements for installation of Windows 11 on Mac, with success. I figured the same method would just work fine on a PC as well. And it did! This post covers how to work around the hardware requirements check and install Windows 11 on a system that does not meet these requirements.

YouTube Video

If you are interested, I also created a YouTube video from this blogpost. If you prefer classic text, you can just follow the rest of this article:

Introduction

Although I do understand the reason for some of these new hardware requirements, I feel that some of them should’ve been something configurable or optional. Especially if you have a bit of an older but high-end system, it feels bad that you will run behind just because of these requirements. And although Windows 10 is not end of life yet, you will probably run into compatibility issues in the near future anyway.

As mentioned above, I figured out this method by some experience I have with creating bootable Windows 10 USB installation media on macOS. A few days back I found out this can be used to get around the hardware check of the installation. Hence I also gave this a try on a regular PC, with success.

The PC I used for this post is a Lenovo S20 with a Xeon X5650 CPU. The CPU is officially not supported, the machine does not have TPM 2.0 and does not support secure boot:

Using the PC Health Check tool, I could see the following:

The approach will be to use a Windows 10 installer USB, created with the Media Creation Tool and combine that with the Windows 11 installation files. That way the additional hardware checks are not done and Windows 11 can be installed without further issues. Once installed, you don’t notice anything of using this method to install everything.

Creating the bootable Windows 11 USB installer

Downloading the required files

First thing we need is the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool. This can be downloaded from the following location: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10

Next, we also need the ISO of Windows 11. That one can be downloaded over here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows11

Run the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool

Once we have these two files, we can insert the USB drive which we will use. It has to be at least 8 GB in size. Then start the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool.

After the initial “Getting a few things ready” wait and accepting the license, choose “Create installation media” and click Next:

In the next screen, select the language of choice and continue with Next again:

Finally, select the USB drive which you inserted and start the process by clicking Next:

After some time and the tool has downloaded all files and copied them to your USB drive, you should see the following:

Copy the Windows 11 files to the USB drive

At this point we have a regular Windows 10 installation USB drive. On the drive, the actual Windows 10 is contained in the file \sources\install.esd:

If we mount the Windows 11 ISO by double-clicking on it in explorer, we can see that here we have \sources\install.wim. This is the file that we will use to replace \sources\install.esd on the USB drive:

First, navigate to your USB drive and delete the \sources\install.esd file:

Then we need to replace it with install.wim from the Windows 11 ISO. One issue here is that the file is over 4 GB in size and the Media Creation Tool formatted the USB drive with FAT32. FAT32 supports only files up to 4 GB so we will need to split that file in two parts.

 

In order to do so, I will use Wimlib. This is a utility designed exactly with that purpose (work with .wim files). You can download the latest version from https://wimlib.net/:

Extract the contents of the downloaded file and open a command prompt. Take note of the drives letters for both the USB drive (D: in my case) and the mounted ISO (G: in my case):

Then navigate to the downloaded Wimlib folder and execute the following:

Microsoft Windows [Version 10.0.19043.1237]
(c) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
C:\Users\jensd>cd Downloads\wimlib-1.13.4-windows-x86_64-bin

C:\Users\jensd\Downloads\wimlib-1.13.4-windows-x86_64-bin>wimlib-imagex.exe split g:\sources\install.wim d:\sources\install.swm 4000
Splitting WIM: 4526 MiB of 4526 MiB (100%) written, part 2 of 2
Finished splitting "g:\sources\install.wim" 

C:\Users\jensd\Downloads\wimlib-1.13.4-windows-x86_64-bin>

The command I executed is wimlib-imagex.exe with the following arguments:

  • “split” as we want to split a larger .wim file in smaller parts
  • “g:\sources\install.wim” the source file on the mounted Windows 11 ISO
  • “d:\sources\install.swm” the output where the splitted files should go on the USB drive
  • “4000” the max. size in MB of each part

As a result of running that command, our USB drive now has two files in the sources folder:

The Windows 10 installer knows what to do with these, even if they are actually for Windows 11.

At this point, our USB drive is ready and we can use it to install Windows 11 on the incompatible PC I have.

Use the USB drive to install Windows 11

Now that we have the Frankenstein-like Windows 11 installation USB drive, we can use it to install the OS on devices that would not pass the hardware check.

In order to do so, change your BIOS settings or press the key (F10 or F12 typically) to choose a temporary boot device and boot from the USB drive:

Initially, the look and feel of the installer will be exactly as from Windows 10. This is expected as we are running exactly that version of the installer. First select the language, region and keyboard of choice, click “Next”, then “Install Now”:

In the next screen choose “I do not have a product key” and as soon as you arrive at the screen where you need to select which version to use, we can see the Windows 11 versions instead:

Here, select the version of choice and click “Next”. In the next screen, choose to accept the license and continue. Then choose for a custom install (Windows only (advanced)). In the next screen, you need to select where to install Windows 11:

This is no different from a Windows 10 installation, just pick the drive or partition where you want to install Windows 11 and click Next. After that, the installation will take place and after some time and a few reboots, you should be presented with the following dialog:

Here you need to answer some basic questions like your location, keyboard layout, network, username, password and some more questions regarding location and diagnostic info.

After going through all of these, and also letting the updates to be installed, and waiting a bit more, you should end up with the Windows 11 desktop on your incompatible PC:

As you can see in the above screenshot, this runs just fine on the incompatible hardware like the Xeon X5650 I have here.

Updates seem to work fine as well:

Hope this helps you in getting Windows 11 installed even if it is officially not supported…

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