Following a challenging period, the PC market is positioned for an upswing, according to the latest findings from Canalys, anticipating an 8% growth in 2024. This optimism is largely underpinned by the emergence of new AI-enabled PCs and customers' intent to upgrade pandemic-era machines, both of which are expected to infuse fresh energy into the market. Another notable driving force will be Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 11, which is predicted to induce additional growth in the market.
However, the impending end of support for Microsoft's Windows 10, in October 2025, could thwart second-life opportunities for numerous devices. In light of this, Canalys estimates that close to a quarter (240 million) of these PCs risk becoming electronic waste due to their incompatibility with the new Windows 11 OS. Depicting the enormity of this figure, the firm notes that 240 million folded laptops would construct a pile over 600km taller than the moon.
While these 240 million PCs may still be functional for years ahead, their attractiveness will likely fade due to the absence of ongoing support from Microsoft. Even for companies challenged with stringent IT budgets, the unavailability of free and continual security updates seriously demeans their value. The circularity drive in the PC market could be stunted as the industry grapples with the e-waste problem—a situation exacerbated by the inability of partners to renovate and retail PCs unsupported by Windows 11.
In a bid to prolong the lifecycle of PCs ineligible for Windows 11, Microsoft has announced the availability of its Extended Security Updates for Windows 10 until October 2028—but these come with a yet-to-be-confirmed annual cost. However, the potentially high price of these updates could essentially close the door on many users, making migration to newer, Windows 11-compatible PCs a more cost-effective option. Consequently, the discontinued support for Windows 10 may essentially force older PCs into obsolescence.
The prevailing situation underscores the responsibility of both device and operating system vendors in prolonging the usable lifespan of their products. As Canalys emphasises, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) need to infuse durability, repairability, and recyclability into their products’ design, while operating system vendors should ensure these are usable and secure for an extended duration. Such collective efforts by end users, partners, and IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) specialists can help prevent the premature disposal of devices, offering them a second life through repair, redeployment, refurbishment and reselling—critical steps towards a circular economy.
With no immediate regulatory measures to accelerate change within the PC market, cross-industry collaboration remains the most effective solution to sustainably address the mounting e-waste problem. Furthermore, Canalys calls for efforts to be made to support digital equity, ensuring disadvantaged communities worldwide have equal access to information technology and can harness its full potential.