Most people aren't upgrading to Windows 11: Not the end of the world

Most people aren’t upgrading to Windows 11: Not the end of the world

Windows 11 is experiencing an apparent lack of uptake among Windows users. If this survey is accurate, less than 1% of 10 million PCs surveyed are running the new operating system. In fact, more machines are using Windows XP.

That may surprise you. It might even seem like a bit of an embarrassing failure for Microsoft. However, the low numbers could well be a very good thing overall. It was always going to be a slow uptake, and we’re going to look at some of the reasons why.

Low numbers are to be expected – and that’s fine

There are quite a few barriers to entry for anyone looking to upgrade to Windows 11. In fact, it’s not just businesses facing Windows headaches. It’s home users too, but perhaps for somewhat different reasons.

  1. Old apps: A big reason ancient operating systems like XP still run in organisations is down to old, business critical apps. For most businesses, no one size fits all solution exists. Some of the tech will be outsourced. Bits of it will operate remotely, rather than in house. There’ll be bespoke applications made by someone who left the organisation 5 years ago. Most folks won’t know how it operates, just how to patch it if something goes wrong. Pulling it out will break lots of business critical systems, and there’s no guarantee a replacement will work. Oh, and by the way: it only runs on Windows XP. That’s how you end up with XP and other old operating systems all over the place. They’ve carved their tiny niche, and almost nothing will dislodge them.
  2. Strict requirements and confusing messaging: This boils down to TPM, or Trusted Platform Module. Microsoft made this a requirement to install the newer operating system. It’s an additional security feature which helps keep bad people away from your data. Unfortunately, initial descriptions of TPM were somewhat confusing. The continued state of malaise over TPM is likely keeping folks away from Windows 11 for the time being. Even now, it’s tricky to find people who make business decisions on tech who are familiar with the issue, and have the required equipment to run Windows 11 the way it’s supposed to be run.
  3. Gaming headaches: Many home users have avoided Windows 11 because of the potential impact on gaming performance. People don’t generally want to spend thousands on gaming rigs, then find their expensive graphics card is suddenly underperforming. If they’re running mid-range or cheap cards, they’re probably even more likely to say no. There’s definitely an air of “wait and see” where this is concerned. Nobody wants to mess up their pre-loaded Windows 10 box with a failed 11 upgrade. Folks who built their machines from scratch will probably want to stay with Windows 10 for the time being too. It’s just too much of a leap in the dark at the moment.

These are the main points, but we can think of some more.

Windows 10: ageing like a fine wine

Do people actually need to suddenly jump into Windows 11? What’s the compelling reason for doing so? It seems very likely that for most people, there just isn’t one. Yet.

I often use Windows 10. I’m fine with it, after a few false starts at the beginning. The handful of alterations to core functionality and usability that I’ve heard about, aren’t things I’m particularly interested in. They’re not deal-breakers, but I just wonder “Why bother? This works fine.”

Does Microsoft want people to adopt quickly?

I think we forget that Windows 10 has already been around for 6 years. It’s not a new thing anymore! Microsoft is entirely happy to keep Windows 10 chugging along. Support for it won’t end until October 14, 2025. That’s four more years of Windows 10 action, and it’ll still be used for some time after that. By that point, some of the more peculiar quirks will have been ironed out. Businesses will have a better feel for it.

If we’re lucky, the TPM hardware issues won’t be as big a concern. Some orgs may even have figured out how to update that in-house app from XP to 11 (they will not). And hey, you can always pay for patches on End of Life operating systems, should you really want to.

It seems, on balance, that it’s better to have the rollout happen slowly. Network admins have enough security concerns to worry about. Do they really need to hurl the shiny new Windows 11 into the network and juggle that responsibility too? The numbers seem to suggest not, and it’s possible Microsoft is also happy with this approach.

Whatever your decision, we wish you well in the upgrade struggles to come.


Christopher Boyd

Former Director of Research at FaceTime Security Labs. He has a very particular set of skills. Skills that make him a nightmare for threats like you.