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


Credit: Microsoft

With a heartfelt nod to Monty Python, Windows 7 wants you all to know that it’s not dead yet.

A year after Microsoft officially ended support for its long-running operating system, a small but determined population of computer users wants to fight rather than switch. How much? No one knows for sure, but the number has shrunk significantly over the past year.

On the eve of Microsoft’s Windows 7 milestone for support, I consulted some analytics experts and calculated that the owners of approximately 200 million computers worldwide would ignore the deadline and continue with their preferred operating system. Admittedly, this was a rough estimate. (If you want to do math yourself, read my post from years ago: “It’s 2020: how many computers are still using Windows 7?”)

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

Let’s start with the United States Digital Government Program, which reports an ongoing, unfiltered number of visitors to U.S. sites over the past 90 days. One of the data sets contains a report of visits from all computers using any version of Windows, making it an ideal proxy for this question.

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

A year later, as December 2020 came to an end, the percentage of computers running Windows 10 rose by 12% to 87.8%; the Windows 7 score dropped by more than 10 points, to 8.5%, and the population of Windows 8.x holders shrank even further, to a minus 3.4%. (The one-time champion of computer operating systems, Windows XP, is now almost invisible, and the number of devices is a fraction of a rounding error.)

If my calculations were on point a year ago, that means more than 100 million Windows computers have been retired, recycled, or upgraded in the last twelve months.

Other statistics tell an almost identical story.

At NetMarketShare, for example, the numbers at the end of 2020 show that the use of Windows 10 increased by 11 points, from 63.0% to 74.0%, while the use of Windows 7 decreased by 9.5 points, from 31 .2% to 21.7%.

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

Converting the percentages into integers is unfortunately not a matter of simple division, 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 argued a year ago that the number of Windows computers is probably much lower than that, even with a surge caused by pandemics in the sales of computers. While this provides for the uncertainty, it is clear that Windows 7 still uses at least 100 million computers, and that the number could be significantly higher.

Some of these investments pay Microsoft for the privilege of receiving security updates, although it is not clear how much is part of the comprehensive security update program. And customers will get more pressure to upgrade in 2021, as the cost of these updates will double.