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Windows 11 update is poised to shame users for not having the right hardware

Windows 11
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Windows 11 launched in 2021 with some pretty onerous system requirements that made a lot of people upset, in part because Microsoft's high expectations put the latest version of its operating system out of reach for many diehard Windows users on older PCs.

Of course, it didn't take long for enterprising Windows fans to figure out you can actually upgrade to Windows 11 without meeting key system requirements like having a cutting-edge CPU or a TPM 2.0 (Trusted Platform Module) chip enabled. Microsoft itself even issued a registry hack to help Windows fans bypass Windows 11's system requirements, though it has repeatedly warned that unsupported PCs may not qualify for Windows 11 updates, including critical security patches.

Now it seems Microsoft is stepping up its nagging campaign and preparing to roll out a new warning which will appear on Windows 11 desktops running on unsupported hardware. According to reporting by Windows Latest (opens in new tab), someone who goes by the moniker Xeno published a screenshot (opens in new tab) to Twitter earlier this month showing what purports to be a build of Windows 11 with the phrase "System requirements not met. Go to settings to learn more." etched in white text in the lower-righthand corner of the desktop.

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This watermark has been showing up in earlier test builds of Windows for a little while now, according to reporting by TechRadar (opens in new tab), and personally I didn't expect Microsoft to go through with rolling it out to Windows 11 proper. But that's exactly what seems likely to happen, as the build Xeno saw (Windows 11 Build 22000.588) is in the Beta and Release Preview channels of the Windows Insider Program.

Release Preview is exactly what it sounds like: a final round of testing in which Insiders can preview a build of Windows before it gets a wide release. While Microsoft's official release notes (opens in new tab) make no mention of this new warning watermark,  it seems very likely now that this "feature" will start cropping up on Windows 11 PCs around the world in the near future.

This is even more invasive and eye-catching than a similar warning an eagle-eyed Windows Insider spotted in a test build of Windows 11 last month. That warning appeared in the System Settings menu as a small line of text near the top which simply read "System requirements not met" followed by a "Learn more" link. 

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It's yet unclear when or if the "System requirements not met" watermark will appear on the desktops of unsupported PCs running release versions of Windows 11. What is clear is that scamps with the gall to run Windows 11 unsupported can look forward to increasingly stiff finger-wagging from Microsoft, though if we're lucky there will be a way to remove the watermark without upgrading your PC.

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. A lifelong PC builder, he currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.