Free Windows 10 Bad News for PC Makers

John Lister's picture

A research firm believes the free Windows 10 upgrade offer may have had a significant effect on new PC sales. It's part of an apparent pattern of users holding on to their old computers for longer.

Speaking to The Register, Ranjit Atwal of Gartner said the company surveyed people who had taken advantage of the upgrade. It found that one in five of those questioned had decided against plans to get a new computer after trying out the new system on their existing machines. Atwal claims Microsoft did not expect that figure to be so high. (Source:

In some ways the trend should have been predictable. Windows 10 is the latest in a series of new Windows editions where the minimum specifications are barely, if at all, increased over previous editions. That's likely the result of several factors including Microsoft becoming more efficient when implementing new features; Microsoft wanting to maximize the potential audience for upgrades; and the realization that more users are switching to notebook computers with lower specs than their desktop counterparts.

PCs Used Longer

The Gartner figures are backed by a statistic cited by Network World, showing that computers upgraded to Windows 10 in the US so far are on average four years old. That's said to be much higher than previous upgrade cycles. (Source:

The pattern may well be a factor in a distinct decline in PC sales. IDC estimated a 10.4 percent drop from 2014 to 2015, with other studies coming up with a similar proportional drop. (Source:

Other Trends Harming Sales

The decline is partly the result of people switching to tablet computers, particularly in place of laptops as a second device in a home that already has one computer. However, even with that trend, there's an argument PC sales should at worst have held steady given that the potential market continues to grow as more people in developing nations become wealthier.

Whatever the true mix of factors, Windows 10 may be bad news for PC makers. Given the planned introduction of a charge to upgrade to the new system after this month, it seems highly likely the vast majority of people who are planning to upgrade have either done so or will do in the coming days. That means any hardware sales bump from Windows 10 has already been exhausted.

What's Your Opinion?

Has the free upgrade to Windows 10 changed your PC buying plans? When and why do you next expect to replace your PC? If there really are no totally new editions of Windows in the future, will it be a big blow to the PC market?

Rate this article: 
Average: 4.7 (3 votes)


Dennis Faas's picture

I always enjoy reading articles about statistics and trends. One thing not mentioned in this article is that processor technology from around 2007+ made leaps and bounds - especially with quad core technology. Thus, people may still be holding on to their older PCs because there hasn't been any reason to upgrade.

Personally, I am still using my LGA-775 motherboard with an Intel Q9550 Quad Core (2.8 GHz) running at 3.6 GHz per core, overclocked. There has been no need for me to upgrade because my system is still plenty fast even by today's standards. This is especially true with the SSD configuration I've implemented in RAID format which is yielding 550mb/sec on reads and writes.

matt_2058's picture

Although the free Windows 10 didn't make a difference for me about a new hardware purchase, I'm sure it did for some.

As for hardware, I don't update unless I have a failure or there's been a major improvement in tech that I need. I don't know anyone that buys a new PC because there is a new version of Windows out. It's mostly because the PC can't run the programs they want and they'd rather buy a new one than update almost everything, including $100+ for a new copy of Windows.

The PC market won't suffer because of the extent of the Windows's going to suffer because people's habits change. This generation really doesn't need a computer for personal use. The phone and tablet can do almost everything. If the TV doesn't already have features built in, plug the hockey puck or USB stick in and....voila...large format browsing, email, videos, photos, etc. Wait a minute...even better...just link the tablet to the TV.

toothless byter's picture

Since my first hands-on both word processing and drawing on the time rental Macs at Kinkos circa 1986, followed by a prolonged 20 year resentment of all things Window from Dos to Win3.1, 98, XP, now win 7 which all were forced upon me because of the make-Bill-Gates-richest biz model where most usable biz managing and accounting software was PC based, pricey, exclusive, proprietary, including extorted annual support licenses and fees, I've become a non-computer geek. I can usually keep machines alive, imperfectly, to handle the business software, print things, backup and restore ok, etc.
I saw the addictive potential for gaming, playing the earliest "space invaders" by staring at a six inch oscilloscope screen until 3am in a Northwestern computer lab circa 1975. My prescient joke, that boomers invented computers so they could make a living in front of the TV screens they grew up watching, seems ever more accurate; however, now it seems the repercussions of screen obsession has permeated all worldly actions, no matter how mundane. "There's an app for that" really says "A clever geek is making money off your inability to connect directly with the real world". I digress.
The win 10 paradigm shift is vaguely disturbing. Previous "OS upgrades" have been exasperating in also forcing major interface or GUI changes upon us, who had finally grown familiar enough to make a computer do our bidding, more or less. We have sometimes been able to install "classic" screens to facilitate working over constant re-learning the basics. Now, with forced updates and win 10 lasting for a decade, are we going to at last be given a dependable interface we can customize, or will we wake up and find a Bright, Shiny, New Version we didn't ask for one day, with unexpected changes and sudden inability to run perfectly functional programs we actually knew how to use? The myriad often free PC programs have been far more useful, flexible, and open-ended than the app model Apple has exploited; apps are to programs as Twitter is to literature, i.e. svelte quick ways to do one or two ridiculously narrow tasks, cleverly. The vast majority are inexpensive, only obligating you to turn over bit by bit little increments of your autonomy to an inanimate chunk of metal and plastic. What could possibly go wrong?