Now that Windows 11 SE has broken cover, questions abound for tinkers who are wondering what the possibilities are for installing it on older laptops, upgrading it, etc. Microsoft has provided some answers in a lengthy Q&A PDF document, and the TLDR version is, “no, you can’t.”
According to Microsoft, you can only acquire Windows 11 SE by purchasing a new device, and that’s it. If you’ve got an older laptop that’s struggling under the burden of Windows 10, you are out of luck if you think the streamlined Windows 11 SE will be your savior, because it ain’t happening. The reasoning is actually quite simple, per the document, “Windows 11 SE is not intended for personal use. We expect that most customers would find Windows SE too restrictive on a personal device.”
On a similar note, if you were considering buying the $250 Surface Laptop SE and then installing Windows 11 on it (it comes with Windows 11 SE pre-installed), you can actually do that, or go with any licensed version of Windows, but you might never be able to reinstall 11 SE. Again, the document states, “…if you’d like to use a Windows 11 SE device for personal use, you may purchase a license for the version of Windows you’d like, completely erase all the data, files, settings, favorites, and the Windows 11 SE operating system on your device, and install your licensed version of Windows. After that, there would be no way to get back to Windows 11 SE.” This doesn’t necessarily rule out reinstalling 11 SE via recovery partition, however.
All that said, it would probably be wise to avoid installing Windows 11 SE on your personal device. It is an OS designed to be administered by an IT department, not a local user. That means you can’t install third-party native apps, as you can only run “web apps” in Edge or Chrome. To put a finer point on it, “App installation, advanced features, and setting changes are controlled by IT administrators rather than end users for this specialized version of Windows 11.”
None of this is really surprising. Most end users wouldn’t want a super stripped-down OS on their machine with a bunch of permission headaches included, and it’s not like you can just go buy a copy of Chrome OS for your device either, so Microsoft isn’t alone here. Not to mention the fact that you might not even be able to buy a device with Windows 11 SE installed, as it sounds like they’ll only be sold to schools and similar organizations. Microsoft notes in its Q&A that you “might” be able to buy one as an individual, which doesn’t sound too promising.
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