computer lab - software e-waste

400 Million PCs to be Trashed?

Shawn Stockman | December 13, 2023

We often think of used computer equipment becoming e-waste when it mechanically stops functioning, which has spawned the movement toward the Right to Repair for all kinds of consumer items. But that is only half the story. For all the old news about built-in obsolescence, there is a less obvious driver of electronics being tossed into the e-waste bin, and that is when the software that runs it becomes unsecure or unstable–or unsupported. 

For the business community (including healthcare and education), security, instability or lack of support will drive IT asset managers to replace old hardware that poses a risk to the organization. Software obsolescence drives hardware replacement–and therefore e-waste.

This is why it is particularly distressing when a dominant software provider like Microsoft decides to stop supporting software as ubiquitous as Windows 10, an event slated for October 2025. After the support stops, 40% of the 1 billion devices running Windows 10 will be unable to upgrade to Windows 11, rendering 400 million PCs unusable.

The Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), a nonprofit focused on consumer protection, has gathered more than 20,000 signatures to petition Microsoft to extend their support and security patches for Windows 10 beyond 2025.

A recent announcement from the company appears to be an effort to address this, suggesting that consumers will be given the option for the first time to pay for three years of extended security updates past 2025, with pricing and other details to be released at a later date. This continues to leave the question however, if consumers will pay, how large the environmental impact will be after those three years, and if enough is being done to prevent it altogether.

Previously Microsoft has extended support for older operating systems. Windows XP received security updates for 13 years, and it still worked on 30% of computers worldwide after the updates ended. Windows 10 was also compatible with older machines.

Decisions like these by global players in the IT industry are at the heart of what drives reuse–or e-waste. Check out the full story here and follow Onepak for continued industry updates.  

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