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

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

Windows 11 is finally here, and if you’ve read our review, you know we found it to fix many of the mistakes Microsoft made with Windows 8 and 10. This is the most visually appealing operating system Microsoft has made in a while, including tons of redesigned apps and visual elements. It has new features like a Widgets pane and Microsoft Teams integration, Auto HDR for games, and much more. Windows 11 can run on most modern PCs, but you may not get it automatically anytime soon. If you want to know how to download Windows 11 right now, you’ve come to the right place.

There are multiple ways you can force your computer to download Windows 11, and we’ll guide you through all of them.

Before downloading

Before we get started, 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

Aside from that, it’s always best to be on the safe side before making upgrades like this, so make sure you’ve backed up your files to a cloud service or an external storage device of some kind.

Navigate this article:

Download Windows 11 using Windows Update

The easiest way to download Windows 11 right now is through Windows Update once the update is offered to you. Windows 11 is rolling out gradually, but even if your PC is selected for the upgrade, you might not know it right away. This is an optional upgrade, so if you want to install it, you have to go find it.

To do this, simply open the Settings app on your Windows 10 PC, and go to the Update & Security section. If your PC has been selected for the rollout, you’ll see a big banner advertising Windows 11, and you’ll have the option to download it right away.

Windows 11 upgrade in Windows Update

This will download and install Windows 11 in the easiest way possible, and you won’t have to set up anything after the installation. We’d recommend going this route if you can, but you have more options if this one isn’t available.

Using the Windows Insider Program

If your PC has the hardware to run Windows 11 but you’re not seeing it in your Windows Update page, it may be because you haven’t been chosen for the rollout yet. However, you can easily force this without much risk by temporarily joining the Windows Insider Program. This is a program that allows users to test versions of Windows in development, but following the right steps, it’s perfectly safe. Here’s what to do:

  1. Open the Settings app then open the Update & Security section.
  2. On the left side menu, open the Windows Insider Program tab, then click Get started.
    Windows Insider Program settings page
  3. Link your Microsoft account to the Insider program if needed and follow the instructions on screen.
  4. Here, choose the Release Preview Channel. This is the most stable option and ensures you’ll get pretty much the same version as what’s available for the general public.
    Channel selection for Windows Insider Program
  5. You’ll eventually be asked to restart your PC. Click Restart Now if you’re ready to do it right away. You can restart later if you need to save any pending work.
  6. Once the PC is back on, simply go to Windows Update (as described in the first section) and check for updates. Windows 11 should show up as an optional update, and you can install it normally.

After the update is done, you may want to leave the Windows Insider Program by going back to the respective page and opting out of preview builds. Since you’re in the Release Preview channel, though, this shouldn’t be much of a problem.

Using the Media Creation Tool

Another official way to download Windows 11 is using the tools Microsoft provides for downloading Windows 11 manually. The most versatile way to do this is using the Media Creation Tool, as you can use it to upgrade your current PC or create installation media for another PC, which you can use if you’re offline or have slow internet later. Here’s what to do:

  1. Go to the Windows 11 download page.
  2. Under Create Windows 11 Installation media, click Download Now.
    Windows 11 download page

    • Alternatively, you can download an ISO directly from the website under Download Windows 11 Disk Image (ISO). If you do, skip to step 7.
  3. Run the file you’ve just downloaded and accept the terms and conditions.
  4. Choose the language and edition settings you want for your Windows 11 installation. By default, it chooses the correct settings for your PC, but you can change them if you’re creating installation media for another PC.
  5. Choose whether you want to create an ISO file or a bootable USB flash drive.
    Windows 11 Media Creation Tool creating ISO file

    • Note: If you want to perform a clean install using bootable USB media, select the USB flash drive you want to use and click Next. You can skip to the How to install Windows 11 section below.
  6. The download will begin and you’ll have your ISO file saved in the folder you chose.
  7. On the computer you want to upgrade, double-click the ISO file, and then run the setup file inside.
  8. Follow the steps on screen to upgrade your PC to Windows 11

You can create a bootable USB flash drive using this ISO file later, if you want. Check the Creating installation media from an ISO section below to learn how.

Using Windows Insider Program ISOs

If you want to specifically try experimental builds from the Windows Insider Program, there are two ways you can join. First, you can see the section above about using the Windows Insider Program to download Windows 11, but instead of joining the Release Preview channel, you can join the Beta (more stable) or Dev (more frequent updates) to try out the latest bits available.

The other option is to download specific Windows Insider ISOs. You can download ISOs for any of the available channels, use them to perform a clean install or an in-place upgrade. Here’s how to do that:

  1. Go to the Windows Insider downloads page and sign in with your Microsoft account.
  2. Scroll down to the Select edition section and choose the Windows Insider channel you want to join, then click Confirm.
    Windows Insider select edition
  3. Choose the language you want to install. Note that Windows Insider builds are available in fewer languages than general Windows releases.
  4. Click the 64-bit Download button to download your ISO.
  5. Once it’s downloaded, double-click the ISO file and run the setup file inside.
    • If you want to create USB installation media, check the section below.

Creating installation media from an ISO

As we’ve mentioned above, if you download an ISO file and you just want to upgrade 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. However, if you want to perform a clean install or format your PC, you may need to create a bootable USB drive. You can do that using the ISO you’ve already downloaded.

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 using a USB drive

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. If you want to do it this way, it’s pretty much the same as having an ISO file.

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

Editor 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.

We are reader supported. External links may earn us a commission.