Why Your Perfectly Fine PC Can’t Run Windows 11, And How To Fix That

Why Your Perfectly Fine PC Can’t Run Windows 11, And How To Fix That
Image: Microsoft / Windows 11

It’s finally announced, and it’s actually called Windows 11. But even though your PC is more than capable of playing today’s games at perfectly acceptable frame rates and resolutions, you might get a warning saying it’s not compatible with Windows 11. What the hell?

The answer isn’t because of RAM, storage, your CPU or any of the other basic internals that come with a PC. The biggest culprit is something called Trusted Platform Module, or TPM, which is something many gamers probably aren’t aware of.

What is Trusted Platform Module (TPM)?

tpm
A shot of a TPM setting inside an older ASUS motherboard BIOS.

TPM, or Trusted Platform Module, is basically a secure cryptoprocessing chip on your PC or laptop motherboard. For the most part, TPM chips kick in when you computer starts up, ensuring that your PC boots with a trusted combo of hardware and software until Windows is fully loaded. That’s not all TPM is useful for, though. It’s been used before as an anti-cheat mechanism, Windows Domain logins, BitLocker disk encryption, or in some implementations of DRM.

Unless you’re running something from the Windows 98/2000 era, chances are your PC already supports some form of TPM. Most motherboards from the last half decade or so all support TPM, and everything from the decade before that supports TPM 1.2. (Importantly, while the Windows 11 specs say you’ll need TPM 2.0 for the OS to run, Microsoft’s own technical notes say future Windows 11 builds will support TPM 1.2, according to AMD’s technical marketing director.)

How to check if your PC supports TPM, or whether it’s turned on

windows 11
Image: Microsoft

The official Windows 11 landing page has a PC Health Check app you can download. This is the fastest way to get a bright blue tick from Microsoft: if it confirms your support, then you’re good to go.

However, what do you do if it doesn’t?

Well, here’s another step you can try first.

  • Press Windows + R on your keyboard, which will bring up the Run dialog box in the bottom left
  • Type in “tpm.msc”
  • This will launch a new program, Trusted Platform Module (TPM) Management
  • Look for the “Status” box — it’ll be the second one in the middle of the window — and it should say “The TPM is ready for use” or “Compatible TPM cannot be found

Now, if you get the latter error, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a TPM chip on your motherboard. So hold off on getting the wallet out — because you might still have one, but it just might not be enabled.

Enabling TPM in your PC’s BIOS

This can be a little tricky because everyone has a different motherboard, and all motherboard manufacturers lay out their BIOS menus differently. So while I can’t give specific advice for your particular system, the principles are pretty simple.

Firstly, you’ll want to fire up your PC’s BIOS menu. Restart or turn on your PC, and then hit the DELETE/F2/F10/F11 key to launch before booting into Windows. Every motherboard usually has a couple of preferred shortcut keys here — F2 and DELETE are the ones my ASUS motherboard uses, but you’ll get a prompt on screen when your computer is starting up as to which buttons you need to hit.

What you want to look for is a setting within the BIOS that enables TPM. It’s best to refer to your motherboard manual here; you can download these from the internet, if you don’t have the actual manual lying around.

Because I’m on an ASUS AMD motherboard, I had to go into the Advanced -> AMD fTPM configuration, where I could then change from Discrete TPM to Firmware TPM. This brings up a dialog box saying that “AMD fTPM is a hardware TPM 2.o implementation integrated in AMD AGESA code” and that “when the recovery key is lost or when the BIOS ROM chip is replaced, the system will not boot into the operating system”.

If you’re on an MSI motherboard, for instance, the option is under Settings -> Security -> Trusted Computing:

windows 11
Image: Reddit

Wherever the setting is, once it’s flipped, save the changes and exit the BIOS, restarting your system. The Windows 11 health checker should have no qualms now.

For those using Intel based systems, you will want to look for an option called Platform Trust Technology (PTT) or Trusted Execution Technology (TXT). This is basically Intel’s equivalent of AMD’s firmware TPM switch above, and it’s activated in much the same way:

  • Depending on your motherboard and BIOS, the Intel PTT option may have to be set to “Enabled”, or flipped from “Discrete” to “Intel PTT” 
  • Save the changes and exit your BIOS.

The option might also be described as “TPM Administrative Control” on some motherboards — again, refer to your specific manual to know how it’ll be described.

Once the setting’s flipped, saved and your PC restarted, you should be able to see via the TPM program and/or the Windows 11 Health Checker that you’re good to go.

windows 11
Success!

At some stage or another, you’ll want to run through these steps. Microsoft announced that DirectStorage — the next-generation advancements for hard drives that’s currently supercharging loading times on the PS5 and Xbox Series X — will be exclusive to Windows 11. So that’ll be a major step forward for PC gaming. Current APIs on PC weren’t built to fully accommodate the speeds newer SSDs and NVMe drives offer, as a lengthy blog post outlining DirectStorage notes.

Of course, there’s plenty of justification for not upgrading your system just yet. Windows 10 will continue to get security updates well into the future, and we’ve all seen how major Windows updates have gone in the past. Still, Windows 11 will be a free upgrade for everyone on Windows 10 anyway. So when you’re ready to make the jump, make sure you double check whether TPM’s enabled first.

But what if I don’t have a TPM setting at all?

Well, this is where it gets tricky.

There are already reports of some users who have discovered this morning that there’s no TPM setting within their BIOS at all. And it’s not because their motherboard doesn’t support TPM — it’s because a fair few consumer-grade motherboards just didn’t ship with a TPM module at all. So while most users will have an option available in the BIOS to fix their woes, some will need to look at grabbing tiny little chips like this:

These chips will plug into an empty header on your motherboard, which, again, your manual will outline where. Thankfully, most people won’t have to resort to installing individual chips on their motherboard. As AMD pointed out above, the vast majority of motherboards and PCs in operation today support TPM 1.2, which Windows 11 builds will support going forward.

But what if Windows 11 still says my PC isn’t compatible?

Well, this is the point where we all get a bit grumpy at Microsoft.

A major fault of Microsoft’s PC Health Checker is a lack of information when things go wrong. It’s basically useless from a troubleshooting standpoint, and hopefully it’s something Microsoft will rectify quick smart. If the company wants mass adoption of its new OS over the next couple of years, it’ll need to make sure the wheels are greased as much as possible. People won’t upgrade if they have to go to the trouble of manually buying separate chips for their motherboards — or if they have to upgrade their PC altogether, especially when it works just fine today.

Other reasons that the Windows health checker might fail your system include a lack of storage space or your internet connection being down at the time of checking. You’ll need both these things to install Windows 11, either as an Insider build from next week or whenever Windows 11 starts rolling out globally. (It’s also a smart idea to make a backup Windows 10 USB stick if you haven’t got one already.)