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You may need to upgrade your Windows 10 PC to Windows 12 or 11 if you want Wi-Fi 7 (6GHz)

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A month ago, towards the end of August, a report surfaced that suggested that Intel and/or Microsoft might limit the upcoming Wi-Fi 7 to Windows 11 and later. The speculation was the result of a leaked Intel document that did not mention Wi-Fi 7 supporting Windows 10, while Windows 11 was specified.

Interestingly, such speculation was seemingly put to rest by Intel when it listed its first Wi-Fi 7 modules (BE200 and BE202) stating support for Windows 11 as well as Windows 10 in their spec sheet. However, the sheet doesn’t mention much more, and the latest Intel drivers don’t support these modules either, which means that some more compatibility-related questions will remain for now.

However, even though Intel officially lists Windows 10 as a supported operating system for these devices, there’s a very good chance that full Wi-Fi 7 support in Windows 10, just like with Wi-Fi 6E, may not be officially available. Right off the bat, we know the BE200 and BE202 won’t work with Wi-Fi 7’s ultra-wide 320MHz channel as the highest frequency listed is 160MHz in the 6GHz band. This means that these new modules will not be able to support 46Gbps throughputs, assuming Intel’s spec sheet is incorrect.

The table below shows the comparison between the new Wi-Fi 7, Wi-Fi 6/6E and Wi-Fi 5:

Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac)

Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)

Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax)

Wi-Fi 7 (802.11be)

frequency

5GHz

Dual band (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz)

Tri-band (2.4, 5, 6 GHz)

Bandwidth

(Channels)

20, 40, 80, 80+80, 160 MHz

20, 40, 80, 80+80, 160, 320 MHz

access

(multiplexing)

OFDM

OFDMA

regulation

254QAM

1024QAM

4096 (4K) QAM

antenna

DL MU-MIMO (4 x 4)

DL + UL MU-MIMO (8 x 8)

security

WPA2

WPA3

WPA4 (TBD)

Major innovations

40MHz is mandatory

TWT, BSS painting, Beamforming

multi-link operation (MLO),
Multi-RU, perforation

Besides the lack of mention of 320 MHz, Windows 10 is known not to support the 6GHz band of Wi-Fi 6E, which means that the operating system is unlikely to support the 6GHz of Wi-Fi 7. Intel Support Article Remarks:

All Intel® Wi-Fi 6E (Gig+) products support the new 6GHz band for Wi-Fi. The use of the 6GHz band relies on the support of the Microsoft Windows* operating system (Windows® 11).

In the meantime, a Netgear Knowledge Base (KB) article. says:

The 6 GHz wireless band was introduced with the WiFi 6E standard and is exclusive to devices that support WiFi 6E and newer standards, including WiFi 7 and subsequent future WiFi versions.

Microsoft Windows computers must be running the latest Windows 11 operating system release and have a 6 GHz WiFi-enabled network adapter with the latest drivers installed to access the 6 GHz wireless band.

Note: Microsoft recently announced that they are not porting 6 GHz backend support to Windows 10. Even if you have a 6 GHz capable network adapter, if your PC is running Windows 10, you won’t be able to use 6 GHz WiFi until you upgrade to Windows 11.

The rather odd thing is that there seems to be a way around the 6GHz limit in Windows 10. Although Intel says the Wi-Fi drivers must be version 22.70.0 or newer for 6GHz to work, an older driver version is 22.45. 1.1 apparently removes this block. This unofficial solution was discovered by XenuIsWatching In the Intel forums.

Wi-Fi 7 based routers are landing next year in 2024 as recently confirmed by EE and Qualcomm Which means the new technology could become one of the selling points for the next big Windows operating system (probably next year), which is casually referred to as “Windows 12” by the community.



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