There was a time shortly after the release of Windows 10 when Microsoft often released specific adoption numbers, which trumpeted how quickly the then new free update was adopted by users of Windows 7 and Windows 8. The company has not repeated this strategy for Windows 11, which lets us rely on third-party data to see how fast people pick up the new OS.
We’ve pulled a few months’ worth of Steam Hardware & Software Survey data and compared it to the months immediately following the release of Windows 10. This data is imperfect and inevitably a bit noisy – Steam users have to voluntarily submit the data – but the difference in adoption is large enough for us to at least draw some conclusions.
Windows 11 was released to the public in October 2021, and Windows 10 was released in July 2015. In both cases, we used the Internet Wayback Machine to dig out seven months of data, including the month immediately prior to the release of each operating system. We mapped the usage figures for 64-bit versions of the operating systems (32-bit versions, along with versions like Vista and XP, are grouped in “other”), and combined the figures for Windows 8.1 and 8.0.
The result is that Steam users migrate to Windows 11 about half as fast as they moved to Windows 10. Six months after release, Windows 10 ran on 31 percent of all Steam computers – almost every third. As of March 2022, Windows 11 runs on just under 17 percent of Steam computers – about one in six. Three-quarters of all Steam computers in 2022 are still running Windows 10.
It’s easy to interpret these findings as an indictment of Windows 11, which caused quite a bit of controversy with its relatively strict (and often poorly explained) security-oriented system requirements. At least some of this slow takeover is caused by these system requirements – many of the PCs investigated by Steam probably can not install Windows 11. This may be because users have an older unsupported CPU or have one or more of the required security features disabled; Secure Boot and the firmware TPM were often turned off by default on new motherboards for many years.
But there are other compelling explanations. The adoption of Windows 11 looks slow compared to Windows 10, but the adoption of Windows 10 was also exceptionally good.
Windows 8 and 8.1 were not popular to say the least, and Windows 10 was framed as a response to (and a fix to) most of Windows 8’s user interface changes. And people who were still on Windows 7 missed out on some of the great additions to quality of life and improvements under the hood that Windows 8 added.
You can see the pent-up demand in the jump between July 2015 and September 2015. In the first two months of Windows 10’s availability, Windows 8 users bled, declining from about 35 percent consumption to 19 percent. Virtually all of these users – and a smaller but still notable portion of Windows 7 users – moved to Windows 10. Windows 11 also suffered a decent early adopter bump in November 2021, but its gains every other month were much smaller.
In contrast, Windows 11 was announced with little upheaval, and it replaced what users had been told was the “latest version of Windows.” Where Windows 10 replaced a new, unloved OS and a well-liked but aging OS, Windows 11 replaced a modern OS that no one really complained about (Windows 10 ran on over 90 percent of all Steam computers in September 2021 – even Windows 7 in its heyday could not boast of such adoption).
It is also worth noting that Microsoft did‘t try to recreate the initial transition to Windows 11. After some turbulence after early Windows 10 service updates, Microsoft began rolling out updates more methodically, starting with a small number of PCs and then gradually expanding the availability as the issues were discovered and resolved. . Windows 11 first entered “its final phase of availability” in February, ensuring that anyone with a compatible PC could get Windows 11 through Windows Update if they wanted to.