How to test Windows 11 without an upgrade

Microsoft once said that Windows 10 will be the last platform in its line. However, this has not been the case since the Redmond-based company recently released Windows 11. This marked the beginning of a new era for Microsoft’s flagship operating system franchise.

So now you can install Windows 11 if your PC meets the system requirements. However, some users may not be sure whether or not to upgrade to the latest desktop platform. Prefer to try Windows 11 without upgrading to it? If so, you can do just that as described below.

Microsoft’s Windows 11 rollout

Microsoft unleashed Windows 11 on October 5, 2021. The new operating system is now being distributed to compatible Windows 10 devices in a step-by-step rollout process. The software giant is rolling out its latest desktop platform as a free upgrade for customers in 2021 and 2022.

If your Windows 10 PC meets all the system requirements for the new platform, you will receive a free upgrade offer. This offer appears within the Windows Update Tab in settings. If you accept this offer, you can click on it Download and install click there to update


The download and installation option for Windows 11

So it’s easy enough to upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11. However, do you want to upgrade? Sure, you can read reviews for the latest operating system; But the best way to see what the new platform looks like without upgrading is to try it out with virtualization software.

What is virtualization software?

Virtualization software packages are those that divide the system resources of PCs into virtual computers. They allow you to use Windows, Mac, Linux and other operating systems within a window without installing them over your PC’s existing platform. An operating system executed within the virtualization software is referred to as a virtual machine.

Therefore, virtualization software packages provide a way to try out many different platforms on your PC. To give Windows 11 a test run before upgrading, you can install a desktop VM application.

There are numerous virtualization software packages for Windows 10. Some of them are freely available, such as VMware Workstation 16 player and VirtualBox. So you can try Windows 11 with the VMware Workstation 16 hypervisor at no additional cost.

Related: How to Use VirtualBox: User Guide

1. Download VMware Workstation 16 Player and a Windows 11 ISO

First, you need to download and install VMware Workstation 16 Player. To do this, click on the Download now Link (for the Windows version) on the VMware Workstation 16 Player website. If you haven’t changed your browser’s default settings, it will automatically be downloaded to your Downloads folder.

The Download Now link

After downloading the VMware Workstation setup wizard, install the software. Press File Manager window + Button E. Hotkey. Open the folder that contains the VMware Workstation installer. Then double-click the VMware Player EXE file to open the setup wizard and install the application.

You will also need to download a Windows 11 ISO file. You can download this file from the Windows 11 Download page. Choose first Windows 11 in the Edition dropdown menu there and click on that Download Button. Next, select a product language from the drop-down menu and select the Confirm Opportunity. Then press the 64-bit download Button.

The download button

2. Set up a Windows 11 virtual machine with VMware Workstation 16 Player

With the Windows 11 ISO downloaded, it’s time to set up your virtual machine. Start the VMware Workstation 16 Player software. Press the Create a new virtual machine Option in its window to invoke the wizard.

The Create New Virtual Machine option

Choose Installation disk image (iso) file Radio button. Then click Search to open a file selection window. Select the downloaded Windows 11 ISO and press the Open minded Button.

The Installer Disk Image File option

click Next to access the guest operating system options. Choose Microsoft Windows Opportunity. Next, choose Windows 10 x64 on the execution Drop down menu.

The guest operating system options

Choose Next to continue with the naming options. It is probably best to name the virtual machine Windows 11. You can leave the default location as it is.

click Next again to continue specifying the disk size. Set the Maximum hard drive size Option of at least 64 gigabytes. Choose Save virtual hard disk as a single file Setting.


Press the Next to go to the final step in setting up the virtual machine. Press the Adjust hardware Button to open the window in the screenshot directly below. The RAM allocation must be at least four GB (gigabytes) on the memory bar. If your PC has 16 or more GB of RAM, it is recommended that you drag the bar’s slider up to eight GB. Then click Close to leave the window.

Storage options

click End to create the virtual machine. Your new virtual machine will appear under the VMware WorkStation Player Start menu. In this menu, select Windows 11 (if that’s what you called it) and click Play virtual machine Opportunity.

3. The Windows 11 setup process

When you start the virtual machine, you will see the message “Press any key to boot from CD or DVD”. Press any key as instructed to enter Windows setup. Now you need to go through the Windows setup wizard.

After choosing your language settings, you will be taken to a step on how to activate Windows. You do not need to enter a product key for installation. So you can click I don’t have a product key Option to skip it. However, Windows 11 runs with some restrictions while an “Activate Windows” message appears in the lower right corner of the screen. The Settings app will also prompt you to purchase a Windows 11 product key.

The I don't have a product key option

Alternatively, you can enter a generic Windows 11 product key there. These are temporary keys that you can enter to install and try out Windows platforms. However, generic keys expire in 30-90 days unless you are in an organization with a key management service.

These are four generic keys for Windows 11 alternate editions:

  • Windows 11 start page: YTMG3-N6DKC-DKB77-7M9GH-8HVX7
  • Windows 11 Pro: VK7JG-NPHTM-C97JM-9MPGT-3V66T
  • Windows 11 Enterprise: XGVPP-NMH47-7TTHJ-W3FW7-8HV2C
  • Windows 11 education: YNMGQ-8RYV3-4PGQ3-C8XTP-7CFBY

Read more: What are Windows 10 Generic Product Keys? How to use it

For the next step, you need to choose a Windows 11 edition. If you want most of the features, choose Professional or Enterprise. However, you get the Home Edition when you upgrade your PC to Windows 11. So this is a better option for testing purposes.

To complete the installation, choose a Windows 11 installation option. Then choose the Drive 0 unallocated space virtual hard disk. click Next to install.

Then the Windows 11 setup wizard will appear. Select all of the required setup options shown there as per your preference. If you click on Accept After a few minutes, go to the Windows 11 desktop in VMware Workstation 16 Player. Now it’s time to have fun trying out the latest desktop platform!


Try Windows 11 with VMware Workstation

So you can fully discover what the latest desktop platform in VMware Workstation has to offer. Check out Windows 11’s new widgets control panel, redesigned clipboard manager, Windows Terminal app, and Snap Layouts features. Microsoft’s latest desktop operating system is not that different from its predecessor, but it still offers some new features.

Either way, you can get the best of both worlds by sticking with Windows 10 and using 11 in VMware Workstation. VMware Workstation 16 Player is also a great virtual machine freeware application that you can use to try many other platforms.

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