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240 million PCs?

According to calculations by Canalys, 240 million PCs would disappear into landfills after 2025. Microsoft’s support for Windows 10 ends after October 2025. 240 million PCs? Is that a realistic number?

Canalys doesn’t cite a source for this number, other than its data and research in the article that appeared on the website on 20 December 2023 (link). It refers to a case study performed by Canalys in the summer of 2023 on the circular economy.

About Canalys

Canalys is a global organization founded in 1998, with a headquarters in Singapore. Since 1998, offices have been opened in China, India, the United Kingdom and the United States. On the website, the company states it conducts “channel-oriented IT research.” The focus is on sustainability when looking at some of the articles (blogs) posted on the website. There are also articles available on trends and new developments (technology). This doesn’t say much about the article or the content of the article published on 20 December and about the estimate of the number of 240 million PCs that might disappear into landfills after October 2025, since they would become e-waste.

About the calculation

The calculation comes from when Microsoft will end support for Windows 10. That is after October 2025. Microsoft will end support for this Windows version for standard support. One might assume that one-fifth of the computers (desktops and laptops) will therefore not be able to withstand the upgrade to Windows 11 (or Windows 12, the version released in 2024). This is due to the stricter hardware requirements set by Microsoft. There is one problem here since Canalys only mentions PCs. Let’s assume that these are desktops, not laptops. A fifth of all desktops thus will mean an equivalent to 20% of all hardware.

So, let’s assume that this concerns PCs only. What happened to laptops? The article focuses on PCs. When it does refer to PCs only, the figures are incomplete. Based on 20% the following must be taken into account:

  • 20% equals 240 million. 
  • 80% equals 1.2 billion. 

Statista

Compared to that 1.2 billion, 240 “all of a sudden” is considerably less, isn’t it? It is not, because it is still a significant number. The question remains, is 240 million the number to use? Is this accurate? Well, to answer that question, it’s perhaps a better idea to take a look at other data. Data provided by Statista. Statista tracks operating system market share, noting that Windows 11 is not among the most widely used operating systems in November 2023.

In November 2023, the most popular or used operating system was Windows 10 (market share of 68.02%). Windows 11 was the runner-up.

  • Windows 10: 68.02%
  • Windows 11: 26.3%
  • Windows 7: 3.6%
  • Windows 8.1: 1.33%
  • Windows XP: 0.29%
  • Windows Vista: 0.09%
  • Windows 2003: 0.02%
  • Other: 0.01%

The data is available on this page. What does this data tell us? Well, first of all: in November 2023, Windows 11 wasn’t the most used operating system. Second, Windows 10 was. That’s not the most important conclusion. There are more important conclusions to draw here and these relate to the other Windows versions combined.

Desktops instead of PCs

First, in numbers, the number of desktops (that’s what Statista calls them instead of PCs) on which Windows 10 was installed in November 2023 was 816,240,000. Windows 11 was installed on 315,600,000 desktops.

Again, back to the number of 240 million. This number doesn’t match with the number of Statista. That’s about 816 million.

Why are other versions important?

So, why are the other Windows versions important? That’s because there is a similarity between these versions now and what’s going to happen shortly (after 2025). There is a group of desktop users,  about 5%, who are still using unsupported versions of Microsoft software as their operating system. This will essentially be the same as of October 2025, when Windows 10 will no longer be supported for basic support. Unless users will pay for advanced support. Some users are willing to take risks when it comes to security or their computers aren’t simply capable of an upgrade to a newer version of Windows. Face it, a computer that was designed for Windows XP is probably not capable of performing well when Windows 10 is installed. The changes that Windows 11 is an option are very limited.

Windows 10 isn’t the same as Windows XP. There is a huge difference between these operating systems. There is, however, one big difference between Windows 10 and Windows 11. That has to do with hardware requirements. Canalys does have a point here. Some desktops and laptops can’t be upgraded to a newer version of Windows. This will probably be a problem when it comes to a newer version of Windows. Probably Windows 12, to be released in 2024. Will it lead to an increase in e-waste? Well, that’s when the figures provided by Statista come into use. As you can see, users don’t get rid of their old systems. These are still used. Not as much as they were used before. Two years after the introduction of Windows 11, it’s not the most installed operating system yet. With the planned introduction of yet another Windows version in 2024, it will probably lead to a similar situation when Windows 7 was introduced. Support for Windows XP was extended, because of a problem with the adaptation of Windows Vista.

Hardware requirements not that strict

It’s true, Windows 11 isn’t the same as Windows Vista. Windows Vista was such an awesome Windows version that it should never have been released in the first place. Another version to compare this version with was Windows ME. Windows ME was also a version that was a disaster. Both versions were quickly replaced by other versions. Windows ME was replaced by Windows XP and Windows Vista was replaced by Windows 7. The difference between these releases was that the hardware requirements weren’t that strict. Meaning: it was possible to install these versions on a computer no matter what the outcome was. There was no guarantee about the performance in the end. When it comes to Windows 11, there is a more strict approach. The installation process checks if the computer can be upgraded or not. Based on processor, memory, video card, TPM and other requirements. If not, the installation process can’t continue.

TPM

If an end user is confronted with an error message, this can be a reason not to upgrade. Even if there is a solution. The option to change TPM (Trusted Platform Module), requires some changes in the computer’s BIOS (Basic Input/Output System).

With every new operating system, it doesn’t matter who’s the developer, there’s always something new. It can be a new “look and feel” or new features. In some cases, features can be added, removed or replaced. Not everyone is fond of this. Some people find it hard to deal with these changes, even when in the end they would benefit from these innovations. That could be a reason for their willingness to upgrade or not. Besides, upgrading takes time and who has time? No one has the time or the willingness to invest time. I know, these weakest points. There are arguments that you can use to debunk all these claims. However, this is personal. This is something that an end user feels.

There’s a chance that, even when these figures from Canalys are right, 240 PCs will not end up in a landfill. Let’s not forget that it’s not 2025 yet. When it comes to the history of upgrades, you can see the data on Statista’s page, the end users eventually started to adapt to Windows 10. Unless these computers can’t upgrade to Windows 11. Is that a problem? Even without the support? That all depends on the new version of Windows.

New version of Windows

Will Microsoft use the same options for the upgrade process of this new version? It’s not clear at this moment yet. There’s a chance the installation process will be the same. So, don’t get your hopes up.

Windows 7

When Windows 10 was introduced the system requirements were less stringent. Well, there were system requirements set out, but it wasn’t the same as it is today. It also took some time for the “new” operating system as in terms of becoming the more dominant operating system. What played an important role: sales of new computers. There’s another problem nowadays. The sales of PCs weren’t the same when Windows 7 was introduced. When Windows 7 was introduced it wasn’t the same as when Windows XP was introduced. Meaning: that sales of PCs have been going down for years. If you’re buying a new PC (or laptop) the most recent version of an operating system will be installed. Unless you buy a model offered on sale. Then there is a chance that it may very well be a model without the latest version of the operating system. The same goes for refurbished PCs, by the way.

The issue is not just whether end users want to install Windows 11 based on their needs alone or whether PCs are capable of performing well after an installation of this operating system. When taking a look at Windows 7 and the transition to Windows 10, it took a while before this market share was less dominant and it wasn’t just one factor that caused it. The biggest difference now is that Microsoft has added something of its own, namely, a blockade – it’s best to call it that – during the installation process. Whether that is entirely justified in some cases, by the way, remains to be seen. Options for TPM can be disabled in the BIOS. That shouldn’t be a problem. Options for a processor that isn’t compatible with the list that Microsoft uses are a problem, however.

Windows 7 (screenshot).
Windows 7 (screenshot). Source: Wikimedia Commons. This version is no longer supported by Microsoft as of 14 January 2020. The official website of Windows 7 is available in archived mode.

Processor requirements

The biggest difference between the introduction of Windows 10 and Windows 11 is the list of approved processors introduced by Microsoft. That is one big difference and one major problem. The 240 million Pc number cited by Canalys is an estimate. Based on Statista data, this number might be higher. If you only consider that this number will still be adjusted downward, based on past developments (the transition from Windows 7 to Windows 10), there should be nothing to worry about. Until you suddenly realize that certain processors are thus no longer adequate based on hardware requirements. Or is it? Again, end users can choose to just keep using Windows 10 or older systems, as the November 2023 data also shows. We probably won’t know until sometime next year, after the introduction of the other control system. Based on the requirements for that system and any adaptation of that system.

Support period

The support period of Windows 10 seems to be short in time. Yet it is a normal period. There is a difference between a support period and a period in which a Windows version is offered as a Windows version that can be bought as a licensed copy. After this period has ended, this doesn’t mean that the support period ends. In some cases, the support period ends years after the period in which the Windows version was offered as the standard version or as the standard installed version on new computers.

Windows ME

Microsoft Windows ME (logo)
Windows ME (screenshot).
Windows ME (screenshot). Source: Wikimedia Commons. View the website of Microsoft about Windows ME on this archived location.

There are some examples of Windows versions that were sold during a rather short period. For example, Windows Millennium of Windows ME. There was a good reason Microsoft decided to no longer sell this version. Officially because of the introduction of Windows XP. Unofficially because of its performance issues.

Windows ME was the successor to Windows 98. The introduction was on 19 June 2000 for pre-installations and the version was on sale as of 14 September. The support period ended in 2003 (basic support) or 2006 (extended support).  

Windows XP

Microsoft Windows XP (sreenshot).
Microsoft Windows XP (screenshot). Source: Wikimedia Commons. Support for Windows XP by Microsoft has ended. There is an archived version of the website of Microsoft Windows XP available.

The successor to Windows ME was Windows XP, based on Windows NT. This version was pre-installed as of 24 Augustus, 2001. The first copies were sold on 25 October 2001. Many described this version as one of the most stable versions of Windows ever made. Well, that depends on what version of Windows XP you’re using and at what moment in time. Windows XP without Servicepack 2 wasn’t one of the most stable operating systems to use at that time. People tend to forget that part. Well, it’s a long time ago…

Windows Vista

Microsoft Windows Vista (logo).
Microsoft Windows Vista (schermafdruk).
Microsoft Windows Vista (schermafdruk). Bron: Wikimedia Commons. De informatie over Windows Vista via Microsoft.com is inmidels alleen nog maar beschikbaar via een gearchiveerde versie.

There’s a chance that people started to romanticize Windows XP because of its successor. That was Windows Vista. It is very difficult to make a definitive judgment as to which Windows version was more terrible, Windows ME or Windows Vista. There was a difference because Windows Vista was the first version that was offered online. Not just with an option to purchase it. After this purchase, it was possible to download and install this version. It was also still possible to buy Windows Vista in stores.

Where should we start, when it comes to Windows Vista? The performance? Software that worked well under Windows XP, but stopped working under Windows Vista? Or the high system requirements for Windows Aero? Yet you wouldn’t say this based on the number of copies sold of this version. In fact, at 330 million copies, it exceeded Microsoft’s expectations. Whether the end users were ultimately so happy with it, that is not. It was also a reason, based on those experiences for others not to switch to this very version. That caused Microsoft to extend sales of Windows XP through 2008.

That was only a problem when you bought a new PC because it had Windows Vista installed on it. Then you had to buy a copy of Windows XP and install that version on a new computer. Unless you settled for Windows Vista anyway. Only after June 22, 2009, would this change. Then new PCs came with Windows 7 by default. Separate sales of Windows 7 became possible a few months later. So with that, Windows Vista was active between 2007 and 2009. Just like Windows ME not a long period.

Similar to the transition from Windows XP to Windows Vista?

Is the transition from Windows XP to Windows Vista similar to the transition from Windows 10 to Windows 11? No, because Windows Vista was never fully accepted. Moreover, Windows Vista was offered as an active version between 2007 and 2009. Windows 10 was offered as an active version between 2015 and 2021. So that period is longer. By the way, a successor is already planned for that version, Windows 12 (probably) for mid-2014. That would give Windows 11 a life cycle of four years (excluding support). It was precisely Windows XP, which had a particularly long life cycle of six years (2001 – 2007).

The starting point of every Windows version, Windows XP except then, is a life cycle of four or five years. In doing so, at every moment, user acceptance has been an issue. At every point, there has been change. The difference now is somewhat similar to the tougher requirements back then for Windows Vista. Only, back then it was a matter of choosing an alternative. That was Windows XP. If you didn’t choose that, it was then possible to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7. So it remains to be seen what the next version of Windows will look like.

Microsoft Windows 10 (screenshot).
Microsoft Windows 10 (screenshot). Source: Wikimedia Commons. Windows 10 is still offered as a download by Microsoft. This can be useful when updating or upgrading to Windows 11. These files are also available for Windows 11.
Microsoft Windows 11 (screenshot).
Microsoft Windows 11 (screenshot). Source: Wikimedia Commons. This information is derived from the website of Experience the Power of Windows 11 of Microsoft.

Updates and upgrades

To be fair, there is a difference between updates and upgrades when it comes to Windows. An update ensures that your files are not lost. An upgrade, also called a clean install, may be compared to a fresh start. Admittedly, in Canalys’ article and to date in this one, there was no distinction in that.

It’s good to make that distinction, though. For example, it is possible to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10. It causes all files to be deleted. Indeed, in theory, you could even upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 11; you just lose everything. You can also upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 11. Not really. The chances are pretty slim because a PC running that version is unlikely to meet the hardware requirements. Unless you had to choose to use Windows XP for certain reasons precisely because certain software was not yet compatible with Windows 7 or Windows 10. That chance is… um, yes, very realistic…. not.

Let’s move on because we’re not done here. That’s what makes it even more difficult. So updating from Windows 7 to Windows 11 is not possible. Updating from Windows 7 to Windows 10? It’s an option. From there on to Windows 11? Great, an option! However, there’s a slim chance that the installation of that version is brutally interrupted by an error message telling you the installation can’t proceed due to system limitations. That’s something you have to find out first. Is your computer capable of running Windows 11? There is a list of processors available on the website of Microsoft. There’s one available for AMD and one for Intel. You do want to know what type and brand you’re using. If you’re not sure, try installing CPU-Z. This software identifies the hardware. Don’t worry, you don’t need to pay for this software.  There are more things to consider. Like enabling TPM. Microsoft describes it here.

Well, after this you can try to install Windows 11. If you want to preserve your files, it’s an update. If not, it’s an upgrade. That’s the difference.

Still, we’re not done. Is there only a possibility to update from Windows 10 to Windows 11, since you can’t update from Windows 7 to Windows 11? There is another option. After Windows 7 was released, Windows 8 was the successor in 2012. This version was followed by Windows 8.1 a year later (2013). Windows 8 wasn’t a success because of the learning curve. It was deemed too great. The version with a normal life cycle was Windows 10, introduced in 2015 and succeeded by Windows 11 in 2021. Windows 11 has a fairly short life cycle, as it’s introduced in 2021 and the new version will be released in 2024. That’s three years.

Does that have to do with a bad version? No, not entirely. It mainly has to do with the introduction of a version that includes more options and functions for AI. Now those options have been added as separate components. The expectation is that they will be added as components of the operating system itself (embedded components). At least, that is the expectation. As much as it is the expectation that the version should come out in mid-2024. In doing so, Microsoft is doing no different than providers of Linux distributions, for example. Nor from competitor Apple. Although you need a different kind of computer for that operating system.

Using Windows 11 on an old computer

One part has not been discussed until now. Install Windows 11 on an old computer. Better said: installing Windows 11 on a computer that is not eligible for installation. Some websites describe how this is possible. I will leave it open whether this is wise. There is something to be said for certain options deemed necessary by Microsoft. For example, TPM and the options to handle this by software. The possible power of a processor should also be irrelevant because during beta testing the problems with system crashes mainly resulted from problems with software drivers. So that would undermine the idea that a processor would be a disruptive factor. On the other hand, there is something to be said about the fact that a newer processor has or can have a certain capacity. Only a processor that was released just before the date and therefore falls outside the range might be a doubtful case. Nevertheless, a computer that has a processor like that inside can’t be used. That is exactly what Canalys wrote about and again, is that a problem? Will it lead to an increase in e-waste? Will it lead to 240 million PCs worldwide that would become e-waste?

More e-waste?

Ok, the final question. More e-waste or not? If you take a look at the data from Statista based on November 2023, these numbers will be higher than the 240 million PCs that Canalys mentions. There would be a huge problem. Except, there isn’t. Take a look at the other numbers, Windows 7, Windows XP etc. Operating Systems that are still used. Not widely used, but still used. People still use PCs with these operating systems, so not all PCs will become e-waste. Even when a new operating system can’t be installed. Let’s not forget that in the past it didn’t always matter that a new operating system couldn’t be installed. Sometimes it was a matter of those who didn’t want to install a new operating system.

Then there’s the option to use “old computers” for “new options.” Face it, my kids didn’t start with brand-new Windows 10 PCs. They wanted to, but they didn’t end up using brand-new devices. Even when I didn’t have the money to invest in a new computer, because an old computer died on me, I turned to a second-hand store to buy an “old” computer. Gradually there will be a slow trend of change. It will certainly not be a matter of all 240 million PCs disappearing into the landfill at the same time. Many PCs disappear into the second-hand circuit. Moreover, it would also be an excellent opportunity for alternatives to Windows to present themselves. Provided they work on support for Windows software.

Who knows...

In addition, recycling of parts can also play a role. An SSD drive is an SSD drive. It also works well on a newer PC. Memory may be a different story. A video card, possibly. This will offer chances and possibilities. Smart options and time to think things over. Maybe bypassing the protections during the installation procedure is the way to solve it. No, that’s not how I promote it. That is why you will not find links to those websites in this article. Who knows….

Who knows, I might write about it again next year, when a new version of Windows has been released and my laptop cannot run this version. Maybe I’ll think about it completely differently then. By the way, that laptop was purchased in the summer of 2023.

240 million PCs?

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