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Windows 7: One year after the support deadline expires, millions choose not to upgrade



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Credit: Microsoft

With a hearty nod to Monty Python, Windows 7 wants you all to know it̵

7;s not dead yet.

One year after Microsoft officially ended support for its long-running operating system, a small but determined population of PC users would rather fight than switch. How many? No one knows for sure, but that number has shrunk significantly in the last year.

Across Microsoft’s Windows 7 support milestone, I consulted some analytics experts and estimated that the owners of around 200 million PCs worldwide would ignore the deadline and continue running their preferred operating system. It was admittedly a rough estimate. (If you want to do the math yourself, read my post for the year, “It’s 2020: How many PCs are still running Windows 7?”)

During the holiday season at the end of 2020, I decided to go back and run the latest version of these analysis reports. They tell a smooth story.

Let’s start with the United States Government Digital Analytics Program, which reports a continuous, unfiltered number of visitors to US sites over the past 90 days. One of the datasets includes a report of visits from all PCs running any version of Windows, making it an ideal proxy for this issue.

At the end of December 2019, 75.8% of these PCs were running Windows 10, 18.9% were still running Windows 7, and only 4.6% were sticking to the unloved Windows 8.x.

A year later, as December 2020 draws to a close, the share of PCs running Windows 10 has increased 12% to 87.8%; The number of Windows 7s has fallen by more than 10 points, to 8.5%, and the population of Windows 8.x holdouts has shrunk further, to minus 3.4%. (A one-time champion of PC operating systems, Windows XP, is now virtually invisible, with the number of devices accounting for a fraction of a rounding error.)

If my calculations a year ago were in the spotlight, it means that more than 100 million Windows PCs were retired, recycled or upgraded in the last 12 months.

Other calculations tell an almost identical story.

For example, on NetMarketShare, the numbers at the end of 2020 show Windows 10 usage up 11 points, from 63.0% to 74.0%, while Windows 7 usage dropped 9.5 points, from 31.2% to 21.7% .

Similarly, StatCounter Global Stats showed that the number of PCs running Windows 10 increased more than 12 percent, from 64.7% to 76.0%, while the Windows 7 PC population fell almost 10 points to 17.7%.

Converting these percentages to integers is not a matter of simple division, unfortunately because we do not know the denominator. Microsoft has been telling us for years that the Windows user base is 1.5 billion, but I claimed a year ago that the number of Windows PCs is probably much lower than that, even with a pandemic-induced resurgence in PC sales. Although we allow that uncertainty, it is clear that at least 100 million PCs are still running Windows 7, and this number could be significantly higher.

Some of these holdouts pay Microsoft for the privilege of receiving security updates, although it is not clear how many are part of the extended security update program. And these customers will face greater pressure to upgrade in 2021 as the cost of these updates is set to double.


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