Trying to QubesOS from Windows 11 without data loss

I am currently using Windows 11 as my primary operating system and I plan to switch to Qubes OS. How can I do this without data loss? (how can I transfer my files from windows 11 to qubes os). I dont have QubesOS installed at the moment.

Hi DefaultBox, welcome to the forum! You could transfer your files to a USB, SSD, HDD, etc and back up them up in the cloud just in case. And just as extra advice, check everything and consider any other files you want to have for a couple days or even a week if you’re busy. As an additional step, I recommend finding Linux alternatives to Windows apps you use so you can adapt to your new workflow faster. Since you can’t dual-boot Windows and Qubes, you would install Qubes over Windows and at that point, there’s no going back to get files from Windows.

I think that data loss risks happen when backing up, not with Qubes. If I were you, I would just follow the usual practices for backing up. But separating your files in different Qubes in an organized way can take a while, and you may forget to include some files from your backup. And once you’re on Qubes, it’s still best to back up files regularly in case something goes wrong. You can also backup your Qubes system to restore it.

If that wall of text looks overwhelming, some common qubes are:

  • work,
  • personal,
  • vault (never connected to the Internet and just for passwords),
  • social media.
  • VPN, or some other security measure.
  • Hobbies maybe if they have enough information to warrant their own qube. Could also go under Personal.
  • development
  • a qube that has its own specific set of apps that others don’t need. Snap would help you install packages locally though so that’s an alternative to installing all apps through the qubes’ template.
  • Then there’s more like an offline “archive” qube where you just store old files you don’t use much, so you might as well separate it from online qubes to reduce how much information may get exposed. Could also help to use Veracrypt to keep those encrypted until you access them.
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Also are you sure that your computer works with Qubes OS by checking recommended hardware thread or the Hardware Compatibility List? The model and CPU matter.

If you have an additional USB drive (HDD or SSD) of sufficient size, you may just copy your complete Windows drive to this external media, before installing Qubes OS. After installation, you can attach this external drive to a VM under Qubes, and then copy all data you need to this VM, using the normal file copy operation of the OS in this VM (Windows or some Linux).

Before you switch to Qubes, try to use a few day regular Linux first and explore using the terminal. You can of course jump from Windows to Qubes, directly but knowing a bit of Linux already can solve you a lot of time

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Yeah it would be convenient to use a live USB to test ubuntu with the xfce desktop environment first. Or install Linux on an old computer.

:warning: Please take the following recommendations with caution, as I have no practical experience with BitLocker!

Some Windows systems come with BitLocker preinstalled and enabled, especially OEM preconfigured systems, e.g. from DELL. If your system’s drive is encrypted, the most secure way to get a copy that can be used for later restoring data to Qubes would be to decrypt the drive before creating the backup copy. On Windows 10 or 11 Pro, this can be done via the GUI, i.e. the control panel. In the home edition, normally no GUI support for this is available, and BitLocker has to be turned off via the Powershell command manage-bde -protectors -disable C: .

If BitLocker is not turned off before creating the system copy, this copy will be encrypted. In this case, access to its contents will probably be possible only from a Windows VM or relying on a still experimental BitLocker support now made available in cryptsetup. I have no idea how the decryption key has to be provided to this VM, especially if it is not protected by a passphrase but a key file. Anyhow, this might be rather risky.

Having Windows running under Qubes with BitLocker enabled may not be the best idea, anyhow. It might be better to rely on the LUKS encrytion provided by Qubes.


Hey I hope you didn’t nuke your windows 11 installation yet… Wintousb helps you install windows on an external drive. The Windows 10 Home version of it is free. You can clone all your apps, files and settings (at least for Win10 but I think 11 will work too) or install a fresh Windows. By running this on my windows 10 computer with 90gb of personal data, cloning to my external SSD only took only 7.5 minutes. So I booted into windows with the external SSD and it was exactly like my original setup, with development files and games working. Windows updates worked too, so my touchpad can now scroll. It did say that there was an update error at first, probably because the drivers needed suddenly changed, but I restarted and it now says I’m fully up to date. Zoom works well too. Maybe it’s a well-known tool, but I found it today and I’m blown away by how convenient it is.

So if you copy your windows setup to an external drive, you can go back and get any files you forgot to back up, and it’ll probably be easier to adjust to Qubes when you can fall back on your old setup.

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Thank you! I’ll make sure to use this.

I mean that I used an internal SSD that uses an adapter to connect to the USB port, so it doesn’t get worn out like an actual external SSD that you’re not meant to run an OS on. Also the read/write speeds are limited by the USB port, so just joining a zoom meeting can be fine but screen sharing with 10+ people involved / with your video on can result in lag like me. Running an OS through a drive and USB port makes it slower than an internal drive. For me, there isn’t much of a difference when it just comes to using the browser or some light games.