Of Course You Can Run Windows 11 on an Old Windows Phone

Of Course You Can Run Windows 11 on an Old Windows Phone
What Windows 11 would look like running on a render of an old Windows Phone. (Image: Lumia WOA Project)

It hasn’t even been a whole week, and Windows 11 has already been successfully ported over to a smartphone. A very committed student of engineering, Gustave Monce, published a video to YouTube showing the latest developer preview of Windows 11 running on an old Windows Phone.

The phone is a Lumia 950 XL, which you may remember once tried to usher in the era of Windows 10 Mobile. It was also the last Windows Mobile phone, and is now somehow a bonafide collector’s item.

“It all started really five years ago, when Windows 10 Mobile was near obsolescence,” Monce said in an interview with the The Verge about the Lumia WOA Project.

Monce is right about Windows Phone being in a near-extinction phase at the time. The platform was struggling even before then to hold on to its barely 2% market share as Android and iOS devices proliferated.

Monce teamed up with another classmate, Bingxing Wang, who was also into the idea of running a desktop OS on the Lumia’s 5.7-inch screen.

“As time went on and we started talking about it, discussion groups formed and in turn we had a community of people interested in running full Windows 10 on Lumia 950s,” Monce told The Verge.

The team now consists of 15 people working on the WOA Project. They worked together on the Windows 11 port by reverse-engineering the work they had already done with Windows 10 and 10X.

Android users have also gotten in on the Doing It Because You Can fun, if you’re the type of person who calls this sort of thing “fun” — I don’t, but I also had a nervous breakdown fixing the CSS on my website, so that’s where I’m coming from. XDA surfaced how developers behind The Renegade Project got Windows 11 to boot on a OnePlus 5 T. It even has some of the operating system’s core functions working as intended, including Bluetooth and USB input. The actual desktop size is small and snipped, but otherwise, it’s fun! Pure fun!

In all sincerity, it’s neat to see what’s possible with a bit of patience and a knack for reconfiguring. But it’s also an indication of Windows 11’s scalability relative to older versions. In the videos embedded above, Windows is natively running on ARM-based CPUs. Previously, Windows 10 could only run if it was emulated on Qualcomm-based tablets and, as exhibited here, smartphones. But because Microsoft rebuilt the binaries of Windows 11 on ARM with ARM64EC, it’s possible to go in and remap parts of the OS to get it running on older hardware.

You could probably try it yourself if you had the wherewithal. The Renegade Project, at least, allows you to download the source code and tinker with it yourself. The WOA Project also has plenty of guides to help you walk through what the process would be like to revive that old Windows Phone you have stowed away in your closet.