How to download Windows 11 ISO for a clean install

Windows 11 logo in front of the new wallpaper
(Image credit: Microsoft)

When Windows 11 finally launches, we know that most people will most likely be upgrading from Windows 10 – but what if you’re instead looking to do a clean install of the new OS? Maybe you want to install the latest and greatest on your new PC creation, update a much older machine, or just have a completely new start without all your old settings carrying over.

If you’re in any of those boats (or a few others), you’ll be after a Windows 11 ISO file that will let you do a clean install of Windows 11. Thankfully it’s not too hard to download and install this if you know what you’re doing, so here’s our guide for installing the Windows 11 ISO.

Note: Before you install Windows 11 via this method, you should know that Microsoft issued a statement to The Verge warning that unsupported PCs won’t be entitled to receive Windows Updates, which could mean that even important security and driver updates may be withheld by the company.

While we find it hard to believe that Microsoft wouldn’t push the occasional patch if there is a critical issue, you should be warned that there are risks to installing the Windows 11 ISO on a PC that wouldn’t otherwise be compatible with the OS. Below you’ll find details on how to check your PC’s compatibility.

 Can I upgrade to Windows 11? 

If you want to upgrade to Windows 11, you’ll first want to check that you can fulfil all of the system requirements. You can find a full breakdown of them on Microsoft’s official webpage and download the PC Health Check app to see if your PC is compatible.

However, we’d add one slight change to what Microsoft recommends. While it only demands 4GB of RAM at a minimum this seems incredibly low if you ask us. Our advice is to only upgrade to Windows 11 if your device has 8GB or more of RAM, which shouldn’t be a problem for most new machines but might rule out some older ones.

This should mean that your PC will be better able to handle its new operating system and you won’t notice too many issues caused by it slowing down thanks to all of its new features.

How to get the Windows 11 ISO

Now that you know you can install Windows 11, it's time to grab yourself a fresh version of the ISO.

The simplest way, and the one we’ll explain here, is to get it straight from Microsoft itself. This approach won’t currently net you the most recent build of Windows 11, though Windows Update should upgrade you to the most recent build if you are using the Dev Channel version.

Register for Windows Insider
To Start off you’ll want to register for the Windows Insider program (which can be done for free).

Find Windows 11 Preview
Once you’re registered, head to the Windows 11 Insider Preview Downloads page and scroll down until you find the 'Select edition' section.

Select an edition
You’ll most likely be choosing between the Windows 11 Insider Preview (Dev Channel) or (Beta Channel). For the latest features that might need some testing download Dev Channel, but if you want a more smooth experience then Beta Channel offers slightly more polished versions of features after a delay.

Once you’ve settled on an edition you’ll want to confirm it using the button just below. You’ll then need to select and confirm your language in the same way.

Download your edition
Finally, you’ll be able to download your edition of the Windows 11 ISO to your PC.

How to install the Windows 11 ISO 

Now that you have the Windows 11 ISO downloaded, you’ll probably want to know how to use it to install Windows. To do that you’ll want to create a bootable Windows 11 install disk that will require an empty USB Flash drive that has 8GB of storage or more.

Format the drive
Start by connecting your flash drive – make sure everything important on it has been removed and backed up elsewhere – and open Disk Management. You can find this by searching for it in the Windows search bar.

Find your USB stick and delete all partitions by right-clicking on them and then selecting ‘Delete Volume’. 

Now with all that unallocated space, right-click on it and select ‘New Simple Volume’. Name it whatever you want but make sure it is a 1GB partition with File system setting FAT32. Create a second partition but instead format it as File system NTFS.

Add your ISO files
Now return to the folder where your Windows 11 ISO file is, right-click it and select mount. This should open the ISO file like a folder so you can browse its files.

Copy all of these files - except the sources folder - to the FAT32 partition of the USB drive. For the sources folder, you’ll instead want to create a new empty ‘sources’ folder in the FAT32 partition then copy only the boot.wim file from the original into it.

Finally, copy all of the files in the Windows 11 ISO (both those you did and didn’t copy before)  into the NTFS partition of the USB stick.

Install Windows 11
With that sorted, you’ll then want to boot your target PC using the USB drive. Follow the steps on the screen until you can choose the type of installation you want.

Here you need to select Custom installation then choose the USB stick as where you want to install WIndows from.

After this, keep following the steps onscreen and you should have installed Windows 11 from an ISO.

Hamish Hector
Senior Staff Writer, News

Hamish is a Senior Staff Writer for TechRadar and you’ll see his name appearing on articles across nearly every topic on the site from smart home deals to speaker reviews to graphics card news and everything in between. He uses his broad range of knowledge to help explain the latest gadgets and if they’re a must-buy or a fad fueled by hype. Though his specialty is writing about everything going on in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality.