According to newly published Microsoft documents, Windows 11 is incompatible with Intel and AMD CPUs sold as recently as four years ago. This appears to be a separate issue from the TPM 1.2 versus 2.0 problems we’ve already discussed.
Microsoft has published a list of minimum CPUs required to run Windows 11 on AMD and Intel CPUs. Here’s a quick rundown of the respective situations:
Intel: No Core CPUs prior to Coffee Lake are currently listed as supported as of 4:30 PM EST on 6/25. This includes all 6th Gen and 7th Gen CPUs. I feel genuinely bad for anyone who bought a Core i7-7700K. No Intel HEDT CPUs prior to Cascade Lake are supported.
AMD: Windows 11 is currently not compatible with any Bulldozer-era CPU. It does not appear to be compatible with first-generation Threadripper systems. The 2400G and 2200G are not supported, although the 3400G and 3200G are. The Ryzen 1700X, 1800X, and all related CPUs are unsupported.
I want to leave room here, explicitly, for the idea that Microsoft is going to add more CPUs to its support list, but the company’s own recent update to its PC Health Check app does make that seem less likely. Microsoft updated its PC Health Check application since we wrote about it last night. We’ve run the test on multiple machines. On some PCs, like my own, the new error message looks like this:
ExtremeTech’s editor-in-chief, Jamie Lendino, currently runs a Core i7-6900K. The message on his PC (confirmed by David Cardinal as well as Michael Kan of PCMag, who also have older CPUs) looks like this:
On my machine, I’m warned that I need a TPM 2.0 module. On their PCs, they’re told that their CPUs are not compatible with Windows 11. All of them have Intel CPUs dating back ~4 years or more.
I couldn’t think of a better subhead than that, even if it’s not the most professional thing on Earth. Last night, I thought Microsoft had created a real bugbear for itself with confusion over whether TPM 2.0 or 1.2 was required to install Windows 11. We still haven’t gotten a clear answer on whether TPM 1.2 is actually good enough to install Win 11. My own PC specifies I need a TPM 2.0 module/support, not a 1.2 module/support.
As of today, the TPM problem has just been buried in the “People who bought a PC two to four years ago can’t run Windows 11” problem. Except even saying “four years ago” understates the problem. Just 579 days ago, as of this writing, the Core i9-9980XE was the fastest Intel CPU you could buy in a consumer product. As of today, the Core i9-9980XE isn’t listed as a CPU that supports Windows 11.
Microsoft has never done anything like this to the best of my recollection. This isn’t to say the company hasn’t changed its minimum hardware requirements before, or that those requirements haven’t left people out who could otherwise have run the operating system. It has. But never before has Microsoft declared that huge swathes of the existing CPU market simply would not be allowed to upgrade to the latest version of its operating system. The Core i9-9980XE is less than two years old.
AMD introduced the first 64-bit consumer CPU on September 23, 2003. On June 24, 2021, Microsoft announced the next version of its OS would be 64-bit only. It took Microsoft no less than 18 years to make that jump. When it comes to locking out $2,000 CPUs, however, it only took a bit under two years.
If true, this boggles belief. Six years after it forced end-users to adopt Windows 10 by deploying dark patterns and malware-style tactics, Microsoft seems to have decided that anyone with a PC more than minimally aged doesn’t get to run its latest operating system. The most baffling part at all is that Microsoft sang the praises of its own seamless upgrade offer on stage like this was Windows 10 all over again.
Microsoft has required that PC OEMs ship TPM-compatible hardware since 2016, but it may have just invalidated Windows 11 on some HEDT PCs built as recently as 2019. Most of those systems are sold through OEMs, whether they’re specialty companies like Boxx or big box companies like Lenovo, Dell, or HP.
This kind of requirement is a perversion of what people understand “minimum specifications” to mean. Minimum specs are supposed to be the minimum required specs for running a product. Meet them in aggregate, and the software will function. Minimum specs are useful as a way for an end-user to measure the impact of the passage of time. When Microsoft said that a 1GHz CPU was sufficient to run Windows 10, what that meant in practical terms was “most CPUs dating as far back as 2000 can run Windows 10.”
But that’s not what Microsoft’s minimum specs mean, anymore. They appear to mean, “our OS runs on slow hardware, provided the system was built in the past couple years.” This is an enormous change relative to how Microsoft OS functionality has previously been communicated, and the company didn’t so much as remark on it from the stage.
I’m holding out hope for an updated list or a clarifying announcement or something to indicate Microsoft doesn’t actually believe it can invalidate the upgrade path for tens of millions of PC owners who haven’t bought new CPUs in the past two to four years. Nothing about this makes sense. It’s actually easier to believe it’s a mammoth communication screw-up, as opposed to a categorical attempt to ban five to seven years’ worth of current Windows users from an upgrade.
But whether it’s an error or not, I stand by what I wrote earlier today. Microsoft could not have sabotaged its own launch more effectively if it had tried. I was mistaken to think Microsoft had run out of ways to surprise me at an OS launch. I am quite thoroughly surprised.
- Microsoft Adds Android App Support to Windows 11
- TPM Trouble: Which PC Enthusiasts Are Allowed to Upgrade to Windows 11
- Microsoft Introduces Windows 11: New UI, 64-Bit Only, Mandatory Accounts