Microsoft offered to extend security updates for its Windows 10 operating system – for a fee – in order to lessen the impact on electronic waste that could result from hundreds of millions of computers being dumped into landfill.
Microsoft had announced plans to end support for Windows 10 in 2025. Because that would mean the termination of security updates necessary to keep systems viable, as many as 300 million computers could have ended up in landfill, said U.S. consumer group Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).
A PIRG-led campaign that included a 20,000 signature petition to Microsoft led to Microsoft altering plans. In early December, Microsoft announced it would offer a paid Extended Security Update program, starting in 2025. For a fee, still to be determined, the program will be available for three years for schools, public sector organizations and smaller businesses, and one year for individuals. The program could be extended with demand, Microsoft said.
Microsoft promotes that Windows 10 is used on 1 billion devices worldwide, but an estimated 40 per cent of those cannot upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11, because of hardware limitations. Without the ability to upgrade, those 400 million computers will fall into disuse. EPA figures suggest about 25 per cent of electronic waste is recycled. The other 75 per cent – in this case the 300 million computers – would end up in landfills around the globe.
PIRG materials also noted that Microsoft’s Windows XP received security updates for 13 years, and even when its support ended, 30 per cent of computers worldwide still used it.
PIRG campaign director Lucas Rockett Gutterman said The push will continue for Microsoft to automatically provide support “to prevent junking millions of PCs,” said PIRG campaign director Lucas Rockett Gutterman. “We hope other tech companies will follow Microsoft and Google and start taking responsibility for the growing piles of toxic e-waste caused by short-lived software.”