No one is going to go buy a new PC just for Windows 11

Windows 11 Widget Surface Pro
Windows 11 Widget Surface Pro (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Ever since Microsoft announced Windows 11, the most contentious issue easily has been which PCs qualify for the upgrade. In a surprising move, Microsoft made a hard cut-off for computers that don't meet specific security requirements (TPM, Secure Boot, etc.) or don't obey DCH design principles (opens in new tab).

Of course, like always, Microsoft was its own worst enemy here, flubbing the explanation, not offering enough detail, and providing a weak (and flawed) tool to check hardware eligibility.

But one conspiracy theory is Microsoft is making this all up because it wants to sell more PCs!

Putting aside objective reasoning for the requirements like security, reducing ransomware, and even the fact that non-eligible PCs have much higher kernel crashes, the idea that people will now buy a new computer just to have Windows 11 is stupid.

It's a useful foil ― a greedy corporation, lots of handwaving on confusing CPU requirements, and it's 2021, with trust in institutions being at an all-time low. It just makes sense, right?

Here are a few reasons why that line of thought is wrong and doesn't even matter.

People don't buy expensive computers for new OSs

HP ENVY 32 AiO

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Sure, Microsoft transformed the world, making "OS upgrades" a familiar subject, but Apple made it an annual ritual with the iPhone. Google followed with Android, but it never quite rings as loud as Apple's yearly proclamations of improved user experience, wiggly icons, and the worst notification system ever.

Microsoft's most significant OS upgrades either made the GUI popular (Windows 3.1), focused on the internet (Windows 95), or made you hate your computer (Windows Vista, Windows 8).

Windows 11 is a "reinvigoration" of Windows 10 ― it's not exactly groundbreaking.

And ordinary people don't go and buy new hardware just for the OS experience. At least with Windows 8, there was some radically new hardware with the advent of the 2-in-1 and tablet-style PCs.

With Windows 11, so far, we have not seen any of that, which leads to …

… People do buy new PCs because of hardware

This remark shouldn't be shocking: Individuals only buy new laptops or desktop PCs when they need new a new PC.

There are lots of reasons to get a new computer in 2021: Faster processor, ten hours of battery life, Thunderbolt 4, more powerful GPU, higher resolution display, ultra-light designs, new form factor, touchscreen, pen, 4G LTE/5G, etc.

Heck, Microsoft is likely to give you a few reasons on September 22.

But a new OS? Come on.

Some of you call Windows 11 "lipstick on a pig." And yet we're also to believe Windows 11 is a plot to get people to buy new computers because it's so seductive and alluring that people need it. At least get your BS straight.

If you are running a 2017 Surface Laptop that costs you $1,300, you're unlikely to want to get Surface Laptop 4 just to run Windows 11. Most people don't have that spare budget, especially with phone upgrades being a much more popular expense.

Don't believe me? Back in 2016, Intel embarrassingly noted that the replacement cycle for laptops slowed to "every five to six years" for consumers. Enterprise is usually every three to four years. According to Statista the average replacement cycle length for desktop PCs in 2020 is six years.

PCs are like cars: You only buy one when you absolutely must.

You can load Windows 11 on just about anything

Fire up a USB drive with a Windows 11 ISO using the Media Creation Tool, and you can put Windows 11 on unsupported hardware. Problem solved.

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Sure, the media is confused because Microsoft states that this will result in the PC being in an "unsupported state." This statement means Microsoft won't commit to updates, drivers, or helping you fix something if it goes wrong ― you're on your own, technically.

But Windows 10 also has CPU requirements (opens in new tab). Intel even has a fancy tool to check your processor. Sound familiar? People still get cumulative monthly patches, updated drivers and experienced no issues (besides running that legacy hardware).

Microsoft won't come out and guarantee monthly updates because that would undermine the concept of "unsupported." But Microsoft would rather have this gray area instead of thousands of computers running outdated Windows 11 builds that are now vulnerable to attacks from viruses, ransomware, or even botnets.

Microsoft doesn't owe you Windows 11

It's worth noting that when you bought your computer, you purchased a license for Windows 10. That's it. Microsoft is not obligated to give you a new OS.

I realize that is very harsh and insensitive, but that's the truth.

Microsoft guarantees support for Windows 10 through October 14, 2025. They intend to deliver on that promise. That's what you agreed to when you clicked "Accept" during the out-of-box experience (OOBE).

In light of Windows 11, should Microsoft extend support for Windows 10 beyond 2025? Yeah, I think they ought to, and I'll be shocked if they don't. But we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. My hunch is that Microsoft tacks on at least another year or two because many people will still use it daily.

Sure, it's nice that newer computers get Windows 11, but it's also mostly a visual refresh adapting to how we work in 2021 versus 2015. While it looks better, Windows 11 technically does what Windows 10 can do today. There's just more security, a better update process, a new layout, and new integrations (like Microsoft Teams).

And customers on Windows 10 are not being left behind. New updates are coming soon. There is no fragmentation to worry about, no app or developer angles either.

The PC is back, and the data proves it

Laptop Logos Apple Dell Ms Yoga Hp

Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

Finally, I'm not naïve, and neither are you. Microsoft absolutely wants to sell Windows 11 licenses, and they do that through increased sales of PCs. That is Microsoft's business, after all.

But the world has changed dramatically in the last 18 months. PC sales are already up year-over-year. Dell just had a record quarter, and Lenovo is absolutely crushing it. Meanwhile, HP and Microsoft are both down, but only because neither can get enough chips to ship their product, not because demand is weak.

All of this was accomplished without Windows 11.

The rise in PC sales is not a blip due to the pandemic ― it's a permanent change. Here's what Lenovo, the #1 PC shipper on the planet, had to say (opens in new tab) just three weeks ago:

The pandemic has changed how people live and work, with PCs returning to the center of digital lives. The PC refreshment cycle has shortened, the penetration rate has increased, and the total PC demand until 2025 will at least remain at current levels, with commercial demand rebounding quickly.

That was in Lenovo's latest numbers where it reported "a record first-quarter … [driven by] strong performance in PCs." And Micron Technology, who make DRAM and NAND chips for computers, claimed "nearly 1 million sales every day of PC " back in May.

I noted above that the average cycle for laptops upgrades was five to six years. Lenovo is claiming that it has shortened. Moreover, they see this strong PC market continuing for the next three years."

Let that sink in. The PC is back.

Windows 11: The right OS, for the right time

The critics have it backwards. Microsoft doesn't need Windows 11 to sell new PCs. The market is already demanding them. It just so happens that all those who need to buy new computers will also get a shiny new OS from now on.

Microsoft is betting you're going to buy a new PC in the next three years, not because of Windows 11, but because the new world we live in with remote work, streaming, online collaboration, gaming, and creativity demands it. Here is what Brian Lynch, Research Analyst at Canalys said on August 25:

It is clear now that pandemic-related use cases will extend well into the future. This points toward a significant refresh opportunity in the future – fantastic news for PC vendors and their channel and ecosystem partners. The commercial and education segments have exploded, triggering tremendous refresh potential. The US economy has bounced back well from its pandemic woes, and small businesses are recovering, which will lead to a wave of purchasing from the segment.

For once, Microsoft is there to meet this market at a pivotal moment with an OS that reflects that new world.

You see, Microsoft doesn't need Windows 11 to convince you to buy a new PC. That's already occurring. There is no devious plot, just good timing. Let's just hope Microsoft works out all the kinks before October 5.

Daniel Rubino
Editor-in-chief

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

48 Comments
  • PCs are like cars: You only buy one when you absolutely must. Like Idk, from an unsupported OS to a supported OS?
  • That seems like an argument better suited for October 14, 2025 (if not later, if at all).
  • Yeah, most people don't change PC because of OS. Just like people don't change cars simply because the new one has Bluetooth function. Which can be even integrated to existing car anyways. Not to mention, Windows 10 will be continuing to be supported till 2025, which is quite a long time and should be enough time that people at that time may get a new PC anyways if they still need it. Not to mention, considering several essential and OS basic features are not even present on first WIndows 11 release, might as well skip this for now. Save some headaches not dealing with missing features that may affect workflow of the user like the lack of drag-and-drop on Taskbar for example.
  • Perhaps you don't realize cars have a similar lifecycle.
    Original parts are not made forever, most big manufacturers require parts suppliers to keep the original stuff only for 5 to 10 years after the production ends, for more popular models.
    With only a few exceptions during the whole history (2 or 3), recalls are never done after this cycle ends.
    Cars do indeed have very similar lifecycle to computers. The cycle is only approximately twice as long, recently perhaps even a bit shorter.
  • Unless you lease a car or have lots of money people done rdpkace them every 4 years. I normally keep mine at least 10 years if they were bought from new. Actually my desktop PC has just turned 10 and runs Win 11 just fine.
  • "The right OS the right time."
    Win11 is indeed on a lucky schedule for Microsoft. I bet it is coincidental. Usually MS is late for everything by a year or so.
  • What is getting lost in the way MS is explaining it is that this as about security. The older chips just can’t be secured. Remember SPECTRE and Meltdown? The OS patches were a kludge and masked a problem that only new silicon could fix. The newer chips also have better virtualization capabilities that can enhance security. If MS allows the OS to be dumbed down then that also provides an attack surface for the miscreants to exploit. It is way more than a TPM and 8th gen processor.
  • Yup. When people think of Windows and cliches two things come to mind: BSOD Viruses Windows 11 is looking to draw a line in the sand to attack both of those things. Apple and Google both run ads still targeting those weaknesses. Seeing Microsoft tackle that through hardware requirements is a good thing. I also agree that the security part is super technical and tough for average people to understand e.g. TPM, and DCH drivers, etc.
  • I want back and looked and sure enough, the Intel chips had hardware specter fixes as of 8xxx. It probably would have been a good idea for Microsoft to lead with information like that. Thanks for bringing up that point.
  • Microsoft is absolutely trash when it comes to communication. Like it's mind-boggling at times how they can be so out of touch with executing coherent and sensical means to explanations along the need to try to please EVERYONE.
    Make a move, have strong reasoning, stand on it!
  • I remember someone saying. why is Microsoft not allowing win11 to a lot more people running win10, then help those with lower specs aka the "unsupported devices" in the eyes of microsoft to run windows 11 better/optimized. Sure it requires more work but how will the future look like if windows 12 launches. Get the latest hardware or get screwed cause your 1 year old device isn't good enough? If you want to build a decent install base and keep it and have everyone go from the same OS to the next, how microsoft handles win11, is not the way.
  • " with lower specs aka the "unsupported devices" in the eyes of microsoft to run windows 11 better/optimized."
    If I'm reading this correctly you're under the impression that the reason for the hardware requirements is performance related. It's not. It's for 1. Security 2. Drivers/crashing of the kernel likely related to no DCH drivers. How well it runs e.g. speed is not a concern or issue.
    "Get the latest hardware or get screwed cause your 1 year old device isn't good enough?"
    No one is talking about one-year-old devices, nor are we talking about Windows 12 (which, if it were to happen, is likely another 3-5 years away).
    "If you want to build a decent install base and keep it and have everyone go from the same OS to the next, how microsoft handles win11, is not the way."
    All evidence points to PC sales being way up and continuing for the next few years regardless of the OS. I don't think keeping "a decent install base" is an issue. Is there evidence to suggest Microsoft should be worried?
  • So when will we start seeing "Windows 11 Compatible" advertising? As it stands, there are probably many, albeit lower priced, systems on the market now that wouldn't be upgradable. It sure would be nice to know which ones are.
  • "So when will we start seeing "Windows 11 Compatible" advertising? "
    Dell already started. I'm sure we'll see similar actions from other companies.
  • I agree that there's no conspiracy and that those are pretty stupid theories, because they always try to see a complex world from a single and simple perspective. For the same reason I don't agree that Windows 11 isn't absolutely about marketing, as you seem to claim. If the OS doesn't affect the PC sales at all, why bother changing the OS name? Why do PC makers put the "last Windows" mark on their commercials? Obviously, Microsoft has always helped the hardware producers to create that sense of innovation so useful to sell technology. And they are doing it again with windows 11. Sure, there's security and all (although tech giants have always magnified such issues), but there's also marketing, a lot. And yes, probably it isn't necessary for the market, but that doesn't mean it's not useful. Which it is and it's ok. The new name and the new hardware requirements are surely not only for our good (single perspective, remember?). I hope it will be a great OS anyway.
  • "If the OS doesn't affect the PC sales at all, why bother changing the OS name? "
    I'm not quite saying that. Think of Win11 as the cherry on top of this sundae. It's an extra bonus that PC makers get to advertise/promote with new hardware to make this "PC wave" even better. But MS didn't make Windows 11 to drive new sales or push a lagging market. It did it because how we use computers changed in the last 18 months. Don't forget, Windows 11 was only in development for about one year (mostly because a lot of the work was from 10X). We first heard 10X was "on ice" back in May ― just 4 months ago ― so that it could focus "efforts on rejuvenating Windows 10 desktop instead." We first heard about "Sun Valley" (big Windows 10 UI refresh) in October 2020. Microsoft pivoted, quickly, from 10X (dual screen, new devices) to single screen because it saw the market rapidly changing in favor of traditional PCs, which is exactly what is now happening.
  • Hi Daniel, I am glad they pivoted from that idea of increasing again the versions of Windows (so much confusion in the past). I didn't like either the concept of Windows 10 as "the last version forever", a little pretentious I guess. So, I'm ok with the choice to do Windows 11, except for those too many "Apple like" features. With respect to the PC market, I'd say it's a pretty big cherry :) They understandably want to ride the wave.
    In what aspects do you think we changed the way we use PCs? I feel more like what changed was the quantity and not much the quality of use. I like this growth cause I'm not fond of an only-mobile OS society. This is why I hoped Microsoft had made a smartphone and PC in one device but they didn't believe it enough, also for the economical reasons to continue selling more categories of devices...
    The market has not changed but rather stayed with more traditional devices, in the sense that the prediction of an imminent "foldable revolution" was simply wrong, wasn't it?
  • I agree on a few points. People buy PCs to get to the latest software.
  • And the OS is a fundamental part of that software experience. The author is simply wrong. To