Is Windows 11 Pushing Us Towards An E-Waste Crisis?

Are you ditching your Windows 11 incompatible laptop to buy a new one?


When was the last time you switched to a brand new laptop or PC, and how often do you buy new ones? A study reveals that an average American uses a machine for three, four, or even five years before buying a new one.

Another study reveals that the amount of time people spend using smartphones before buying a new one has also increased from 18.7 months in 2012 to 22.4 months in 2014. This was expected to grow to 30 months by 2016. Considering that people are willing to switch smartphones less often, the same might apply to laptops since they’re more expensive pieces of technology.

Now, you must be thinking: what does this have anything to do with Windows 11?

When Microsoft announced the latest Windows 11, soon after that, they released the system requirements. While the hardware released after 2017 can run Windows 11, the giant said that the new OS would not work on older devices. This raises the question, is Windows 11 pushing us towards an E-Waste crisis?

Windows 11: E-Waste crisis or worse?

Before we get started, here’s what you’ll need to run Windows 11.

Processor:Intel 7th Gen or above or Ryzen 1000 series and above processors
1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with 2 or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or System on a Chip (SoC)
RAM:4 gigabytes (GB)
Storage:64 GB or larger storage device Note: See below under “More information on storage space to keep Windows 11 up-to-date” for more details.
System firmware:UEFI, Secure Boot capable
TPM:Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0
Graphics card:Compatible with DirectX 12 or later with WDDM 2.0 driver
Display:High definition (720p) display that is greater than 9” diagonally, 8 bits per color channel
Internet connection and Microsoft accounts:Windows 11 Home edition requires internet connectivity and a Microsoft account to complete device setup on first use. But you also set up a local account if you don’t want to use the services or sign in later individually.
Source: XDA-Developers

Some 7th Gen or above Intel processors, Ryzen 1000 series or above AMD processors, and TPM 2.0 support are necessary to run Windows 11. However, let’s eliminate TPM 2.0 from the equation as third-gen or newer processors come with TPM support by default.

Did you know that these are revised system requirements? Microsoft originally intended to support Windows 11 only on Intel’s 8th Gen or Ryzen 2000 series processors and above. Still, due to a lot of backlash from the community, it had to add support for one prior generation.

Will all old laptops end up at e-waste dumps?

Update: Microsoft has confirmed that older PCs will be able to run Windows 11, but there’s a catch. The older PCs won’t receive the update to Windows 11 like modern PCs. Rather, you’ll need to manually install it using an ISO (optical disk image), which could be hard for an average PC user whose primary concern is getting work done.

As for the geeks out there, don’t get too excited just yet. Alongside the manual installation decision, Microsoft also says that it’ll not push feature updates to older PCs with Windows 11. This means that each time a new Windows 11 feature update arrives, you’ll need to install using the ISO as if installing Windows in itself was not already hectic.

This sheds more light on the giant’s ambitions with Windows 11, i.e., forcing people to buy new PCs even if they don’t “need” them. This will contribute to E-Waste for sure.

The 6th Gen Intel processors were released in late 2015, and there are still many people that I know who use 6th Gen or older processors. Not to mention, there are a lot of desktop users who still use older Ryzen 1000 series or older Intel processors. But due to Windows 11, they might finally think of upgrading to new motherboards and processors, which will undoubtedly contribute to E-Waste.

And we haven’t scratched the surface yet. Laptop users who were holding themselves from buying new laptops might finally be under pressure to get a Windows 11 compatible laptop, which contributes to E-Waste. Considering that the processors excluded by Microsoft are more than five years old anyways, the impact shouldn’t be huge. Still, it will definitely decrease the average time people stay clung to their hardware.

It goes without saying that not every laptop would end up at E-Waste dumps. A significant number of people will try to sell their old laptops as they can still run Windows 10. While we take our machines for granted, there’s an abundance of people who still don’t have access to a decently powerful computer. People will sell their laptops at lower prices, but others can buy them cheaply and empower themselves with knowledge. I know that it’s a long shot, but I definitely see it happening.

For those who want to buy a new machine for Windows 11

There are millions of unsupported devices, so does that mean Microsoft will ignore them and keep them unsupported forever? I don’t think so. It is possible that Microsoft will later allow you to install Windows 11 on unsupported PCs. So, for the time being, hang on tight and save your money.

  • While Windows 11 does come with a bunch of new features and looks, it’s still essentially very similar to Windows 10. Hence, if you own a laptop running Windows 10 and unsupported hardware, wait patiently. Microsoft might reconsider changing its decision.
  • Windows 10 will be supported till 2025, which is four years from now. If you decide to stick with your older laptop, you’ll be contributing significantly towards protecting our environment.
  • Microsoft has announced it would allow Windows 11 installation on unsupported devices but without access to feature updates and security updates over the air.
  • Want to upgrade because you think Windows 11 would make your computer faster? That’s not happening. If your Windows 10 machine is sluggish or it overheats, get the internal fan vents cleaned, install an SSD and extra RAM if you can for a fraction of price of buying a new laptop. You’ll see an obvious difference.
  • If you’re thinking of upgrading to Windows 11 for security purposes, then we’d suggest against that. Sure, Windows 11 does bring in privacy focused features, but it’s still Windows at the end of the day. If security is your major concern, you should be looking at either Linux distributions or even macOS.

Do you think Windows 11 contributes to e-waste?

I think the word “crisis” is a little harsh for a situation like this. Windows 11 surely is and will become a cause for more E-Waste, but at the same time, the impact won’t be that high as the processors Microsoft decided to exclude are already 5 years old.

What are your views about this? Do you think Windows 11 might end up being very bad for the environment? Let us know your views and opinions in the comments section below.

Abubakar Mohammed

Abubakar Mohammed

Abubakar is a Linux and Tech Writer. Hailing from a Computer Science background, the start of his love for Tech dates back to 2011, when he was gifted a Dell Inspiron 5100. When he's not covering Tech, you'll find him binge-watching anime and Tech content on YouTube or hunting heads in competitive FPS games. You can also find his work on Android Police and How-To Geek.
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