The Great Windows 11 Computer Extinction Experiment

There was a time when a new version of Windows was a really big deal, such the launch of Windows 95 for which the tones of the Rolling Stones’ Start me up could be heard across all manner of media outlets. Gradually over years this excitement has petered out, finally leaving us with Windows 10 that would, we were told, be the last ever version of the popular operating system and thence only receive continuous updates

But here we are in 2021, and a new Windows has been announced. Windows 11 will be the next latest and greatest from Redmond, but along with all the hoopla there has been an undercurrent of concern. Every new OS comes with a list of hardware requirements, but those for Windows 11 seem to go beyond the usual in their quest to cull older hardware. Aside from requiring Secure Boot and a Trusted Platform Module that’s caused a run on the devices, they’ve struck a load of surprisingly recent processors including those in some of their current Surface mobile PCs off their supported list, and it’s reported that they will even require laptops to have front-facing webcams if they wish to run Windows 11.

Out With The Old And In With The New

On some motherboards the TPM is a real module. FxJ, Public domain.
On some motherboards the TPM is a real module. FxJ, Public domain.

It makes absolute sense for a new operating system to lose support for legacy hardware, after all there is little point in their providing for owners of crusty old Pentiums or similar. The system requirements dropping support for 32-bit cores for example mirrors Windows 95’s abandonment of the 286 and earlier chips that had run the previous version, Windows 3.1. But in this case it seems as though they have wielded the axe a little too liberally, because a lot of owners of not-too ancient and certainly still pretty quick hardware will be left in the cold.

In the past there were accusations of a Microsoft/Intel duopoly idea that revolved around the chipmaker and OS vendor conspiring to advance each other’s products, and some commentators have revived it for this launch. A comparison between the 1990s and the present isn’t an easy one to make though, because the difference between the capabilities of a 386 desktop of 1990 and a Pentium 3 of 1999 through a decade in which Moore’s Law was at its height is so much more than for example that between between the first Intel i7 and the latest one. Is this simply Microsoft’s attempt to break with the need for so much of the backwards compatibility in which Windows is mired, and define a new PC for the 2020s? It will be interesting to see when the OS does finally land whether or not it will in fact run on some of the lesser machines, simply without official support.

A New OS Shouldn’t Cause An E-Waste Crisis

Burning cables to recover copper, Accra, Ghana. Muntaka Chasant [CC BY-SA 4.0]
Burning cables to recover copper, 2018, Accra, Ghana. Muntaka Chasant [CC BY-SA 4.0].
Moving on from applying a commentator’s magnifying glass to the new Windows, it’s worth looking further to the effect it will have on the PCs it leaves behind. If so many slightly older machines won’t be able to make the upgrade from Windows 10 it’s likely that a significant number will be discarded even though Windows 10 will continue to be supported until 2025, something that given the scale of the Windows userbase could represent a significant e-waste impact. And for many users, buying a new computer with the latest OS installed is more palatable than the thought of performing their own system upgrade, even if the hardware is still well supported in 11.

It’s likely a greater-than-average number of Hackaday readers are already users of alternative operating systems such as GNU/Linux, but expecting an ordinary Windows user to install a Linux distro on their machine is a pipedream. Perhaps the real impact of the Windows 11 launch will be a large and slowly dwindling Windows 10 population and a new mountain forming in the e-waste breaking centres of the developing countries who can least afford to deal with the consequences. I think that a new OS should have a better legacy than that.

294 thoughts on “The Great Windows 11 Computer Extinction Experiment

  1. That’s really awful. Even I had to deal with the mess for three days to sort out the issue with multi-booting and loosing some of data that I forgot to backup. In the end, I somehow managed to get it work. But in your case, you had to deal with it for 9 days straight and still got a disappointment.

  2. I’m smugly reading this on my HP DV-1000 with a BIOS date of 2006, running an up to date version of Ubuntu.
    It may not be as quick as my main laptop, also running up to date Linux, but it works just fine for most things.
    To put that in context for all you Windoze fanbois, this machine has a Windows XP CAL on the bottom.
    I plan on running it till it dies.

    1. That’s pretty much how GNU/Linux users come off as; smug. It’s great that you can still use that laptop, and Greenpeace salutes you for it, but not everyone *wants* to do that. Maybe they actually *like* Windows’ interface, or it’s filesystem, or whatever. Or maybe they don’t care about what their machine runs..

      Why would you project what you like onto other users and judge them for it, why not let everyone decide for themselves? Instead of pulling out phrases like ‘Windoze fanbois’ ..

  3. I switched from SunOS to Linux in early 1993, and never understood why anyone would want to choose an operating system from Microsoft. They essentially gave up on proper operating systems when they discontinued and sold off Xenix.

  4. MS also abolished HDD lights, which are useful to diagnose issues after an update or a slowly responding system (yes this still happens with SSDs — needs grow with growing resources).

    In general this drive to lock down the hardware and OS and remove more and more options is the down side of the PC having become so mainstream.

  5. I used to keep the size of wrench needed to put up the fence for our Fringe Festival in a comment on my webpage. But it wasn’t secret information, I just needed a place where I’d remember.

    The comment may still be there, I should check.

    1. This is really for donating to UNICEF and was taken from their site. Though anyone actually wishing to shovel funds in their direction would best use a more direct method than random numbers here…

  6. It’s bizarre to me that Microsoft would *require* a computer to have a baked in webcam. There’s literally no reason for that. If they insist on going forward with that, say goodbye to ever getting a DOD contract again- Pentagon requirements dictate that not only DOD computers but any contractors have computers without webcams. Have to imagine that’ll put a dent in their pocketbook when possibly their biggest customer refuses to upgrade current hardware to the new OS and abandons Wintel for future hardware purchases.

  7. Foldi, I like how you claim I’m lying and then instantly roundabout admit that it’s true. The only cases where Linux “just works” is when you have almost no requirements of it.

    > in the Linux world if you wish to you can put all the dependencies into one “executable” and have it run however you like

    I wish they would, but they don’t! That’s the entire point.

  8. No doubt the clever bods who “ameliorated” Windows 10 are already dissecting and studying the leaked Windows 11 iso.

    In the mean time 10 is still supported until 2025, so what’s the hurry?

    But all this is academic as far as I’m concerned – Annoyingly happy Debian user here.

  9. > expecting an ordinary Windows user to install a Linux distro on their machine is a pipedream

    I agree, but it’s also a pipedream to expect the average Windows user to _install Windows_ . It’s too scary for most people; they’ll just keep using whatever the machine came with until a more tech savvy family member does the upgrade for them. I’ve installed Linux for several such family members because they only needed a modern browser, the OS didn’t really matter. I dare say that to people like this, going from Windows 10 to 11 would probably be more jarring than going from Windows 10 to Linux Mint.

    (I think the reason people use Windows is not because they like it so much, but because they need to use MS Office for work or school. That and [games]( )

  10. There is a conglomerate of companies out there who want to bake the tracking business right onto the cpu, in the name of a better society. I could be wrong, but Microsoft and Intel, among others are in it. This is what the new hardware requirements are about.

  11. Me here having previously worked for a marketing software company, already using a MS account and having a TPM firmware based CPU:


    But no seriously if your concern is MICROSOFT, you are actually blind to who’s tracking you and how. And yeah you might be able to block one way… Hell you might even block six ways but all they need is one. And frankly I really hope none of you have a Facebook account… Or touch anything that uses Facebook tracking at all even if you don’t.

    Because that stuff is incessantly horrifying.

    And they don’t even really need to do all of this crazy stuff that you think they need to do to track you. It’s way simpler than you guys think it is. Hell even Google’s move away from cookies which by the way aren’t entirely evil because you need them to store session data to be able to do things like single sign on and stuff like that, well…

    I’m going to be blunt here: I’m sure you’re all on more than one email list…

  12. Another Reason to Move your Company to Linux. They are Literally forcing you to leave them. The cost to Medical facilities alone will be astronomical do to HIPPA requirements Microsoft uses to force upgrades after they drop support. In house servers are cheaper, and there are alternatives to office and Adobe, “Libre Office”. It’s time to drop the money pit and move on to a less financial adsorbent solution.

    1. Change is difficult for “Big Business”, and even more so for county, state and federal groups.
      Linux powers much of the interwebs, yet the above groups cling to what once worked, and damn the cost.
      Way back, I had the first PC network, (Local only) that was set up in a rental construction trailer here in Los Angeles.
      We were building a county power station. Three PCs, one printer, one plotter, and one Unix CAD station.
      Our IT group freaked out that hey were loosing control, and wanted to keep the client server schema going.
      Six months later, every group had PCs and the future was now.
      I was lucky enough to be there for the switch over..

  13. Microsoft having issues explaining new hardware requirements? Lol. They know exactly what they are doing. This isn’t for the generations who care about such shenanigans, this is forward thinking stuff with acceptable losses for the hear and now crowd. There is no new feature they can introduce that would justify all new hardware, no groundbreaking feature that couldn’t be scabbed onto the existing. PC functionality is good enough for the world to go around on a daily basis, nevermind all new hardware for it to continue to go round. They are having trouble explaining the new hardware requirement because they don’t want to say why, simple as that. This is scootchy beyond. As a side bonus, think of who stands to gain tremendous profits if millions of new computers had to hit market beyond what is produced now? Sort of like if it was dictated no new cars and trucks could be made with gas engines, all electric. Who would most benefit (profit) from that? And who pays that price. In return you get frosted tiles with rounded corners, tool bar now here, more intergrated xbox experience, teams something or other, please. Nothing new under the sun.

  14. Somewhere between 6 and 9 years ago I got an free second hand PC from a brother of mine, and that started with a bunch of blue tiles of death, and did not have a decent start menu.
    I had no interest in M$ trying to force me into whatever their intention was with that *&^%$#@! and it was the final straw for me to permanently switch to Linux, and I have not used software from that company after that day. (Except maybe for a handful of mouse clicks in 10 minutes on somebody else’s computer)

    So from that standpoint I do not care much about their latest extortion experiment.
    Maybe some good things come from this if more people decide they’re finally fed up with being bullied around and switch to something else.

  15. Isn’t this a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the Wizards of Linux to slap a really good GUI on it, clean up the rough edges, and package it better for the consumer? Same with applications! How about one like…Windows 7? :)

  16. I’m pretty sick MS and the tyranny of windows 11 req’s. Windows 10 has been nice, but I’m switching more to Linux if they make me can my workstations. I hooked up an external drive to a win10 box that had TPM 2.0 and bitlocker was on by default. It decided to half-ass encrypt my drive (didn’t complete) and made it useless when I returned it to the original machine. Luckily I had made an Acronis backup image of the drive a few days earlier.

  17. Many years ago I had been “playin'” with linux(Puppy and Debian) I had begged my wife to switch. “NO—I know windoze”
    Her laptop died and I got her a Sony VIO with Vista…… 3 days later I had her on linux and she still is today
    and LOVES IT

  18. I just load window 7 x64 on any old laptop turn off updates, activate with hack tool. And it runs. Never had a problem.
    Can’t see why not to continue this way. All this security theater is just to scare you into swallowing the latest all the time

  19. I expect that windows can be installed on a virtual machine, which should bypass the TPM requirement. Industry would be insanely angry if windows 11 could not be installed on a virtual machine. Has anyone tried that on “unsupported” HW yet?

  20. With all the Windows users sheeple that will dutifully buy new hardware so they can move on to Windows 11 and stay under an official support umbrella (while surrendering to a total lock-down experience), this will be a bonanza of highly capable used computers to those of us using Linux, FreeBSD, etc.

    Enterprising eBay resellers should start approaching large corporations that will be replacing their fleets of Windows hardware with new, so that they can line them up to acquire and resell their retired hardware.

    Here’s the deal: fairly recently I purchased a 2011 MacMini off of ebay. This computer is ten year old hardware, but was equipped with 124GB SSD and maxed out to 16GB of memory. It came with MacOS High Sierra (the 2017 release that saw intro of the new Apple file system) and it’s still receiving security updates from Apple. It’s the max OS release that Apple supports on this hardware. The online Apple store will not allow a lot of the latest software apps to be installed on this computer, but it’s sporting the very latest Brave browser, Spotify, and has latest version of LibreOffice for the Mac, which the Mac flavor is rather nice. And it has Homebrew for installing Unix-flavored packaged programs. IOW, on this computer I can get and install software from other sources than the controlled and highly locked down Apple app store.

    This computer has a dual core Intel 64-bit CPU running at 2.3 GHz. It plays YouTube videos just fine. The desktop UI is plenty responsive. And 16GB of memory is ample (and I could install a 2nd SSD for yet more storage if wanted to – IOW, essentially unlimited storage potential).

    (This computer was given to a family member as their daily driver where it is serving very satisfactorily.)

    This computer is plenty ample for vast majority of computer users, with only serious gamers and high-end image, video, sound editing workflows really needing more capability than this.

    What am saying is that the end of history of desktop computing was reached a full decade ago.

    PC computer hardware made over the last decade will tend to represent highly utilitarian computing for most users and Linux OS will be there to keep it vibrant and useful for years to come. And freedom, autonomy, privacy will continue to be the cherished hallmarks for this community while everyone else on Microsoft, Apple, and Google operating systems are being herded into full-blown Orwellian dystopia.

  21. Realistically, it isn’t going to cause an e-waste crisis. All I can say to people is once Windows 10 loses support and you’re left in the cold… Find a different system to try out. No I am not pushing Linux, I am saying to do some research and see if you can keep your computer running. Plenty of systems out there that aren’t Windows that can keep a PC running for way longer than Windows ever could, or even MacOS at that matter. Eventually all computers lose support, even with the alternatives… or the hardware just outright dies. But there’s choice. Instead of everyone panicking over Windows 11… Do some Googling. If Linux is something you want to research, do so. BSD is good too… And Haiku is an up and coming decent system (but at this point still in beta).

  22. I’ve been busy setting up a switch over from Window$ to Ubuntu for a customer,
    Purchased two (For a start) System 76 Linux “Meerkat” Mini computers, kitted out with Intel core i7 CPUs running at 1.61 Ghz, 32 gig ram, HDMI and Thundersquat connections for dual video. The first system was installed yesterday, and all seems good. The customer does most work in the browser so it’s a good fit. As a safety valve, customer requested dual boot with MS. Some here may know Pop_OS doesn’t like to share, so an install of Ubuntu and MS solved this minor issue. Rocket fast dual screen system that works well. What’s not to like. Next week I’ll install the second system. On a related note, System 76 was picked due the the hardware being Linux certified.

  23. Windows unfortunately is not just a OS anymore. Microsoft has crammed so much other crap into it by default. Remember when Microsoft complained about PC makers cramming stuff onto their PC’s? Yeah, now Microsoft is doing the same with its own stuff. Luckily it’s mostly simple to uninstall a lot of it. But I much prefer more of a basic OS without all the baggage. Now Microsoft’s pushes harder on Microsoft account sign ins. This isn’t needed but Microsoft is trying to hook you into their ecosystem. Not only does it sign you into Windows but a lot of other Microsoft apps as well. Whether you use them or not. Yes, it’s a frustrating experience to setup Windows anymore.

    1. Sun Microsystems introduced the slogan “The network is the computer” in 1984. Too bad they couldn’t really build the whole network. Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft seem to have taken it to heart, though. But as long as there are unconnected microcontrollers, I will still own my own computer.

  24. Mobile devices moved a while back to the idea of root of trust computing. It’s about time Windows moved to it mandatory wise, which is mostly security wise by having the TPM be used to establish root of trust. Enterprises will benefit more since they will use windows application control to whitelist apps, and more advanced uses of TPM for more secure computing. Most other users won’t really be using all the benefits besides usual UEFI and secure boot.

  25. So Microsoft either didn’t lean from, or don’t care that the repercussions of “Cash for Clunkers” was an enormous increase in used car prices for the economically disadvantaged. The TPM 2.0 “requirement” for Windows 11 is just as pathetic of a “FU” to those who can easily live with the performance of an i5 or i7 4th Gen and above running with 8Gb of RAM and a 256Gb SSD as that was for people buying aged used cars. This is when I REALLY wish that the “next version of Linux will replace Windows” was actually a possibility.

    1. Things like Microsoft arbitrarily obsoleting your computer just might make that happen. Honestly, if many people can get by with a Chromebook, at least as many others can switch to Linux, nearly painlessly. Of course, it won’t happen until they announce end of support for Windows 10.

  26. Funny, I have been Using Microsoft products since PC DOS 1.0 (1981) and the fact is I have not run into 1 major issue ever from DOS 1.0 to Windows 11 EVER. So that being said, maybe users should read the Recommendations for the minimum requirements and not ignore the warnings and Install Windows 11 in spite of. In my experienced opinion, these issues everyone speaks of are mainly “user error”. I mean if ever an issues has appeared it only took at most, 30 minutes of research to fix the issue on my own. So stop moaning and groaning because your cheap “budget” HP or Dell or some other bottom of the barrel Laptop or PC crashes or loses data. I mean how is it possible that in almost 40 years I have never had an issue that really irritated me because whatever it was was a simple fix. Did I lose data NO. Why? Because I always had multiple backups due to the fact that any software can be unpredictable and knowing this why would I not have backup(s)? If your going to use any tech, Smart Phones, Smart Watches, Tablets, PC’s or Macs maybe try actually learning A little about the Tech. If you want a REAL PC , build your own and learn as you do…

  27. There will be lucky ones who gladly pick up so called old hardware that is still performance capable. Running under Linux those devices will be long lived still for years to come. Linux has become more user friendly and developed better as Win11, in all terms possible. Linux was allays high performance OS, where Win11 OS only has to began to scratch on that one (better memory management). On linux u have root security on win u do not. So long live what ever can run Linux.

  28. I just flipped the script. I found two Apple “Mini” computers at the infamous “TRW” Swap meet. (Los Angeles) Priced at $25 USD each, I bought them. One Is Now Loaded With Linux Mint, and The Other Is Booting with Windows 11 Pro. The two “Utilities” that seem to work installing MS on a Older machine are “Rufus” And “Ventoy”.
    Both Apple Machines are Core i5 With 4 Gig Ram. 500 gig HD, But they do boot and run.

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