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What will the 2025 end of life mean for enterprise Windows 10?

Businesses have until 2025 to migrate to Windows 11, but older hardware may need updating and there’s a chip crisis

With the launch of Windows 11 earlier in October, the time-bomb has started counting down to Windows 10 end of support.

Microsoft has said it will continue to support at least one Windows 10 Semi-Annual Channel until 14 October 2025. Unlike Windows 7, where Microsoft guaranteed support of the latest service pack release until 14 January 2020, each semi-annual release of Windows 10 is only supported for two years. For instance, the last semi-annual update, H12021, will be supported until 31 December 2022.

When asked about how the semi-annual releases of Windows are being supported, Microsoft said: “We previously noted that the next version of Windows 10 (version 21H2) will be released later this calendar year, we’ll have more information to share at a later date. Microsoft recommends that customers should always install the latest version of Windows before the current version reaches end of servicing to remain supported by Microsoft.”

With four years to go before the end of support deadlines, organisations may feel there is no rush to update their Windows desktops. Stephen Kleynhans, a research vice-president at Gartner, said: “Enterprise IT departments tend to be like supertankers. They don’t change direction quickly.”

Just like its predecessor, Windows 7, Windows 10 is regarded across the business world as a solid, well-supported operating system platform. While it was originally released in 2015, Kleynhans said most enterprises are only now getting good at supporting it.  “In particular they are refining their processes for dealing with an annual feature update,” he said.

Part of this process involves letting the update simmer for a while, during which time the IT department runs a series of simple validations and pilots, before ultimately deploying across the estate of PCs.

“In most cases, enterprises take about six to nine months to work through this process,” said Kleynhans. “So even with something as basic as a Windows 10 feature update, it takes a while to get deployed. Even if Windows 11 was just a run-of-the-mill feature update, most enterprises wouldn’t be rolling it out in a big way until the third quarter of 2022.”

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However, Kleynhans does not expect many IT departments to embark on major Windows 11 roll-outs any time soon. “Windows 11 will see a drawn-out process,” he said. “Whenever the user experience changes, IT wants to be cautious and ensure the changes settle down. As such, most IT organisations will want to wait about a year for the first feature update to Windows 11 before investing a lot of effort.”

During that time, IT departments are likely to spend the next year learning and doing preliminary testing, after which they will put Windows 11 through the process of validation and piloting. This piloting phase is likely to occur during the second half of 2022. Kleynhans expects final deployments to start during 2023 and 2024. “Organisations aren’t in a huge rush to roll this out and will take their time,” he said. “This may change as we learn more about the OS [operating system], but I expect that for the next year, Windows 11 is mostly about consumers. Things will pick up quickly in the second half of 2023 until the end of support for Windows 10 in 2025.”

Along with validating the new operating system, IT departments will also need to check their PC hardware inventory, since older laptops and desktops circa 2017 may not meet the prerequisites for Windows 11.

In particular, older devices may not have the TPM 2.0 crypto processor required by Windows 11, which may impact the useful life of such PCs if the IT department plans to change its PC estate to Windows 11 and then reissue the devices to other users who do not require the latest hardware specifications.

Gartner PC market share data for the third quarter of 2021 shows that EMEA PC market grew 11.8% year over year to 23.5 million units. The analyst firm noted that this reflected a mixed picture of strong business demand and weakening consumer demand. Desktop PCs showed a robust growth of 23% year-over-year.

Mikako Kitagawa, research director at Gartner, said: “Business PC demand remained strong, led by economic recovery in key regions and the return of some workers to offices. However, business PC growth was concentrated in the desktop segment as semiconductor shortages continued to constrain laptop shipments. These component shortages are expected to persist into the first half of 2022.”

From a hardware asset management perspective, this means that desktop and laptop devices not compatible with Windows 11, which were purchased in 2017 or earlier, will be up for being replaced during 2022 as part of a PC refresh cycle. The new machines will have the necessary chipset to support Windows 11 – however, as Gartner noted, semiconductor shortages may delay this PC refresh.

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