How to upgrade to Windows 11, whether your PC is supported or not. How to update an old computer for free

You can still upgrade from Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro using a product key from a previous business version of Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 (Pro / Ultimate). This can save you up to $ 100 in OEM upgrade fees if you purchase a new PC with Windows 10 Home pre-installed. (For details, see “How to Seamlessly Upgrade Windows 10 Home to Pro.”)

How to upgrade to Windows 11, whether your PC is supported or not

Andrew Cunningham – October 6, 2021 18:28 UTC

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Windows 11 is here. And now that you have time to read our full review, you may want to think about installing the update on your own PC.

Further Reading

We believe most people should wait a few months to give Microsoft time to fix the biggest bugs of the new Windows 11 operating system and finish releasing updates for Windows embedded applications. But anyway, you may want to install the operating system because you want to test it or because you like to run the latest stuff. Or maybe you want to install Windows 11 on an “unsupported” computer because Microsoft is not your parent and therefore can’t tell you what to do.

We’ve gathered all kinds of resources to create a comprehensive installation guide for upgrading to Windows 11. It includes tips and step-by-step instructions on how to enable officially required features such as TPM and Secure Boot, as well as official and unofficial ways to bypass the system requirements check on unsupported computers.

I’ve had Windows 11 running on computers as old as the 2008 Dell Inspiron 530, and while I’m not saying it’s something you should do, it’s something you can do.

Note: This article was originally published in January 2017. It has since been updated multiple times to reflect the most up-to-date information.

What You Can Usually Upgrade in a Laptop

Overall, there are two components that can be upgraded or replaced on a typical laptop. The first is RAM or random access memory. This is high-speed memory that the computer uses to store information from the currently running software. The more RAM you have, the more applications you can run (or open browser tabs) without having to resort to free hard drive access.

Speaking of which, another component that can usually be upgraded on a typical laptop is the hard drive. Most laptops have a 2.5-inch drive bay, but newer models now have an NVME slot for NVME-format solid-state drives. Upgrading your existing drives to larger ones has the obvious benefit of more storage.

However, one of the best ways to breathe new life into your old laptop is to replace your mechanical hard drive with a solid-state model. This will instantly make your overall computer experience much more lively and enjoyable.

There are cases where the hard drive, RAM, or both cannot be updated or removed at all. This mostly applies to ultrabook laptops like the M1 MacBook Pro 13. RAM and SSD are integrated into the motherboard, so you’ll be stuck with whatever model you purchased at the beginning.

What You Can’t Usually Upgrade in a Laptop

It’s tempting to just say that anything that isn’t RAM or a hard drive can’t be updated, but we’ll break it down into specific components to clarify the implications.

The most important overall element of performance in your laptop is the CPU or CPU. It is the brain of the computer and it does general-purpose number calculations. In a desktop system, the processor is connected to the motherboard via a socket system. Facilitating exchange for a better model. Typically laptops do not use this method. Instead, the CPU is permanently soldered to the motherboard.

Unfortunately, the same usually goes for the GPU or GPU. It is integrated into the processor or soldered directly to the motherboard. This is the ingredient that largely determines the performance in 3D applications and can help some applications as well. Such as video editors which often use GPU to speed up video encoding.

When installing, Avira Software Updater asks you to install other Avira software, but you can just avoid these requests if you don’t want them; will not install until you click on them.

Use It as a Garage or Hobby PC

Two old computer monitors on the desk in the working area.

Lucy Lambriex / Getty Images

Old computers can be wonderful companions in a way that you would never use a new computer. An old ThinkPad used in a garage is a great example. It can be great for keeping track of to-do lists and recording progress in your garden or other messy projects.

Most people would never use a new computer for such work. It’s a dirty, sometimes even humid environment. Since many old computers are no longer useful for many tasks, you don’t have to feel bad about subjecting them to further abuse.

While its capabilities will be limited, most old computers can access websites, document editing applications, and video streaming.

If so, start shopping. RAM comes in the form of sticks like Corsair 8GB modules ($ 43 on Amazon) that are placed on a computer’s motherboard. Before you decide, be sure to read this guide to make sure you are getting the right product.

Hardware Upgrades

Hardware upgrades can also give your PC a new lease of life. Of course, upgrading your hardware is not always the right solution. If your PC is ten years old, you won’t be able to speed it up much with a hardware upgrade. It would be better to buy a completely new computer. With that in mind, here are the best upgrades for the price.

1. Replace your drives

The bottleneck of most computers – this is the slowest part of your computer that you wait for the most – is the hard drive.

Solid-state drives are significantly faster than traditional magnetic hard drives, although they offer less storage space per dollar. You can buy a 120GB SSD for $ 100, and a 2TB magnetic hard drive – that’s more than 17 times the memory – for about the same price.

If your PC is just a few years old but your hard drive seems to be the slowest part, you can probably increase its speed by updating it with an SSD. You can even upgrade your laptop with an SSD. Whatever you do, be sure to move your operating system and program files to an SSD.

2. Upgrade your Random Access Memory (RAM)

More RAM can help too, but only if your computer doesn’t have enough of it.

RAM stores the computer’s working memory. If you don’t have enough RAM, your PC will have to constantly read and write the paging file to your hard drive, slowing everything down. If you go this route, make sure you buy the right type of RAM for your computer.

To install RAM, shut down your computer, open it, and insert new RAM. Some laptops even let you easily access their RAM slots so you can upgrade their RAM.

3. Upgrade your CPU or graphics card

Other improvements are a bit more niche. If you are a gamer and want to run games at higher graphics settings, you can upgrade your computer’s graphics card.

Remember that the performance bottleneck may be the CPU: if your CPU isn’t fast enough, upgrading your graphics card may not help much.

Processor upgrades are possible, but Intel regularly introduces new socket formats, which means that new processors may not fit older motherboards. Also note that an Intel processor will not work on a motherboard with an AMD processor socket, and vice versa. You may need to upgrade your motherboard as well, and at this point you may just think about buying or building a new PC.

Your old hardware won’t last forever. New software will eventually become more and more demanding, and old hardware will one day entropy and physically break down. Fortunately, basic system maintenance can extend the life of any computer. Take care of your computer and it will make you happy for longer.

You can choose not to search for updates manually if you have Avira’s Software Updater installed. With one click, it will check your entire computer for outdated applications and inform you which of them need updating.

OUTDATEfighter

OUTDATEfighter

Automatically performs virus scans for all updates

Updates can be found for many programs

It also works as a Windows Update utility and a third-party software uninstaller

As many outdated programs as similar utilities could not be found

You cannot configure an automatic scan schedule to automatically find out-of-date programs

OUTDATEfighter works as the name suggests – it protects your computer from outdated software by acting as a free program updater.

One click is all it takes to download or install cumulative updates. This means you can mark all the programs that need to be updated, have OUTDATEfighter download them all one by one, and then start running the installation files. Before downloading the update, the installation files are even scanned for viruses, which is really helpful.

You can open OUTDATEfighter at any time to check any software that needs updating. You can also ignore each update to prevent update notifications for that specific program.

We really like the fact that you don’t have to open a web browser or search for an updated installer file on the internet. Everything is done from within the program, and you can clearly see old and updated version numbers (and sometimes release dates) for comparison.

This tool also includes the program’s uninstaller and the Windows Update tool.

Updates software on Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP. Windows Server 2008 and 2003 are also supported.

UCheck

Check the scan results

Portable version available.

Download and install updates in bulk.

Contains other useful tools.

Some of the features you see aren’t free to use.

Over 200 programs can be updated with UCheck, which scans quickly, is easy to use, and won’t make you open your web browser for updates once.

Just scan for outdated software, check the box at the top to select all outdated programs, then select the update button. All available updates will be downloaded one by one and then installed by themselves.

You can also download and install updates one at a time if for some reason you don’t want to update a particular program. There is a Windows Update option in the settings that you can turn on to see Windows OS updates in UCheck as well. There is also a built-in uninstaller for the program.

Exclusions, scheduled scans, changing the cache directory, and some other features are available for a fee.

We used UCheck in Windows 11 and Windows 10, but it should work just as well on older versions of Windows.

If you really need to replace an entire laptop, don’t throw your old machine away. If you can’t sell it for a good price, there are other uses where you can use your old machine:

How to upgrade an old PC to Windows 10

Whether you’re looking for a tablet for streaming movies or a laptop replacement, here are some attractive options.

If you have a computer with a “genuine” copy of Windows 7/8 / 8.1 (Windows 7 Home, Pro or Ultimate, or Windows 8.x Home or Business, with the appropriate license and activation), you can follow the same steps I did to install the system Windows 10 as an update.

Before starting, I recommend a few preliminary tasks that can help prevent any potential problems:

  • Make sure your copy of Windows is properly activated. This is especially true if you recently reinstalled Windows.
  • Check for the latest driver updates, especially for network hardware and storage.
  • Download and install any available BIOS updates for your hardware; This step is especially important for systems that were originally sold in 2017 or earlier, when hardware manufacturers were still troubleshooting Windows 10.
  • Back up your data files to an external hard drive or the cloud (or both). Consider making a full system backup to an external hard drive using the Windows 7 backup program, which is also available on Windows 8.x and Windows 10. Just run Sdclt.exe and then select Create a system image.
  • Temporarily uninstall third-party security software and low-level system utilities that may be interfering with the update. You can reinstall these programs after the update is complete.
  • Finally, disconnect any unnecessary external devices, especially USB flash drives and external hard drives. (A few common installation errors can be caused by confusing the installer with these extra disks.)

After removing these prerequisites, go to the Download Windows 10 page and click the Download Now button. After the download is complete, double-click the executable to launch the Media Creation Tool.

media-creation-tool.png

You can upgrade directly with this tool or create separate media.

If you have downloaded the Media Creation Tool on a computer you plan to upgrade and you plan to upgrade this and this computer only, you can select Upgrade this computer now. This option installs the latest version of Windows 10. This typically takes about an hour, depending on hardware. (Having an SSD as your system drive is the best way to speed up the process.)

If you know you want to upgrade to Windows 10 on more than one computer, or you just need more flexibility in the event of an immediate upgrade failure, choose the second option and save the installation files to a USB drive or as an ISO file. The download takes a while, but once it’s done, you can manually run the Windows installer to install Windows 10 on any computer running any supported version of Windows (unfortunately, this doesn’t work on computers running Windows Vista or Windows XP). The exact steps depend on the download option you choose:

  • USB flash drive Insert the created USB flash drive into a free USB port on the computer you want to update. Then open File Explorer (Windows Explorer in Windows 7) and double-click Installer to install Windows 10. Note that you cannot boot from a newly created USB drive or DVD to upgrade to Windows 10 run the Windows 10 setup program from your currently installed and activated copy of Windows.
  • ISO file After the download is complete, mount the ISO file and open it in a Windows / File Explorer window. On a Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 computer, you can double-click the ISO file to open it as a virtual drive. On your Windows 7 PC, you’ll need to install a third-party utility such as the free, open-source WinCDEmu. After mounting the ISO file, double-click Settings to start the installation process.

Is your license valid?

And now the big question: if you take advantage of this upgrade to Windows 10, is the license you obtained valid?

The whole offer of “free upgrade” has always been accompanied by language, to put it mildly, a bit pugnacious. Similarly, the language at the end of this offer was unclear. For example, see the answers I highlighted here in Microsoft’s Windows 10 Update FAQ:

free-upgrade-offer-2017.jpg

The wording here is extremely vague.

It’s a very strange language. The free upgrade via the Get Windows 10 app ended on July 29, 2016. Likewise, the product key discussion says the key will be necessary “for this tool to work” (not true), but doesn’t say a word about licensing.

And unlike the “Genuine Windows” label on older upgrades, the Windows 10 upgrade activation screens clearly confirm the existence of a “digital license.”

You can choose not to search for updates manually if you have Avira’s Software Updater installed. With one click, it will check your entire computer for outdated applications and inform you which of them need updating.

Upgrade your keyboard and mouse

Tired, tight laptop keyboard with old keys? A reliable wireless mouse that makes your wrist hurt? As these input peripherals age, they become covered with a layer of dirt and also become less responsive. So, when you’re enhancing your computer experience, consider investing in a shiny new keyboard and mouse. As with a monitor, it won’t make your old PC run faster, but it can certainly increase your enjoyment and keep the thoughts of upgrading your PC away.

It’s a particularly cheap upgrade and works on any desktop or laptop computer. If you’re worried about running out of laptop ports, you can purchase wireless peripherals and connect them via Bluetooth.

We recommend a set that combines a keyboard and a mouse. For example, Microsoft’s Bluetooth Keyboard ($ 40 on Amazon) and the Logitech MK545 Advanced ($ 57 on Amazon) both offer a good price. And you also don’t require opening your computer to install them.

Add extra ports

If you have exhausted all the ports on your current computer or don’t have many, consider investing in an expansion hub. As manufacturers remove more and more ports and slots from their machines, an external hub can replace those missing connections. This is especially true when traveling, allowing you to connect your laptop to a projector in a conference room or an Ethernet cable in your hotel room.

For decent products, look for something like a USB-C FlePow Hub ($ 25 on Amazon) or a Wavlink USB 3.0 Universal Dock ($ 79 on Amazon). Both of these solutions make it easy to insert memory cards, connect a second display, and get additional USB ports.

David Nield is a UK technology journalist who wrote about gadgets and apps long before iPhone and Twitter were invented. When he’s not busy doing it, he usually takes breaks from all the tech stuff, long walks in the countryside.

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