Still using Windows 10? Time’s running out to upgrade

Consumers still using Windows 10 will soon have to make a key decision about their PCs

Wednesday, 15 May, 2024

With the launch of Windows 11 a couple of years ago, Microsoft managed something it has often struggled to achieve historically – replacing one good Windows platform with another.

History shows that this is far from assured.

The enduringly successful Windows 98 was followed by the short-lived and unstable ME, while the adored XP gave way to the bloated and unpopular Vista.

Windows 7 was widely praised as a quality product, yet Windows 8 infamously failed to combine desktop and tablet functionality into a unified operating system.

When Windows 10 put right the many design and usability issues encountered in 8, PC users breathed a sigh of relief – until its replacement was announced.

Happily, Windows 11 has also been a success. It’s stable, flexible and powerful – which might reassure anyone still using Windows 10 on their home or office PCs.

The older operating system is approaching its final year of official support before Microsoft stops supporting it.

Once that happens, devices still running Windows 10 will become far more susceptible to malware and viruses, while emerging security issues will no longer be addressed.

The perfect 10

Given its popularity and stability, it might seem surprising that Microsoft would remove legacy support for Windows 10, especially given its flexibility and time-saving shortcuts.

Yet this is what the company does, as evidenced by its Modern Lifecycle Policy explicitly stating Windows 10 will lose support in October of next year.

The software will work thereafter, but there’ll be no more updates. If a flaw is discovered which compromises user safety, Microsoft won’t address it.

This means the software almost immediately becomes vulnerable to hacking and malware, while newly launched apps may not work on it and updates to existing ones may also fail.

In some instances, the obvious workaround would be to simply upgrade to Windows 11, which is expected to receive support until the next decade.

However, that may not necessarily be possible…

The hard sell

In the coming months, some Windows 10 owners will be invited to install 11 as a free upgrade.

However, not all devices can support the stringent technical criteria required for Windows 11 to operate. An estimated 400 million PCs will be prevented from upgrading.

Minimum specifications include a 1GHz processor, 4GB of RAM and a graphics card compatible with DirectX 12 or later. Less explicably, many pre-2019 CPUs will also be ineligible.

Devices not fully compliant with Microsoft’s lengthy list of technical criteria will be unable to upgrade – and therefore become obsolete in less than 18 months’ time.

This is a particular problem if you rely on software which either hasn’t been released for the newest version of Windows, or isn’t going to be.

What are my options?

If your computer isn’t eligible for a free upgrade, one option is to maintain an operating system that’s out of date and no longer being supported.

You’d need a robust antivirus package and a willingness to avoid risky activities like peer-to-peer file sharing. Even then, software packages might start to report errors, or not work at all.

Another costly option is to pay buy Microsoft’s Extended Security Options software package, enabling you to safely continue using Windows 10.

This subscription-based package could extend a PC’s lifespan by up to three years, though costs are likely to run into three figures per device following a discounted first year.

(When a similar scheme was rolled out for Windows 7 users, tools were created by third parties which enabled individual users to install ESUs without actually paying.)

You could install the Linux operating system onto your device. Linux comes in a variety of competing versions and still supports most PC software.

Another technical option is to physically replace ineligible components inside a tower PC with 11-compatible hardware, such as installing more RAM or upgrading the graphics card.

The most expensive option is to purchase a new desktop or laptop PC with Windows 11 baked into it.

This also involves transferring data from one device onto another – a task made more complex if you don’t use cloud services like OneDrive.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!