Shortly after the release of Windows 10, Microsoft frequently released specific adoption figures, trumpeting how quickly the new free update was being adopted by Windows 7 and Windows 8 users. The company did not repeat this. strategy for Windows 11, leaving us to rely on third-party data to see how quickly people are adopting the new operating system.
We pulled a few months of data from the Steam Hardware and Software Survey and compared it to the months immediately following the release of Windows 10. This data is imperfect and inevitably a bit noisy – Steam users should be willing to send the data – but the disparity in adoption is large enough that we can at least draw some conclusions.
Windows 11 was released to the public in October 2021 and Windows 10 in July 2015. In both cases, we used the Internet Wayback Machine to extract seven months of data, including the month immediately preceding the release of each operating system. We’ve plotted usage figures for 64-bit versions of operating systems (32-bit versions, as well as versions like Vista and XP, are grouped under “other”), combining figures for Windows 8.1 and 8.0.
The result is that Steam users are migrating to Windows 11 about half as fast as they migrated to Windows 10. Six months after release, Windows 10 was running on 31% of all Steam computers, or nearly one on three. As of March 2022, Windows 11 was running on just under 17% of Steam computers, or about one in six. Three-quarters of all Steam computers in 2022 are still running Windows 10.
It’s easy to interpret these results as an indictment of Windows 11, which has caused some controversy with its relatively strict (and often poorly explained) security-focused system requirements. At least some of this slow adoption is caused by these system requirements – many PCs polled by Steam probably can’t install Windows 11. This may be because users have an older unsupported processor or one or more of the required security features are disabled; Secure Boot and the firmware TPM have often been disabled by default on newer motherboards for many years.
But there are other compelling explanations. Windows 11 adoption seems slow compared to Windows 10, but Windows 10 adoption has also been exceptionally good.
Windows 8 and 8.1 were not well liked, to put it mildly, and Windows 10 was touted as a response (and fix) to most of the user interface changes in Windows 8. And the people who used yet Windows 7 lacked some of the quality of life additions and under the hood improvements added by Windows 8.
You can see this pent-up demand in the jump between July 2015 and September 2015. In the first two months of Windows 10 availability, Windows 8 hemorrhaged users from around 35% usage to 19%. Virtually all of these users – and a smaller but still notable portion of Windows 7 users – were upgrading to Windows 10. Windows 11 also saw a decent surge in early adopters in November 2021, but its bimonthly gains were much smaller. .
On the other hand, Windows 11 was announced with little advance notice and it replaced what users had said was the “latest version of Windows”. Where Windows 10 replaced a new, unloved and beloved but aging OS, Windows 11 replaced a modern OS that no one really complained about (Windows 10 worked on over 90% of everything Steam computers in September 2021 – even Windows 7 in its heyday couldn’t boast this kind of adoption).
It should also be noted that Microsoft did not henot try recreating that initial wave of adoption for Windows 11. After some turbulence following the first Windows 10 servicing updates, Microsoft began rolling out updates more methodically, starting with a small number of PCs , then gradually increasing availability as issues were discovered and resolved. . Windows 11 only 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.