Windows 11 Rollout Heightens E-Waste Concerns, Imperiling Millions of PCs, Canalys Reports

The launch of Microsoft’s Windows 11 has generated hope for a resurgence in the PC market. However, amidst the anticipation for a refresh cycle, concerns loom over the termination of Windows 10 support, potentially rendering hundreds of millions of devices obsolete and contributing significantly to the e-waste crisis, the recent analysis by Canalys revealed.
Microsoft Windows 11The impending end of support for Windows 10 is anticipated to have a profound impact on customer refresh plans. According to Canalys, approximately 57 percent of partners foresee this termination affecting customer strategies, with an expected replacement of one in three devices within the next two years.

Despite the growing capability of the industry to adopt circular practices, the inability to refurbish and resell PCs incompatible with Windows 11 is a critical limitation highlighted by Canalys. This decision by Microsoft is poised to exacerbate the mounting e-waste crisis, emphasizing the pivotal role of operating system vendors in promoting sustainable IT models.

Canalys predicts an 8 percent growth in the PC market by 2024, fueled by a combination of pandemic-era PC replacements and the emergence of new AI-capable devices. However, the incompatibility of millions of in-use devices with Windows 11’s hardware requirements presents a significant hurdle, leaving these viable PCs in limbo.

The report estimates a staggering 240 million PCs might become e-waste upon the cessation of Windows 10 support by October 2025 due to their incompatibility with Windows 11. This grim figure underscores the urgency to address the environmental repercussions of technological advancements.

While potential recycling avenues exist for these devices, their diminished value for refurbishing and resale significantly limits sustainable disposal options. Digital equity concerns also emerge, as unsupported devices may no longer receive crucial security updates, further deterring their use even in budget-constrained environments.

Microsoft’s recent announcement of Extended Security Updates for Windows 10 until 2028, albeit at an undisclosed cost, might extend the lifespan of ineligible PCs. However, the financial barrier posed by these updates could render migration to Windows 11-capable PCs a more cost-effective option, accelerating the disposal of older devices.

The report emphasizes the shared responsibility of device vendors and OS providers in maximizing device lifespans. It urges OEMs to integrate durability, repairability, and recyclability into device design while stressing the crucial role of OS vendors in ensuring prolonged usability and security.

Despite the absence of regulatory mandates in the PC market, there is an impending EU regulation for smartphones and tablets mandating functional and security updates post-launch. Collaboration across industries is highlighted as the critical approach to address the persistent e-waste crisis in the technology sector.

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