XDA Basics: Here’s how to download and install Windows 11

XDA Basics: Here’s how to download and install Windows 11

So you’ve heard all the buzz about Windows 11. It has a new taskbar, a new Start menu, new wallpapers, and new design elements. It’s even going to be able to run Android apps. Those are all big changes, so it’s only natural you might want to try it.

Thankfully, you can do just that thanks to the Windows Insider Program. In this guide, we’ll show you how to download Windows 11 right now.

Before downloading

The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure your PC meets the system requirements for Windows 11. If you’re running Windows 10, you may find some new requirements that are harder to meet, like the 4GB of RAM, 64-bit CPU, or TPM 2.0 module. In fact, there’s a list of CPUs that are compatible, and it’s a fairly limited list. You may be able to install preview builds on PCs that don’t meet all the requirements, but you might have some issues because of it.

Another thing to keep in mind is builds in the Windows Insider Program are in development and aren’t completely stable. You need to be comfortable with some stability issues if you’re planning to go that route. Once you’ve ensured you and your PC are ready, read on to see how to download and install Windows 11.

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Download Windows 11 using Windows Update

The only official way to download Windows 11 right now is through Windows Update and the Insider Program. You’ll need to join the Insider Program and check for updates through Windows Update as usual. We have a guide on how to prepare for the Windows 11 preview builds, and if you’ve followed that, all you need to do is check for updates again. Go to Settings -> Update & Security and click Check for Updates.

This will download and install Windows 11 in the easiest way possible, and you won’t have to set up anything after the installation. Currently, Windows 11 is available for users in the Dev and Beta channels of the Windows Insider Program.

Download a Windows 11 Insider Preview ISO

Another option is to download an ISO file for the Windows 11 Insider Preview. This way, you can clean install the operating system, or take the installation with you for a PC that doesn’t have internet. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Go to the Windows Insider downloads page. You’ll need to be signed in with a Microsoft account enrolled in the Insider program.
  • Scroll down to Select edition and choose the build you want to download. You can choose either the Beta or Dev channels, but keep in mind enrolling in the Dev channel means you might start testing the next version of Windows 11 soon. The Beta channel is safer if you want to only run preview builds until the initial release is official. Click Confirm.

Windows 11 Insider preview ISO download options

  • Choose your preferred language. Not every language that’s available for Windows is compatible with the Insider program, so you may have to settle depending on where you’re from.
  • Click the Download button, and the ISO file will start downloading.

This is definitely the simpler method for downloading an ISO, though you can also generate your own if you feel like going that route. Later down the line, once Windows 11 is available to everyone, you should also be able to download a stable build of Windows 11. Microsoft offers the Media Creation Tool and Upgrade Assistant apps, which usually do exactly that. It’ll be a while before Windows 11 versions of the tools are available, since the operating system is only coming this holiday.

Generate your own ISO

Thanks to the work of the Windows community, it’s possible to generate an ISO file using the update files served through Windows Update. This is an unofficial method, so naturally we only recommend it for users who are comfortable with taking risks.

  • Visit this link to start generating a Windows 11 build for x64-based processors (Intel or AMD), or this one for ARM-based processors.
  • Choose your language on the dropdown list, then click Next under it.

Language selection page for downloading Windows 11 ISO generator from UUP Dump

  • Choose the editions of Windows you want. You can check your current edition in Settings -> System -> About. Otherwise, make sure you have the product key for the edition you want to activate. For Education and Enterprise Editions, you’ll need to select Windows 10 Pro here.

Edition selection page for downloading Windows 11 ISO generator from UUP Dump

  • Leave all the options on the next page in the default settings, unless you want additional editions. Then, click Create download package.

Final confirmation page for downloading Windows 11 ISO generator from UUP Dump

  • If you want additional editions, you’ll need to select Download, add additional editions and convert to ISO, then choose the edition you want.
  • You’ll start downloading a .zip file. Extract it to a folder of your choice and open the extracted folder.
  • Open the ConvertConfig file using Notepad and make sure the second line reads AddUpdates = 1. If it’s 0, change it to 1, then save and close the file. This should ensure the build you download is fully updated, but it might not work fully as intended. It’s nothing you can’t work around later, though.

Setting the ConvertConfig file so that the value for AddUpdate is 1

  • Run the UUP_download_windows file (or the equivalent for the operating system you’re currently running). You’ll need to stay connected to the internet while the files download.
  • You should end up with an ISO file with a name similar to this. If you have an ISOFOLDER instead, try deleting and then run the convert-UUP.cmd file to try to compile the ISO again.

ISO file generated by UUP dump

  • You can now mount the ISO file or burn it to a flash drive to use as installation media.

Creating installation media

Now you have an ISO, you’ll need to turn it into installation media. If you’re just upgrading to Windows 11, you can actually mount the ISO in Windows and run the setup file from there. Double-click the ISO file, run the setup file, and you’re good to go.

If you want to create a USB installation media you can use for other PCs or for a clean installation, you’ll need a program like Rufus. This can take your ISO file and flash it onto your flash drive so you can boot from it. Before you get started, make sure you don’t have any important files on the USB drive, since they’ll be deleted during the process. The USB drive will also need to have 8GB or more of capacity. Once that’s taken care of, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Download Rufus and install the program (or download the portable version).
  2. Plug in your USB drive and run Rufus.
  3. Click SELECT, and find the ISO file you downloaded before. All the other options will be filled in automatically.
  4. Click START and wait until the process finishes.

How to install Windows 11

Actually installing Windows 11 is a very simple process. Once you have created installation media, you can simply launch the setup file in your flash drive, then click through the installing process. Once the installation process is finished, you’ll be running Windows 11.

However, if you want a clean experience and set up your Windows 11 PC as a brand-new machine, you can do a clean installation. This means deleting all the data on your drive, but it’ll allow you to have the cleanest experience. Make sure you’ve backed up all the data you need before starting. With your USB installation media plugged in, follow these steps:

  • Go to Settings -> Update & Security -> Recovery.
  • Under Advanced startup, click Restart now.
  • In the menu that shows up, click Choose a device, then click your USB drive.

Selecting a device in the Windows advanced startup menu

  • From here, you’ll be taken to the installation environment. Choose your language and keyboard settings, then click Install Now and accept the license terms.

Language selection during a Windows 11 clean install

  • In the next screen, you’ll need to choose Custom: Install Windows only (advanced).

Options to clean install or upgrade Windows 11

  • You’ll see the list of drives and partitions on your PC.

List of drives and partitions on a PC before deletion

  • You can choose to format them or delete them and create a new partition in the unallocated space. Either way, you’ll be losing your data. In this case, we deleted the partitions and created a new one. Windows automatically creates a couple of additional partitions that are necessary for it to function.

List of drives and partitions on a PC after creating a new partition

  • Click Next and the installation will begin.

Once the installation finishes, you’ll be taken to the out-of-box experience (OOBE). This is what you see when setting up a new PC for the first time, or after a reset.

Setting up Windows 11

To get ready to use Windows 11, you’ll need to get through a few steps. Here’s the whole process:

  • First, you’ll need to choose your region and keyboard layout.
  • Accept the license terms, then you’ll get the chance to name your PC.

Windows 11 setup experience

  • You’ll then be asked to sign in with a Microsoft account. This is mandatory for Windows 10 Home users, but some editions can use local accounts.

Windows 11 setup experience

  • Once you’ve signed in, you can set a PIN to replace your password. If you signed in using Microsoft Authenticator, setting a PIN is mandatory.

Windows 11 setup experience

  • One thing that’s new in Windows 11 is the ability to back up your settings and installed apps, which makes setting up a new computer easier. If you’ve used Windows 11 before, you’ll see an option to restore from your previous backup.

Windows 11 setup experience

  • Next up, you have a few privacy settings to go through. These include allowing apps to use your location, how much diagnostic data you want to sent to Microsoft, or whether apps can use your advertising ID. Choose the apps that suit you, then click Next.

Windows 11 setup experience

  • The next thing you can set up is your device usage. You can tell Windows what you’re more likely to do with your PC, and you’ll get suggestions and tips based on that. You can also choose nothing and click Next here.

Windows 11 setup experience

  • Finally, you can set up if you want to save your files on OneDrive or only on your PC. Saving your files to OneDrive means you’ll have them backed up in case something happens to your computer, but you may need a Microsoft 365 subscription to fit all your files.

Windows 11 setup experience

  • After a brief setup period, you’ll be taken to the Windows 11 desktop. If you used UUP dump to generate your ISO and you notice something doesn’t look quite right, you may need to enroll in the Insider Program and check for updates to get all the features of Windows 11.

That’s all you need to know about downloading and installing Windows 11 right now. Since it’s still in early testing, there isn’t an abundance of options for downloading the operating system, but more will be available later. We’ll update this article as more options become available, so you can more easily choose your preferred one.

About author

João Carrasqueira
João Carrasqueira

Writer at XDA Computing. I've been covering the world of technology since 2018, but I've loved the field for a lot longer. And I have a weird affinity for Nintendo videogames, which I'm always happy to talk about.