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Windows 11 is Microsoft’s latest and greatest desktop operating system, and Windows 10 only has a few years left before it loses support, but that doesn’t mean you should spend more money. There are several ways to get Windows 11 for free, and we’ve listed the most common ones.

Who gets a free Windows 11 upgrade?

To get Windows 11 for free, you must be running Windows 10 and also have a computer that meets the minimum requirements. Windows 11 has some particularly strict requirements, including a CPU with at least an 8th Gen Intel Coffee Lake or a 2nd Gen AMD Zen CPU. You also need a TPM 2.0 (Trusted Platform Module) or a CPU with an fTPM (firmware TPM).

If you have a CPU with an fTPM, you can enable it from the BIOS or UEFI menu. If the option isn’t there, it’s likely an upcoming BIOS update will add it if the hardware supports it.

You can still install Windows on systems that do not meet the requirements, although you will have to do a manual installation from a disk image because you will not be offered an upgrade. You must also agree to an waiver that Microsoft indemnifies and states that you are not eligible for updates or support.

If you are a Windows 10 user, check for updates

Windows 11 is being rolled out in a phased manner, with newer systems and systems with the most compatible hardware being invited to update first. You will be prompted to upgrade to Windows 11 when the time is right, but you can also manually check whether the update is available or not.

Simply open the Start Menu and search for “Check for Updates”.

You’ll see if there are any pending updates. If you only see Windows 10 updates available, go ahead and install them.

You probably won’t see the Windows 11 update prompt unless your copy of Windows 10 is up to date.

Use the Windows Update Assistant

Let’s say you don’t feel like waiting until the day Microsoft decides it’s your turn to upgrade. In that case you can use the Windows 11 Installation Assistant and run it to handle the whole process automatically.

It’s just a few clicks in the installation wizard.

The only minor bump in the road is that the assistant may ask you for the . download and run PC Health Check Tool first from Microsoft to confirm that your PC is compatible with Windows 11.

The instructions for doing this are included in the assistant’s wizard, so if it asks for this, follow them there.

Upgrade to Windows 10 first

If you want a free upgrade to Windows 11, you must use Windows 10. While the free upgrade period from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 is officially long gone, unofficially, users had no problem activating Windows 10 with their Windows 7 or 8.1 product keys. Now is a good time to grab your activated copy of Windows 10 and then upgrade it to Windows 11.

Make sure you link your product license to your Microsoft account, as this means that if you ever do a fresh install of Windows 11 from a disc or USB drive, you can activate it simply by logging in with your Microsoft credentials. If your Windows license is associated with your hardware (for example, a laptop), activation for the previous version of Windows must be transferred to Windows 11.

Download an ISO or use the Media Creation Tool

Let’s say you want to install Windows 11, but you currently have a blank system with no operating system. If you don’t want to bother installing an older version of Windows first and then follow the upgrade path, you can install Windows 11 directly from a DVD or USB drive.

All you have to do is go to the same download page where to find the Installation Assistant. Then download the Windows 11 Media Creation Tool to automatically create a bootable USB or DVD drive or disc or grab the Windows 11 ISO disk image. If you have the disk image, you can manually burn a copy of Windows 11, which is more convenient for installing the operating system in a virtual machine.

Of course, installing Windows this way doesn’t really mean you got the operating system for free. You still need to activate it to get the whole experience.

Activate Windows 11 for free

If you have a copy of Windows 11 on your computer, but it’s asking for activation, you have a few options that don’t cost any money. Whether you can use it depends on where you come from.

We’ve seen some users report activation with their Windows 7, 8.1, or 10 product keys. There’s no harm in trying this, but if it doesn’t work for you, there’s always the slightly more lengthy process of installing your most recent version of Windows and performing sequential upgrades until you reach Windows 11.

Remember that you get the edition of Windows 11 that matches the edition of the older Windows version. For example, a Windows 10 Pro license yields a Windows 11 Pro license.

Do you really need activation?

As with Windows 10, not activating your copy of Windows 11 is more of a minor annoyance than an actual hindrance. You will not have any personalization options, you will have an activation watermark on the screen and there will be periodic popups reminding you to activate Windows. Other than that, it’s all there. You can install software, get updates, and use the computer as you would on an activated one. If you can live with these limitations, you can essentially consider Windows 11 to be free, at least until Microsoft changes its stance on it.

If the computer you want to use is a Plex server or you are using it for some other purpose where nagging the activation has no effect, you can go ahead and save money with this approach.

Buy a new computer

Yes, this isn’t technically getting Windows 11 for free, but it’s worth mentioning that new computers come with Windows 11 licenses included. This is probably the best way to follow if your current computer isn’t compatible with Windows 11 after all. Remember, Windows 10 has a few more years of support, so there’s no rush.

Find cheaper keys

If you don’t have any legal options to get Windows 11 for free and you have no choice but to pay for a product key, you don’t necessarily have to pay full price. There are many markets where you can buy dirt cheap Windows 10 keys from sites like Kinguin. Most of these sites sell legitimate keys; they are just redundant keys resold by bulk buyers.

Soon we also expect cheap Windows 11 keys from third-party sellers, but a Windows 10 key will deliver the same result.

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