Windows 11: How to Download Microsoft's Latest OS

There are a few ways to download Microsoft's latest operating system. We walk you through the steps.

Alison DeNisco Rayome Managing Editor
Managing Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome joined CNET in 2019, and is a member of the Home team. She is a co-lead of the CNET Tips and We Do the Math series, and manages the Home Tips series, testing out new hacks for cooking, cleaning and tinkering with all of the gadgets and appliances in your house. Alison was previously an editor at TechRepublic.
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Moe Long Senior Editor
Moe enjoys making technical content digestible and fun. As a writer and editor for over a decade, he has bylines at MakeUseOf, WhistleOut, TechBeacon, DZone, Tech Up Your Life, and Electromaker. When he's not hammering away at the keyboard, Moe enjoys spending time with his partner and dog, listening to vinyl, and watching film.
Expertise Apps | Operating systems | Software
Alison DeNisco Rayome
Moe Long
3 min read

Windows 11 is here and it's free to download for Windows 10 users.


Windows 11 launched in 2021, so chances are if you’ve bought or built a new computer, it’s running Windows 11. Microsoft stopped selling Windows 10 in January 2023. With support for Windows 10 ending in October 2025, you’ll want to upgrade to Windows 11 to ensure continued software updates. Plus, Windows 11 boasts a bevy of neat features, including widgets, snap layouts, virtual desktops and the Microsoft Store.

Anyone using Windows 10 can now upgrade for free as long as they’ve got a compatible computer that meets the minimum system requirements. If your computer isn’t eligible, there may be a workaround. In most cases, upgrading from Windows 10 to 11 is as easy as downloading a simple software update, and even if you’re installing Windows 11 from scratch, you can painlessly download a copy to load on your PC.

Let’s look at how to download Windows 11.

Windows 11 logo on a laptop screen

How to download Windows 11 when upgrading from Windows 10

If you’re running Windows 10, you can easily upgrade to Windows 11 like you'd install any new version of Windows. Simply head to Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and click Check for Updates. If Windows 11 is available, you can then upgrade to it as a simple update by clicking Download and Install

You can also upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11 using the Windows 11 Installation Assistant. Just download the assistant and click Run to make sure your hardware is compatible. Then, Accept and Install to agree to the licensing terms and begin the installation. When the program is finished installing, you'll be prompted to restart your computer. Your PC might restart several times during the process of finishing the installation, so keep your PC on until everything's done.

How to download Windows 11 as a disk image or using the Media Creation Tool

If you’re installing -- or reinstalling -- Windows 11 on a PC or in a virtual machine, you’ll need to create an installation disk using a USB flash drive or a DVD. 

From the Microsoft Windows 11 download page, you’ve got two options: the Windows 11 installation media creation tool, or downloading a disk image file, which is called an ISO.

With the Microsoft media creation tool, you can upgrade your PC, burn Windows 11 directly to a USB flash drive or download an ISO file if you’d prefer to mount that on a DVD or flash drive yourself. This is a great option if you’re installing Windows 11 for the first time on a PC or reinstalling a fresh copy. Here’s how to download Windows 11 using the media creation tool:

  1. Visit the Microsoft Windows 11 download page.
  2. Click the Download Now button under Create Windows 11 Installation Media.
  3. Select either Upgrade this PC now if you’re updating that computer to Windows 11 -- or if you’re installing Windows 11 on a different machine, pick Create installation media for another PC and save the ISO file.
  4. Finish following the prompts to either upgrade your PC or download the ISO file by choosing options like your language, and the edition of Windows you want.
Watch this: How to install Windows 11 with an update or a bootable USB

Downloading a Windows 11 ISO file from Microsoft lets you install Windows in a virtual machine, or burn an ISO to a USB drive or DVD. On the Windows 11 download page, click Download Now under Download Windows 11 Disk Image (ISO) for x64 devices. You’ll need to select the version of Windows to download, then the product language -- after that, click the 64-bit Download button under Download - Windows 11. Once the ISO finishes downloading, you should be able to locate it in the folder where it is saved (most likely your Downloads folder).

Watch this: Windows 11 review: New OS has us asking, update or wait?

What's in Windows 11

Windows 11 features a streamlined new design, with pastel colors, rounded corners, a new startup sound and overall a more Mac-like look. The Windows Start menu has moved from the bottom left of the screen to the middle, with app icons arranged in the center next to it. You'll find lots of neat desktop tools, like widgets that can give you at-a-glance information and easier virtual desktop creation. And Android apps have been integrated into Windows, which are installable from the Microsoft Store.

For more, check out all of the best Windows 11 features and how to use them

Watch this: Microsoft Unveils New Features for Windows 11