The Windows 11 preview only got released earlier this week, but a student has already managed to get Microsoft’s latest operating system running on a Windows Phone. Engineering student Gustave Monce has created a brief video demonstrating Windows 11 running on a Lumia 950 XL, one of the first devices to ship with Windows 10 Mobile. It was also one of Microsoft’s last Windows-powered phones before the company ended support for its mobile OS.
Windows 11 adapts surprisingly well for the 5.7-inch display, but the same can’t be said for the speed of animations. While Windows 11 is usable on the Lumia 950 XL, it doesn’t look like something you’d want to pull out of your pocket every day. But that’s not really the point. This is the latest achievement in a five-year hobby of tinkering with getting full versions of Windows running on Windows Phone devices.
“It all started really 5 years ago, when Windows 10 Mobile was near obsolescence,” says Monce, speaking to The Verge. Monce teamed up with Bingxing Wang, a fellow engineer, to bring the idea of running full Windows on these phones to life.
“As time went on and we started talking about it, discussion groups formed and in turn we had a community of people interested in running full Windows 10 on Lumia 950s,” explains Monce. “We’re now basically a team of about 15 people, and we’ve made a lot of progress.”
The team has ported and reverse-engineered drivers to get Windows 11 running on a Windows Phone and even written their own ones, too. “I wouldn’t say we were quite fast to do it, we took four years to get to the current state, but it’s actually impressive we got here with not much documentation on hand,” says Monce. “Because of all that work for Windows 10 and the work we previously did to support Windows 10X, Windows 11 was a natural path forward, and really didn’t take much to get going.”
Monce and the team have built a dedicated site for their project, and it includes tools, guides, and documentation on bringing Windows 10 and Windows 11 to these old Windows Phones. Not everything works perfectly, with the cameras failing to function, a hit to battery life, and calls / SMS occasionally breaking due to Microsoft’s OS changes. It’s more of a fun project to see just how far engineers and developers can push the devices that Microsoft has abandoned.
It’s also a project that reminds me of the age-defying HTC HD2 smartphone. Developers and engineers kept HTC’s legendary Windows Mobile device going for a solid decade, with custom Android ROMs, mods, and even a port of Windows Phone 8 for the device. The Lumia 950 series is nearly five years old, and the fact that a team of people has ported Windows 11 to it is proof that there’s life in the old phone yet.