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Best CPUs for Windows 11 in 2024 – our top picks

We've cherry-picked some CPUs to get you roaming around Windows 11 without any hiccups

Reviewed By: Kevin Pocock

Last Updated on May 14, 2024
Intel Core 13th Gen processor, one of the best CPUs for Windows 11, on a table with its retail packaging in the background.
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Windows 11 is up there as one of the most widely used operating systems on PCs across the world, and while you can easily scan through the list of Windows 11 supported Intel processors and take your pick, those wanting to squeeze the absolute best performance out of their software will want a more carefully selected CPU.

The CPU, or Central Processing Unit, is essentially the brains of your computer. While everything is else inside is vitally important for different things, the CPU controls pretty much all the different bits of your PC, from USB ports to your graphics card. While the Windows 11 system requirements merely detail a processor that’s 1 GHz or faster with two or more cores on a compatible 64-bit SOC, naturally a CPU that goes beyond this will get you even better performance.

On the whole, CPU support and performance are pretty much the same for both Intel and AMD at any price tier, even for different operating systems such as Windows 11 or Linux. So, you’ll want to be looking at what’s most cost-effective for what you’ll be doing on your PC, whether that be gaming, productivity, or a mixed-performance workload. To that end, we’ve put together this in-depth guide that lists different processors, their details, and pros and cons to help you cut through the clutter and make an informed decision.

Products at a glance

How we picked

As we mentioned above, choosing the right CPU for Windows 11 isn’t as simple as scrolling through the system requirements; you want to make sure you’re getting a processor that’s going to enhance operating system usage for your own needs. Of course, there’s some crossover between traditional gaming or productivity and what you need for smooth Windows 11 usage, which means that many of the criteria we’d assign to CPU for straight gaming or mixed performance factors into the equation of choosing the right CPU for your OS plans.

However, that doesn’t mean we can disregard system requirements entirely, and it’s worth bearing in mind that actual supported processors include 8th-generation or newer CPUs from Intel Core, and from Team Red, AMD Ryzen 2000-series or newer. These are all CPUs that launched in late 2017 or early 2018 – roughly four years before the launch of Windows 11 itself – so older systems won’t be able to run the latest Windows at all. Basically, you won’t need to worry about getting the very best CPU for gaming, but overall keep your eyes out for decent clock speeds as well as core and thread counts, as this will allow the CPU to execute instructions more quickly, resulting in an even smoother running of Windows.

In the competitive CPU market dominated by AMD and Intel, we have curated a selection covering a wide range of performance levels from both manufacturers. Our emphasis is on processors we’ve personally tested and reviewed, prioritizing recommendations based on our hands-on experience and the popularity they enjoy in the market. However, you’ll need to take a bit of initiative yourself research-wise too, as if there’s a niche software you’re going to be using on your PC, you might find that it runs better with either an AMD or Intel chipset.

Perusing everything the CPU market has to offer, we settled on four different CPUs that, in our estimation, offer the best experience out there for using alongside Windows 11. As always, we’ve steered clear of simply recommending the most powerful and pricey options and instead honed in on CPU models that suit different needs, including budget.

Our top picks

Best CPU for Windows 11 overall
  • Blue and white box of an Intel Core i7-13700KF 13th gen unlocked CPU, labeled "discrete graphics required.
  • An Intel Core i7-13700K processor box on a desk with a blurred background.
  • An Intel Core i7-13700K processor in its packaging, displayed in front of a blurred background with blue hues.
  • Intel Core i7-13700K CPU on a white background.
Highly Recommended
  • Cores: 16
  • Threads: 24
  • Platform: Raptor Lake-S
  • Base Clock Speed: 100 MHz
  • Boost Clock Speed: 5.4 GHz
  • L3 Cache: 30 MB (shared)
  • TDP: 125 W
Reasons to Buy
  • Efficiency cores give it leading performance for creativity and productivity
  • 16-core design delivers potent multithreaded performance
  • Has become more affordable following the 14700K release
Reasons to Avoid
  • Temperatures run high under load, and it’s a power hungry chip
  • Doesn’t come with a stock cooler either
  • AMD chips can be better for gaming overall

To no surprise, the CPU at the top of our list today is one of the finest from Intel’s 13th gen – the Core i7-13700K. While Intel chips do come with a higher price tag, for overall mixed performance you can’t find much of a better positioned pick than the 13700K. What’s more, while the 13th-generation middle-of-the-pack CPU isn’t quite an entry-level CPU, it can actually be affordable under the right circumstances.

Belonging to Intel’s 13th generation and featuring a hybrid architecture that combines performance cores and efficient cores, this CPU is engineered to adeptly handle the demands of high-resolution gaming alongside a range of demanding applications. Speaking of cores and threads, you have 16 and 24 respectively, which guarantee smooth multitasking and seamless gaming experiences across Windows 11. This makes it an ideal processor for users who not only aim for superior gaming performance surpassing 1080p, but mainly for those engaged in content creation and other intensive computational tasks.

Of course, our 13700K review was a testament to this too, and our benchmarks found it tests very well; especially when stacked up against the likes of the 7600X, or the 12600K. Basically, while it was found most proficient in multi-core scenarios, it was no slouch when it comes to single-core performances either. What’s more, gaming across the likes of Cyberpunk was butter smooth and lag-free. If you want to know more about how we test CPUs, you can check out our PCGuide labs page, which details all the testing methodologies we use to make sure we get accurate and detailed results to be as informative as possible.

The Core i7-13700K is certainly a strong and capable CPU if you have gaming in mind, but where it truly excels is multi-core workloads.

PC Guide

All in all, the 13700K is a strong mid-ranger from Intel that will get you truly commendable price-to-performance ratios, as not only can it pull its weight for productivity, but it’s really strong in gaming scenarios too. For any Windows 11 user, this processor is a great pick for good all-round usage.

Best high-end CPU for Windows 11
  • Intel Core i9 14900K review - box shot
  • Close-up view of an Intel Core i9-14900K CPU socket in a motherboard ©BGFG
  • Intel Core i9 14900K review - Close up shot of a Core i9-14900K ©BGFG
Highly Recommended
Reasons to Buy
  • Leading CPU from Intel, so you’re getting unrivalled performance
  • Huge amount of cores and threads gets you excellent speeds for all round use
  • Slight improvement in power efficiency above the 13900KS
Reasons to Avoid
  • Only a worthy investment for the enthusiast builder, as it comes with a premium price tag
  • A mere ‘Refresh’ from the 13900K, with only slight a increase to the clock speeds
  • Power hungry

Next up, we’ve not shied away from recommending one of Intel’s very best offerings in the form of its flagship, the 14900K. Sometimes you just want the best of the best, we can’t blame you for that. As the strongest CPU from the newer Raptor Lake-R generation of Intel, the 14900K was built to endure hardcore processes, and thanks to a large amount of cores multi-tasking is the main activity you should perform on this CPU. There’s no doubt that the likes of this CPU will future-proof you far beyond the likes of Windows 12.

As the strongest CPU from the newer Raptor Lake-R generation of Intel, the 14900K was built to endure hardcore processes

PC Guide

Jumping into the specs, it features 24 cores and 32 threads, with 8 cores designated as performance cores (P-cores) and 16 cores as efficient cores (E-cores). The P-cores have a base speed of 3.0 GHz and a boost of 5.8 GHz, while the E-cores have a base clock speed of 2.2 GHz and a boost clock speed of 4.3 GHz. The full ins and outs are highlighted in our 14900K review, but overall you’re getting better thermal efficiency and slightly better performance across the board from the 13900K.

What does that mean for you? Well, the specs of the 14900K pretty much speak for themselves, and from them you’ll get unparalleled performance for anything you choose in Windows 11. However, while this may make it sound revolutionary, it doesn’t really offer anything new over the 13900K/KS, with the same cores, threads, and integrated graphics. There’s no avoiding its 253W TDP, so new PC builders looking for a humble pic for using Windows 11 might find this CPU both demanding and somewhat overkill.

Best CPU for gaming on Windows 11
  • Product packaging of an AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D processor featuring 3D V-Cache technology, with an orange and black color scheme.
  • Close-up view of an AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D processor installed in a motherboard socket
  • A close-up of an AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D processor
  • A close-up of an AMD Ryzen 7 processor on a white table
  • 7800X3D facing down showing contact pads on a white table
  • Cores: 8
  • Threads: 16
  • Boost speed : up to 5 GHz
  • Base speed: 4.2 GHz
  • L3 Cache: 96 MB
  • TDP: 120 W
  • Platform: AMD (AM5)
Reasons to Buy
  • The fastest gaming chip you can get your hands on
  • Power efficient for a high performance CPU
  • Gets you 7950X3D performance at a lower price point
Reasons to Avoid
  • Pricier than the 13700K
  • Better options out there for heavily threaded productivity tasks

As we’ve mentioned there, there’s one true gaming powerhouse dominating the CPU world at the moment, and that’s the Ryzen 7 7800X3D. As opposed to being a mixed-performance pick for all-around Windows 11 usage, this is a dedicated gaming processor for building into a gaming-focused rig that uses Windows rather than Linux. Engineered by AMD, this CPU represents the pinnacle of the Ryzen 7000 series lineup, with its Zen 4 architecture, clock speeds, and 3D V-Cache technology.

The Ryzen 7 7800X3D boasts formidable processing prowess at its core, featuring an octa-core design capable of simultaneous execution of multiple threads with remarkable efficiency. Running at a base clock speed of 4.6 GHz and potentially reaching up to 5 GHz through dynamic overclocking, this CPU guarantees seamless and responsive gaming performance. Opting for a Zen 4 processor, especially the X3D model, brings several additional advantages. The Zen 4 architecture, with its sizable L2 cache, is finely tuned to minimize latency and maximize throughput, delivering a VR experience devoid of any lag and surpassing the performance of the Zen 3 generation.

Engineered by AMD, this CPU represents the pinnacle of the Ryzen 7000 series lineup, with its Zen 4 architecture, clock speeds, and 3D V-Cache technology.

PC Guide

Furthermore, its integrated 3D V-Cache technology accelerates data access speeds, ensuring swift retrieval of game assets. Additionally, the inclusion of PCIe 5.0 connectivity and DDR5 memory further enhances responsiveness and data transfers, making it an even more compelling choice. However, budget builders may struggle to reach the price point of the 7800X3D, which stands as more premium than our current top pick, the 13700K.

Best CPU for Windows 11 for the money
  • Cores: 6
  • Threads: 12
  • Boost Clock: 4.4 GHz
  • Base Clock: 2.5 GHz
  • L3 Cache: 18 MB
  • TDP: 65 W
Reasons to Buy
  • A solid choice for a budget gaming PC
  • Still holds up in modern gaming titles
  • Really wallet-friendly price point
Reasons to Avoid
  • Doesn’t benefit from any efficiency cores
  • If you need integrated graphics, go for the Core i5-12400
  • The stock cooler might not be enough to keep temps down

No one has said that Intel’s 12th generation wasn’t good enough for Windows 11 users, and to that end, we’ve included what we see as one of the highlights from the lineup, the Core i5-12400F. With a humble power draw of just 65W, everyday users and beginner builders will find this processor a competent and efficient choice for their rig.

Specs-wise, it’s still not lacking. You’ve got 6 cores and 12 threads, a boost clock of 4.4 GHz, and 18 MB of L3 cache to see you through light workstation tasks such as using Microsoft Office Suite, and even light gaming too. For pairing with some of the best budget GPUs, you won’t find a much more competent processor despite being a few years older. If the more expensive i5 “E” cores aren’t something you need, this should certainly be a CPU to consider. E cores add heat and raise the TDP, which can be negative for someone who doesn’t need them.

Price is another factor that makes the 12400F particularly attractive, as not only can it still pull its weight in modern gaming and light productivity, but it’s priced just above $200 at MSRP – and, more often than not, it can be found at a discounted price than makes it even more affordable.

Do I need a good CPU for Windows 11?

As detailed by Windows, to install or upgrade to Windows 11 you need a processor that’s 1 GHz or faster with two or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor. So technically, you can run Windows 11 on really entry-level or laptop CPUs, but the bare minimum is 8th-generation or newer CPUs from Intel Core or AMD Ryzen 2000-series or newer. You don’t need top-end CPU for Windows 11, but of course with more money invested you get more performance, which will enable the OS to run even more smoothly.

Joel is a a lover of janky games, Magic the Gathering, and going down rabbit holes. For PC Guide he has written about peripherals, the Steam Deck, retro games, news and more.