Friday, August 12, 2022

Do you really need to buy a TPM for Windows 11?

Windows 11 made big waves across the tech community yesterday. Announced at the What’s Next for Windows event, Microsoft showcased many new features coming to the next iteration of its venerable operating system, along with its elevated system requirements.

While Windows 11 can still run on modest hardware–asking for just 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage–one detail stood out: the need for a Trusted Platform Module, or TPM.

The minimum system requirement needed to run WIndows 11
Windows 11 now asks for TPM 2.0. Source: Microsoft

In its push to make systems more secure, Windows 11’s TPM requirement caught people off-guard. In a nutshell, a TPM establishes a root of trust and stores encryption keys used for Microsoft’s Bitlocker. Although it comes with most premium consumer laptops, it’s most prevalent in enterprise devices that place security at the forefront.

Alongside the announcement, Microsoft also provided a compatibility checker for Windows 11, which many sprang on immediately. Some users and enthusiasts were perplexed by the tool’s rejection despite their powerful hardware. Worse still, the compatibility checker doesn’t say which requirement the device failed to meet, leaving many scratching their heads.

Naturally, people are worried about the lifespan of their newly purchased devices. For those who absolutely want to try Windows 11 the moment it arrives, it may be best to prep their systems with the following options.

Option 1: Enable AMD fTPM or Intel PTT in the motherboard’s BIOS

Most recent processors and motherboards support some kind of firmware TPM. Unlike a dedicated TPM that runs on a discrete chip, firmware-based TPM runs in the system’s main processor.

The setting is called fTPM in AMD motherboards and Platform Trust Technology (PTT) in Intel-based motherboards. They’re often found under the “Advanced” section in the motherboard’s BIOS/UEFI. Many of today’s UEFIs also have search features that should return the relevant setting for the setting name.

This solution seems to be yielding mixed results. While some users have reported passing the compatibility check after enabling the setting, others aren’t. The only way to confirm is to try it out.

Option 2: buy an add-in TPM card

Motherboards without firmware TPM support may still carry a header for an add-in TPM card. In an email to IT World Canada, Microsoft confirmed that Windows 11 will continue to support add-in TPM just like previous versions of Windows.

Gigabyte's TPM product list
TPM cards from the Taiwanese motherboard manufacturer Gigabyte. Source: Gigabyte

TPM add-in cards are available through major motherboard manufacturers like Gigabyte, MSI, Asus and others. Refer to the motherboard’s floorplan in its manual to see if it has a TPM header. They are generally affordable, but they’ve recently attracted the attention of scalpers so that could change very quickly.

TPMs are easy to install. Just seat it in its header and enable it in the BIOS. Voila.

Option 3: Open the wallet

There’s a good chance that the aforementioned options will address the issue, but for the small subset of users with systems that don’t support either, then forking over cash for a new processor (2018 or later, according to the Windows 11 processor compatibility list), motherboard, or laptop will be the last available resort.

There’s no urgency, however. Microsoft will continue to support Windows 10 until 2025, giving users plenty of time to save up for a new device.

Windows 11 will arrive this holiday season. The insider preview will commence next week.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Tom Li
Tom Li
Telecommunication and consumer hardware are Tom's main beats at IT World Canada. He loves to talk about Canada's network infrastructure, semiconductor products, and of course, anything hot and new in the consumer technology space. You'll also occasionally see his name appended to articles on cloud, security, and SaaS-related news. If you're ever up for a lengthy discussion about the nuances of each of the above sectors or have an upcoming product that people will love, feel free to drop him a line at tli@itwc.ca.

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