Devices that run Microsoft’s Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 operating systems can’t be upgraded to Windows 11 directly using inplace upgrades. Direct upgrades are only available on Windows 10 devices.
A recent news post on Microsoft’s German news site reveals the minimum versions for Enterprise organizations and businesses.
Ab Ende des Jahres können Unternehmen berechtigte PCs direkt auf Windows 11 bringen, wenn sie Windows 10 Enterprise ab Version 1909 oder Windows 10 Pro ab Version 20H1 nutzen.
DeepL translates the paragraph in the following way:
Starting at the end of the year, businesses will be able to bring eligible PCs directly up to Windows 11 if they are running Windows 10 Enterprise version 1909 or later or Windows 10 Pro version 20H1 or later.
The minimum Enterprise version of Windows 10 is version 1909, the minimum Pro version 20H1 according to the article. While the news post does not mention consumer devices, it is likely that Windows 10 version 20H1 will be the minimum version required for consumer-based devices when it comes to upgrading to Windows 10.
When Microsoft released Windows 10 in 2015, it allowed direct upgrades from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 devices. Windows XP and Vista users could not upgrade to the new operating system directly, even if compatible.
The main options back then were to run two upgrades, one from XP or Vista to Windows 7 or 8.1, and then another to Windows 10. Similarly, it is possible to use the same method to upgrade Windows 7 or 8.1 devices to Windows 10, before upgrading again to Windows 11.
The method requires that the device meets the minimum system requirements of the target operating system.
Besides chaining upgrades, it may also be possible to clean install Windows 11 on a device instead. Downside to this is that all installed programs, customizations and files on the main drive, won’t be available after the installation completes. You need to create backups of these files, and install programs anew.
Upside is that the system will run faster as it comes without ballast from two previous operating systems.
It remains to be seen if Windows 7 and 8.1 users will upgrade their devices to Windows 10 or 11. Consumer versions of Windows 7 are not supported anymore and Windows 8.1 is nearing its end of support on January 10, 2023.
My guess is that most won’t, as Windows 11 is very similar to Windows 10.