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Windows 11 has been out for nearly two years, and for many of us, it's already old news, but it's still a great operating system. The initial release of Windows 11 brought a brand-new design language, a new Start menu, and other changes, and newer updates have come out to add even more. With releases like version 22H2 and the upcoming version 23H2, Windows 11 keeps getting better. But even though it's getting more popular, many of us are still installing Windows 11 for the first time.

Even if you're not looking to upgrade, however, sometimes it can be good to perform a clean install of Windows 11, just to tidy things up and make the experience smoother again. It can also help if you've started to notice some issues with the OS. If you're not sure how to download and install Windows 11 yourself, we're here to help.

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, make sure you've backed up your files to a cloud service or an external storage device, like a flash drive or external SSD.

Download Windows 11 using Windows Update

The easiest way to download Windows 11 is through Windows Update. The vast majority of supported PCs running Windows 10 should be able to find Windows 11 this way. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Go to the Update & Security section.
  3. If your PC is supported, you'll see a big banner advertising Windows 11, and you'll have the option to download it right away.
    Screenshot of Windows Update in Windows 10 showing an update to Windows 11 version 22H2 is available

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 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.
    Screenshot of the Windows 11 download page with the Download Now button highlighted under Create Windows 11 Installation Media

    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.
  4. Accept the terms and conditions.
  5. 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.
    Screenshot of language and edition settings for Windows 11 installation media in the Media Creation Tool
  6. Choose whether you want to create an ISO file or a bootable USB flash drive.

    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 using USB installation media sub-section below.

    Screenshot of the Media Creation Tool showing the option to choose to create a USB flash drive or an ISO file
  7. The download will begin and you'll have your ISO file saved in the folder you chose.
  8. On the computer you want to upgrade, double-click the ISO file, and then run the setup file inside.
    Screenshot of File Explorer in Windows 10 showing the contents of a virtual DVD drive, which include the Windows 11 setup files
  9. Follow the steps on screen to upgrade your PC to Windows 11 or to reinstall the OS.

How to install Windows 11 using a USB drive

If, instead of an in-place upgrade, you want to perform a clean install or format your PC, you'll need to create a bootable USB drive. You can do that directly using the Media Creation Tool, or use the ISO you've downloaded using the steps above and a program like Rufus. This method also lets you install Windows 11 on hardware that's not officially supported.

How to create installation media

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. Make sure no other USB drives are plugged in.
  3. Click SELECT, and find the ISO file you downloaded before. All the other options will be filled in automatically.
    Screenshot of Rufus with fields filled automatically after choosing an ISO file for installation
  4. Click START.
  5. You'll see a window letting you enable certain options. By default, it will disable checks that might prevent Windows 11 from installing on unsupported PCs. You shouldn't have to change anything here.
    Screenshot of the Windows 11 customization options in Rufus. Options to remove Microsoft account requirements, Secure Boot, and TPM 2.0 are enabled by default.
  6. Click OK and wait for the process to finish.

How to install Windows 11 using USB installation media

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 installation 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:

  1. Go to Settings -> Update & Security -> Recovery.
  2. Under Advanced startup, click Restart now.
  3. In the menu that shows up, click Choose a device, then click your USB drive.
    Screenshot of Windows Recover Environment with a USB boot device highlighted
  4. From here, you'll be taken to the installation environment. Choose your language and keyboard settings, then click Next,
    Screenshot of Windows 11 isntallation environment showing the option to select a language, region, and keyboard layout
  5. Click Install Now.
  6. Enter a product key or, if your PC already has a license, click I don't have a product key. In this case, you'll need to select the right license for your PC in the next screen.
    Screenshot of Windows 11 setup asking for a product key
  7. Check the box to accept the license terms and click Next.
  8. In the next screen, you'll need to choose Custom: Install Windows only (advanced).
    Screenshot of Windows 11 setup asking the user if they want to upgrade Windows or do a custom installation
  9. You'll see the list of drives and partitions on your PC. If it's a brand-new SSD, you may just see one partition or unallocated space.
    Screenshot of Windows 11 setup showing a list of drives. Only one drive is installed and all space on it is unallocated
  10. If you have any, delete all existing partitions on Drive 0. You'll end up with a single block of unallocated space as seen above.

    This will delete all data on your drive. Make sure you've backed up beforehand.

  11. Choose the unallocated space on your drive and click Next.

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:

  1. First, you'll need to choose your region and keyboard layout.
  2. Accept the license terms, then you'll get the chance to name your PC.
    Screenshot of Windows 11 out-of-box experience asking the user to name their device
  3. You'll then be asked to sign in with a Microsoft account. If you used Rufus to create an ISO with the default settings, you can skip this, but it's usually mandatory.
    Screenshot of Windows 11 setup asking the user to sign in with a Microsoft account
  4. Once you've signed in, you can setup Windows Hello facial or fingerprint recognition on supported devices. You'll have to set up a PIN, too.
    Screenshot of Windows 11 setup asking the user to set up a PIN to protect their device.
  5. If you've previously backed up your data on another device, you'll have the option to restore a backup. Choose a previous device or set up as a new device.
    Screenshot of Windows 11 setup asking the user if they want to restore a backup from another device
  6. 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 send to Microsoft, or whether apps can use your advertising ID. Choose the settings that suit you, then click Next.
    Screenshot of privacy settings shown during Windows 11 setup, including location access
  7. After that, you'll be asked to choose the primary usage for your PC, which can be used to customize your experience, then click Next. You can also choose nothing and click Skip here.
    Screenshot of Windows 11 setup asking the user what the primary use for the PC will be
  8. You may be asked whether you want to sync your folders to OneDrive, but only certain editions allow this. On Windows 11 Home, syncing will be enabled by default.
  9. You may also see some upsells from Microsoft to try to apply certain web browser and search settings (as in, use Edge and Bing as the default), or recommending PC Game Pass. You can skip these if you want to.
    Screenshot of Windows 11 setup offering a PC Game Pass subscription
  10. After a brief setup period, you'll be taken to the Windows 11 desktop.

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.