Windows 11 has the potential to be an excellent operating system due to its focus on next-generation user experience. While the official release is still a few months off, developers are able to get a sneak preview through insider builds. If you are one of those who manage to get your hand on a copy of Windows 11 ISO, you can follow this guide to install Windows 11 on your PC.
Warning: Windows 11 leaked versions are not approved by Microsoft, and even the Developer build is unstable. Don’t install them on a device you’d regularly use for work. Currently, there are no beta versions, only pre-release. Keep a Windows 10 recovery drive handy in case the installation causes trouble.
Note: this article assumes you have already obtained a copy of Windows 11 ISO.
1. Download and Install Official Windows 10 ISO
The first thing you need is an official version of the latest Windows 10. Microsoft hosts it here in the form of an executable file called “Windows 10 Media Creation Tool.” Download and install it to create your own copy of the official Windows 10 ISO.
There is a license agreement which you must consent to.
In the next step you are asked what you want to do with the installation media. Choose “Create installation media via USB flash drive, DVD or ISO file.”
In the section for media format, choose ISO file, which will be in the same Windows device where you plan to operate Windows 11. Don’t choose the USB flash drive option.
Sit back and wait for a while for Windows 10 to download on your system. The end result is a huge ISO file – around 4~5 GB in size.
2. Move Windows 11 ISO
With your Windows 11 ISO, move it to a new folder right next to the Windows 10 ISO created in the previous step. I created a folder called “Win 11” on my PC to host both operating system versions. You should also create a subfolder such as “Win 11 2” shown here. This subfolder will play an important role in creating a workable copy of Windows 11. (More on this below.)
3. Make a Minor Edit in Windows 10 ISO Folder
Select the Windows 10 ISO file and double click to mount it on your machine.
Once the Windows 10 drive is mounted, copy the entire contents of this folder.
Paste the contents of the Windows 10 ISO folder in the subfolder created above, which is shown as “Win 11 2.”
Scroll down through the “Sources” subfolder to find a big file called “install.esd” or “install.wim.” This is the largest file in the folder, around 3~4 GB in size, so it’s impossible to miss.
Our trick is to delete the install file in Windows 10 ISO and replace it with a similar install file in your Windows 11 ISO.
Mount the Windows 11 ISO, and from its “Sources” location, copy-paste the “install.wim” or “install.esd” file to the subfolder above.
4. Convert Modified Folder to ISO
After modifying the folder where we want to create a bootable Windows 11 media, our next task is to convert that folder to an ISO file using ImgBurn. You should install it from a safe website for Windows software downloads. Open the application from searchbox or Start menu.
Select the option “Create image file from files/folders.”
There are two panels in ImgBurn. On the left panel, choose the source folder which was created in the previous section.
Go to the right panel, make the image bootable under “Advanced -> Bootable disc.” You also need to select a bootable image which you can find in the modified Windows 11 installation folder.
In the “boot” subfolder, select the “etfsboot” file. This will be your boot image.
Once everything is done, choose a destination for your bootable ISO file, preferably in the same folder you are working from. Click “Burn” to start burning the image.
You will get a dialog box which shows the number of files and folders. Click “yes” or “OK” to the next few steps and wait for a few minutes for the Windows 11 installation folder to be converted into an ISO. There’s annoying background music which serves as an indicator that your ISO is ready.
5. Create Bootable “Windows 11” Installation
To create a bootable Windows 11 installation from the above ISO, you need a USB drive. Rufus is one of the best software to create this bootable USB drive. To operate Rufus, follow the steps shown here.
You can also rename the volume label to your name or something else.
Once the USB installation media for Windows 11 is created, you will be able to preview it on your machine. Now it’s ready to be installed.
6. Install Windows 11 on Your PC
To install Windows 11 on your PC, you need to restart it with the bootable USB media inserted. Depending on your PC manufacturer, you need to find out your boot keys which can be Esc, F12, or anything else. In this example, my boot keys wee F12 which led to one-time boot settings.
Make sure to enter the boot keys as soon as your system restarts. If you don’t press them in time, the PC will boot in normal mode. From the available options, select your USB drive as the booting device.
You will notice a Windows 11 installation screen and have to select the language, time and currency format, and keyboard/input method.
In the next step, click “install now” to proceed with the Windows 11 installation.
You will have to sign an applicable notice and license term.
On the type of installation to choose from, select “Custom install Windows only (advanced).” Do not choose the “Upgrade” option.
Select the disk where you want Windows 11 to be installed. You can try installing it on a virtual machine if the Windows 11 copy supports virtual installations. Otherwise, there is no alternative but to overwrite your original Windows 10 installation.
You get a warning message from Microsoft that the previous version of Windows 10 can no longer be used once you overwrite it with the new operating system. Make sure this is not your production/daily use system.
Once you click “OK,” Windows 11 will start installing on your hard disk. Sit back and wait for the updates to finish, as it will take a little while.
After a couple of restarts, the new Windows 11 operating system will install on your PC. As this is just a pre-release, you can expect a lot of bugs. Keep a recovery drive handy in case you want to go back to Windows 10.
Since there is no official version of Windows 11 yet, this installation is more of a workaround. When Microsoft officially releases Windows 11 ISO to the public, the installation method will be similar, less the Windows 10 part. Unless you are an early adopter or a developer, we recommend waiting for the official launch. For now, check out some of the questions you might have about Windows 11.