Microsoft's draconian Windows 11 restrictions will send an estimated 240 million PCs to the landfill when Windows 10 hits end of life in 2025

Windows 11
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft's decision to end support of Windows 10 in October 2025 could mean a massive upgrade cycle for PC makers. However, it could lead to an enormous increase in electronic waste, according to Canalys. About 240 million PCs might become unusable due to compatibility issues with the newer Windows 11. This situation is causing concern, as it might result in many of these older computers ending up in landfills.

The arrival of Windows 11 in late 2021 did not encourage massive PC sales, but the end of Windows 10 support in late 2025 could mark a turning point for the struggling PC market, stimulating customers to upgrade their systems. However, the phasing out of Windows 10 support threatens the usability of numerous existing devices. This shift is poised to affect the market dynamics significantly, with Canalys forecasting market growth of 8% in 2024 as consumers seek to replace older PCs with models compatible with Windows 11 or, potentially, Windows 12

Multiple key barriers prevent Windows 10-compatible PCs from running Windows 10, including a need for a 64-bit processor listed by Microsoft as a 'supported CPU,' at least 4 GB of RAM, a minimum of 64GB storage, and UEFI firmware with Secure Boot capability instead of the older BIOS. Additionally, a crucial requirement is TPM version 2.0 for enhanced security, which supersedes the TPM 1.2 version supported by some Windows 10 devices. In addition, Windows 11 also demands a DirectX 12-compatible GPU with a WDDM 2.x driver, which leaves out many older iGPUs. Many systems are still running outdated CPUs and using BIOS instead of UEFI with no SecureBoot support.

Canalys believes that a staggering 240 million PCs do not comply with Windows 11's requirements and are set to be rendered obsolete by Windows 10's October 14, 2025 support deadline. While recycling remains a viable option for these systems, the lack of compatibility with the latest Windows iteration significantly devalues them, making refurbishment less feasible. Consequently, despite growing capabilities in the refurbishment sector, many of these devices are still destined for landfills. This situation highlights a critical challenge in managing and disposing of electronic waste, Canalys believes. 

In response to these concerns, Microsoft has announced the availability of Extended Security Updates for Windows 10 until October 2028, albeit at a cost. This move, mirroring previous strategies for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, offers a temporary reprieve for users of older PCs. However, the anticipated expense of these updates may deter many from opting for this solution, pushing them towards newer, Windows 11-compatible devices. 

The scenario underscores a broader responsibility among manufacturers and software developers to design products with longer life cycles. Canalys believes emphasizing durability, repairability, and recyclability is crucial to reducing e-waste. This approach, combined with longer-term software support, can significantly extend the usable life of devices, fostering a more sustainable and circular economy in the technology sector. However, the lack of regulatory mandates in this area, unlike the upcoming EU regulations for smartphones and tablets, leaves much of this responsibility on industry players who are struggling to sell more devices.

Anton Shilov
Freelance News Writer

Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.

  • drea.drechsler
    The systems we're talking about here are still perfectly capable, many are still more powerful than low-end modern computers whether those powered by AMD or Intel.

    Could this be an opening that benefits Linux? Not for corporate users of course but for home users looking for cheap computers since all they'd need is a better GPU for the entry-to-mid-level gaming most people are interested in.

    I would certainly love it to be the case. Microsoft creating the seeds of it's own demise.
    Reply
  • mac_angel
    no it won't. People aren't going to throw away their PC/laptop just because Windows 10 isn't updating any more. Most people absolutely hate the updates as it is. Not to mention the countless workarounds to install Windows 11 on pretty much any PC/laptop.
    Windows 10/11 is literally the biggest Spyware platform in the entire world.
    Reply
  • drea.drechsler
    mac_angel said:
    no it won't. People aren't going to throw away their PC/laptop just because Windows 10 isn't updating any more. Most people absolutely hate the updates as it is...
    umm...you presented a scenario where people might just continue (perhaps cluelessly) on, loving it that the annoying updates have stopped.

    Personally, on the old system I'm keeping around I'll just get a decent anti-virus package and keep it updated. I'm not really a risky user anyway. But I'd love to move it to Linux just for the fun of it.
    Reply
  • xyster
    I'm sure people will be happy that they no longer get nagged about Windows Updates; a blessing in disguise.

    Linux is also a great option for old PCs; Mint, Pop, Ubuntu. It might be more annoying for some laptops, as support there is more rocky I hear.

    There's also ways to disable TPM lock outs, however annoying.

    But yeah, Windows 11 puts in place some really annoying restrictions. My guess is they will extend support for a bit more, and then when no one is looking, drop the requirements needed to upgrade to Windows 11.
    Reply
  • edzieba
    drea.drechsler said:
    Could this be an opening that benefits Linux?
    No. No more than the transition from Windows 8 to Windows 10, Windows 7 to Windows 8, Windows XP to Windows 7, Windows ME to Windows XP, Windows 98 to Windows ME, and so on.
    Every new windows version we get the usual "But my PC is perfectly good! " sucks, was perfect and should never be changed!" "the waste!" headlines. We'll see the exact same when Windows 11 is replaced with Windows 11+1.
    Reply
  • sadsteve
    drea.drechsler said:
    umm...you presented a scenario where people might just continue (perhaps cluelessly) on, loving it that the annoying updates have stopped.

    Personally, on the old system I'm keeping around I'll just get a decent anti-virus package and keep it updated. I'm not really a risky user anyway. But I'd love to move it to Linux just for the fun of it.
    Do the switch to Linux. I did it about 6 months after the Windows 8.0 fiasco. All my general computing is done in Linux and I keep a Windows VM around for games that won't work under Linux.
    Reply
  • hannibal
    Some people still use win7… people don`t care. They will use win10 long after the support ends. The rest will either by pass the restriction or go to the Linux.
    Reply
  • JeffreyP55
    Admin said:
    With too many outdated PCs afloat, Windows 10 EOL in late 2025 could generate massive amount of e-waste.

    Microsoft's draconian Windows 11 restrictions will send an estimated 240 million PCs to the landfill when Windows 10 hits end of life in 2025 : Read more
    Built some cheap Intel LGA 775 rigs for my wifes business some years back. They are used mostly for data entry and mild web surfing. Maxed out the whooping 8 gigs of RAM and bought some cheap decent video cards. Cheap dates that are still running to this day. The only reason to retire them for Linux service is because of Microsoft.
    However I started build new AMD machines to eventually replace the 775's.
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    Mmm, no it won't. Even a totally out of date system, say a Windows 7 based system from 2011, if it has a Sandy Bridge i5-2300 or better (quad core) is still very capable for a number of tasks, and if you're worried about security you can always install a Windows-like version of Linux on it, like Linux Mint.

    But I will agree that the requirement for TPM 2.0 should have been made illegal by the US and especially by the EU since for pretty much everyone it makes zero sense except for Microsoft to provide a hard cutoff for official backwards compatibility, and that should fall under the "planned obsolescence" ban.
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    Alvar Miles Udell said:
    But I will agree that the requirement for TPM 2.0 should have been made illegal by the US and especially by the EU since for pretty much everyone it makes zero sense except for Microsoft to provide a hard cutoff for official backwards compatibility, and that should fall under the "planned obsolescence" ban.
    MS was requesting/pushing for that TPM thing for years. Long before Win 11.
    The manufacturers pushed back with "Yeah, we don't wanna do that".
    Reply