Category Archives: Windows OS Musings

Windows 11 MarketShare Jumps Quarter Mark

Well, well, well. Here’s an interesting Windows statistic for you. According to StatCounter, the global desktop OS marketshare for Windows 11 hit 26.17% at the end of October. That’s up by 2.53% from the previous month. And it’s the first time Windows 11 shows running on over 1 in every 4 PCs using the Internet. You can see some related numbers in the lead-in screencap.  Indeed, it claims Windows 11 marketshare jumps quarter mark vis-a-vis other versions.

What Windows 11 MarketShare Jumps Quarter Mark Means

I have some questions about the Statcounter image and numbers (see lead-in graphic), though. Across the top bar of the image you see Windows 10 at 68%, and 11 share at 26.66% and so forth. But if I mouseover the data points at the end of those counter lines, they report 69.31% for Windows 10 and 26.17% for 11. I don’t understand why there’s a discrepancy, but I’m taking the numbers from the charts rather than the top line stuff as “correct.”

By way of comparison, I also checked which keeps track of devices visiting US government websites (“5.33 billion sessions over the past 90 days,” so an appreciable data volume from which to draw statistics and inferences). It doesn’t report Windows 11 numbers per se. (I believe they’re included in its Windows 10 count because Windows 11 still uses a Windows 10 user agent ID in web browsers.) But it shows 98.37% of Windows visitors were running one or the other of those two OSes. (Add the 2 Statcounter numbers together and you get 95.48% — not horribly divergent.)

Alas, Copilot still quotes old Statista numbers (the company requires an annual subscription that costs US$1,788 for free, unfettered access to their latest stats). Thus, I can’t use them as an additional point of reference.

Looking at the Trend Lines

Whereas the Windows 11 line in the Statcounter chart is definitely trending upward, you can’t really say the Windows 10 line is visibly trending downward. It’s sort of meandering, with both ups and downs in the 12-month period on display there.

The 2.53% September-to-October jump for Windows 11 is pretty interesting, though. That’s a 10.7% jump in a single month, which is massive. It’s significantly higher than preceding month-to-month changes. All of those are positive in slope, but none comes close to even half that value.

Recently, I’ve commented that business hasn’t yet gotten serious about migrating from Windows 10 to 11. This spike could be evidence that my comment is based on outdated tracking and stats. We’ll get a much better idea if things are truly picking up, or if this is a short-lived spike, as data for the next few months gets reported.

This has, however, piqued my interest pretty sharply. Stay tuned and I’ll let you know which way the worm turns next. It could be that the tide is finally turning… The numbers may not lie, exactly, but they don’t always slap us in the face with what’s going on, either.



Win7/8 Key Loophole Closes

On September 29, I reported that one couldn’t upgrade from Windows 7 or 8.1 to 10 or 11 any more.  But, one could still activate a clean install of 22H2 using their keys. As of yesterday, I can conclusively say: “No more!” I used an older key to get through install yesterday. But this morning, the desktop said Windows 10 needed activation. Thus, I’m now convinced the Win7/8 key loophole closes at long last.

More About Win7/8 Key Loophole Closes

Interestingly, the activation servers have to grind for quite some little while. It takes 25-35 seconds before they come back to disqualify older keys. If you hand them a newer one (I tried both retail and MAK keys for Windows 10 and 11) activation comes in 3-4 seconds. There’s obviously a lot of behind-the-scenes checking going on.

That said, the Windows 11 Pro VM I stood up last week using a Windows 7 Ultimate key is still running. In fact, it still shows “Active” as its current activation state. I’m speculating freely when I say this, but that tells me the loophole has been closed later, rather than sooner. We’re unlikely to get official commentary from MS on this one way or the other, so take my supposition for what it’s worth!

It’s Been a Long Time Coming…

Ever since the door officially closed on upgrades from and activations of older keys back in 2016 (7 years ago), we’ve all known this day was coming. Now it’s here. Gosh, it was terrific while it lasted, though, because I never had to worry about running out of keys for throwaway VMs and test installs. I guess we’ll all have to be more careful going forward. I’ll also make more frequent use of the various 90-day eval VMs that MS generally makes available as well.



Failing Backup Signals Regime Change

OK, I think that’ll do it for my current production PC. I noticed this morning what when my scheduled backup started,  it failed almost immediately thereafter. Further investigation into the Macrium Reflect logs shows me it has failed since last Friday. That’s because on the weekends I’m not usually at my desk at 9AM when the scheduled job runs. Upon further investigation, the N: drive where I target my backups had gone missing (it came back after a  restart, though). Nevertheless, this tells me it’s time to start acquiring parts to build a replacement PC. That’s why I aver that a failing backup signals regime change. My 2016 vintage i7 Skylake needs to go.

Why Failing Backup Signals Regime Change

It’s just not right that a drive attached to one of the SATA ports on my Asrock Z170 motherboard should drop off the map over the weekend. And now, dear readers, you know why I schedule my backups to occur while I’m working at the PC: it’s the best way to get timely notification that “something aint’ right.” That’s what happened this morning, and that’s what tells me:

  • I’ll need to keep a close eye on this daily until I transition to a new PC, to make sure scheduled backups run to completion
  • It really, really is time for me to transition over to a new primary production PC

For sure, 7 years isn’t a bad lifetime for a heavily used, major storage PC. Indeed, I’ve got a nominal 17.1 GiB, or approximately 15GB of storage on this beast. Of that total, about 40% (6GB) is occupied, so I’ll throw a couple of new 8 GB SATA drives into my new BOM for the build, along with 2 2TB NVMe PCI-e x4 or x5 SSDs.

It’s Now Official: I’m Transitioning

I’ll wait until August 1 or thereabouts to start pulling parts together for the new build. I’ve already got an Nvidia 3070 Ti GPU and a Seasonic Focus PX-750 PSU I can use. I’ll need a new case, a CPU, 64 GB RAM, the aforementioned SSDs and HDDs, and a motherboard. That will give me something to think about — and report on here in my blog — as the month winds down.

I think I’ll call my old buddy Tom Soderstrom, who still reviews motherboards and CPUs for Tom’s Hardware, to ask for his recommendation on a new build. I need to decide on AMD vs. Intel, after which the rest will follow pretty naturally. Stay tuned: I’ll keep you posted.


Windows Will Gain Added AI-Based Capabilities

Interesting news from Microsoft at CES recently. This comes thanks to a “guest slot” from Panos Panay in tandem with AMD’s CEO Dr. Lisa Su. It seems that Windows will gain added AI-based capabilities, courtesy of increasing proliferation of AI engines in hardware. (Case in point: cutting-edge AMD Ryzen chips working with added, Azure-based AI engines in the cloud). The initial impact will be to improve user interaction via language models, eyeball tracking, and more.

Here’s what Panay actually said, as quoted at Neowin:

AI is going to reinvent how you do everything on Windows, quite literally. Like these large generative models, think language models, code gen models, image models; these models are so powerful, so delightful, so useful, personal. But they are also very compute intensive, and so we haven’t been able to do this before. We have never seen these intense workloads at this scale before, and they’re right here. It’s gonna need an operating system that blurs the line between cloud and edge, and that’s what we are doing right now.

What Windows Will Gain Added AI-Based Capabilities Means…

This is happening as Microsoft continues doubling down on AI investments and technologies. Its support for the Open AI initiative is ongoing. It announced an Azure Open AI Service on January 17, along with a ChatGPT API for developers (source: The joint appearance with AMD at CES underscores the importance of integrating local hardware support and AI workloads in the cloud. Reading between the lines,  that’s how Windows 12 ups the ante for what an OS can be and do for users.

At the same time, this draws another “dividing line” for PC hardware. Indeed, it may very well limit (or restrict) who can use (or make the most of) upcoming Windows 12 capabilities. MS drew a “security line” for hardware capable of upgrading to 11. This may also draw an “AI line” for 12. That should be interesting to watch, and follow as things play out over the next couple of years.

Wishing Upon an AI Star

While MS is building out this AI-based and -integrated future, I’d like to ask them to think about building lots of AI user agents (if they’re not already so engaged). What does this mean?

As users interact with the OS, especially in the context of PowerShell (and related platforms, such as MS Power Apps) I’d like to see MS apply AI technologies to assist and automatically automate use of those tools. This could really help to boost productivity, and guide users and admins to desired results more quickly and easily.

Likewise, MS apps could (and probably should) gain AI user agents to observe how users put their capabilities to work. They can also support simple, basic automation, and provide input and insight on how to use such apps more efficiently and effectively as well.

I see great things coming from AI right now. I see even better things coming from AI in the future, especially as local PCs gain enhanced abilities to handle and coordinate AI workloads in edge computing fashion. This could provide the impetus to move users away from Windows 10 to more modern versions, even if another hardware upgrade is required — but only if the gains provided offset the costs and learning curves involved. Fingers crossed!

I was around for for one “AI wave” in the 1980s that involved Xerox Dolphin machines with LISP processing. I watched two other such waves roll out in the 90s and 00s for various niche markets and applications. Today, it seems like this wave is a tsunami that could change everything. Hopefully, in a good way. We’ll see…


Windows 10 WU Offers 22H2 Upgrade

Upon reading reports to that effect, I just confirmed that Windows 10 WU offers 22H2 Upgrade on the Boss’s Dell OptiPlex 7080 Micro PC. You can see the offer in the preceding graphic. At the same time, you can also see the offer to upgrade to Windows 11 in the right-hand column of the same Window. I reproduce this below. It’s got a 10th Gen Intel i7 CPU, so no problem meeting the Windows 11 hardware requirements.

With its 10th-Gen Intel CPU, TPM support, and so forth, this PC is more than ready for Windows 11.

Sold: Windows 10 WU Offers 22H2 Upgrade

The Boss has decided to stick with Windows 10. She’s not interested in an OS upgrade, and will wait until she MUST switch. Or perhaps something new will come along in the interim. On a 3-year cadence for major Windows versions with an EOL date for Windows 10 on October 14, 2024, that could get interesting.

It raises the question of whether Windows 10 will retire before the next version comes along, or if that version will precede its planned demise. According to the date calculator, that’s still 2 years, 10 months, 1 week and 2 days away (973 days) in the offing. Plenty of time for her to figure out which way she wants to go.

Refresh and Upgrade, or Just Upgrade?

Lots of other users will be pondering the timing of their next upgrade transitions between now and October 14, 2025. Many will decide to refresh their hardware as they transition to a new OS. I can see a kind of “lost generation” for Windows 11 as a result.

It will be quite interesting to see how PC sales look over the next 2-plus years for the same reasons. The trade-off looks very much like: wait for the next Windows version and budget for new PCs versus refresh earlier and upgrade to Windows 11. Could get interesting…



Windows 8.1 EOL January 2023

Here it comes, I guess. MS is reminding Windows 8.1 users that its end-of-life (EOL) is imminent. With Windows 8.1 EOL January 2023 just around the corner, what else is MS saying? Find out in their Support article entitled “Windows 8.1 support will end on January 10, 2023.” Intentionally or not, it includes some amusing stuff. It also speaks to their philosophy and stance regarding Windows 11.

After Windows 8.1 EOL January 2023, Then What?

The afore-linked MS support article actually calls the transition that will occur on January 10, 2023 “end of support.” But because most readers know what EOL means I used it here. MS also recommends upgrading Windows 8.1 devices “to a more current, in-service, and supported Windows release.”

If Statcounter is correct, as of October 31, 2022, Windows 8.1 held a desktop market share of 2.45%. MS also puts the size of the combined Windows 10 and 11 device or OS instance population at 1.5B. That’s in keeping with Earthweb’s total count estimate from August 2022 of 1.6B. Statcounter grants Windows 10 and 11 combined 86.71% of the global desktop tally. By my reckoning, therefore, that puts the possible number of 8.1 devices at just over 42M.

Upgrade to Windows 11 on a New PC

MS also recommends for Windows 8.1 devices that don’t meet Windows 11 hardware requirements, that users “replace the device with one that supports Windows 11.” Indeed, it makes sense when refreshing PC hardware to go as modern and forward leaning as possible.

In fact, Windows 8.1 made its public debut (GA) on October 17, 2013. This date calculator tells me that was 9 years, 1 month, and 1 day ago as of today, November 18, 2022. That makes it almost inevitable that hardware purchased on or before the 2013 date doesn’t meet Windows 11 hardware requirements. The Gen8 “boundary date” actually falls in 2017-2018 time range.

What Happens to 8.1 After EOL (or EOS)?

MS won’t be offering an ESU (Extended Security Update) program for Windows 8.1. Thus it will no longer receive technical support, software updates, and security patches or fixes. According to WinAero, “Microsoft’s own products including Office 365 and the Store app will stop working.” That should be enough to convince most business users that it really is time to get off that bus.

For me, some of the humor in this otherwise doleful situation comes from Windows 8 and 8.1 general marketplace fate. It was never that popular to begin with, nor did it ever enjoy the kind of uptake in business that XP, 7 and Windows 10 achieved. To think that as many as 42M devices may be affected by this impending retirement is mostly a testament to how enormous the total Windows market really is. And to think it’s dwarfed by a factor of 3X or greater by smartphones is truly mind-boggling.

Even so, prodding a device population of 42 million onto Windows 11 and new PCs could be a boon to the sagging PC market. At a modest average price of $1K per unit (low for a business class PC nowadays, but higher for home/casual users) that’s a cool $42B in sales. It comes pretty close to “real money,” in my book.

Shout-Out to Sergey Tkachenko: the WinAero story cited in the concluding section of this story originally led me to the MS Support item that provides its focus and impetus. Thanks, Sergey!


Buying Windows 11 Direct Online

OK, then: it’s finally happened. MS now makes downloadable Windows 11 available through its online store. The lead-in graphic pertains to Windows 11 Home, but there’s another, similar page for Windows 11 Pro. Prices are US$139 and US$199 respectively, which makes buying Windows 11 direct online an interesting proposition.

Why Is Buying Windows 11 Direct Online “Interesting?”

The prices for Home (US$139) and Pro (US$199) very much represent MSRP numbers. That is: they set the upper bound on what you must pay to acquire a legit Windows 11 license of either type. A quick search on “Windows 11 pro key purchase” or “Windows 11 home key purchase” shows plenty of etailers offering substantial discounts on those numbers. Some of them are so cheap, in fact, that I have trouble contemplating them as absolutely legit.

Even big etailers such as Newegg, Best Buy, CDW and so forth, offer discounted versions of these OSes. Admittedly some of those are for OEM use. Those are supposedly good only for a one-PC install on a machine for resale to a third party, but I’m not aware of MS enforcing that restriction on users purchasing such a license for appropriate use on any PC they own.

Why Buy From MS, Then?

Convenience, guaranteed legitimacy, and automatic licensing are probably the main reasons why some buyers will turn to MS for these license/download combinations. Those who know how to shop around can do better, to be sure. But those factors can be compelling for those leery of stepping afoul of scams and disallowed uses of seemingly legit license keys.

I’m more than just a little curious to see what kind of buying volumes emerge from this MS offer. Likewise, I’m hopeful MS may actually tell us something about ensuing activity. They don’t always share such data, though. Even official Windows user numbers come only sparsely — the last such “report” covered Windows 10 By The Numbers. It dates back before the pandemic.




22621 Takes RTM Role

OK, then: I was pretty much on the money yesterday when I speculated about Windows 11 22H2. A May 24 Windows Hardware Compatibility blog post — shown as the lead-in graphic above — totally confirms this. Indeed, Build 22621 takes RTM role for OEMs in the run-up to its release later this year.

If 22621 Takes RTM Role, Then What?

Here’s a quote from my May 24 piece Windows 11 21H2 Hits Broad Deployment:

As I’ve already reported on May 16, Beta Channel Build 22621 is very likely to RTM as 22H2 in a short while. That makes 22H2 GA likely in September or October.

The lead-in graphic (see red boxed text) confirms that Build 22621 is the “Windows 11, version 22H2 certfication build.” That makes it the starting point for the images that OEMs will build to load onto machines sold after the 22H2 GA date whenever that might be.

And, as for that date, later on in the afore-cited Windows HCL blog post it says:

Partners looking to achieve compatibility for systems shipping with Windows 11, version 22H2 Release may use drivers for components that achieved compatibility with Windows 11, Version 21H2 until Sept 5th, 2021

To me that puts GA date sometime after September 5, and seems to confirm my speculation that this would occur in September or October of this year. Unless something unforeseen occurs — and it could — September 6 is suddenly looking possible. Stay tuned, though: as usual, I’ll keep tracking this and let you know what I learn.


Could Build 22621 Be RTM Version?

With some consistency and frequency, most of my go-to Windows news sources report the same thing. That is: the latest Beta Channel Build 2221, is likely to go out to OEMs as the “Release to Manufacturing” (RTM) version for Windows 11. This raises the question “Could Build 22621 be RTM version?” I’m inclined to believe it might be, so please let me explain why. . .

Repeat: Could Build 22621 Be RTM Version?

Here are my reasons for believing that indeed, 22621 could be an RTM candidate if not THE RTM candidate for Windows 11:

Timing: MS has promised a 22H2 Windows 11 release, which means sometime between July 1 and December 31, 2022. Given that the usual delay from RTM to public release varies from as little as 12 to as long as 20 weeks over the life of Windows 10, a similar range seems likely for 11 as well. Given 22621 came out on May 11, that would put general availability between July 27 and September 21. This makes good sense to me. OEMs need time to get their collective acts together, and to get ready to deploy new images for the next feature update on their (mostly) consumer grade equipment.

Insider Channel Divergence: As I reported here on May 12, 22621 represents the divergence of Beta and Dev Channel Insider versions. MS forked the Insider channels so it could concentrate on the next Feature update in the Beta Channel, while working on future features for a presumptive 23H2 release in the Dev Channel. Stands to reason they’d have forked when they were getting close enough to recognize a possible RTM in the Beta Channel.

22621 Announcement blog post: Combine the opening statement of “small set of fixes” with “preview experiences that are closer to what we will ship to our general customers” and you get something pretty much like a “closing in on RTM” impression from this post.

Winver Label: look it says right in the lead-in graphic “Version 22H2.” What more do you want by way of (potential) proof?

It’s Not a Sure Thing, But…

Indeed, MS will make changes to 22621 as and when user telemetry indicates a need for same. That goes double if bug reports start proliferating. But, absent such spurs to additional action and related changes, 22621 seems pretty close to what is probably already going into OEM intake processes. Stay tuned: I’ll keep you posted as things develop from here!


Windows 11 Dev Beta Channels Diverge

OK, what had been joined is now put asunder. Yesterday, Windows 11 Dev Channel went to Build 25115, and Beta Channel to Build 22621. This means that the two Insider Previews are now different. In fact, when Windows 11 Dev Beta channels diverge, it means they have different goals. According to WindowsLatest, 22621 represents a big push toward the first feature update for Windows 11. OTOH, 25115 shows that MS is still pushing forward into future releases looking into 2023 and the “next” feature update upcoming.

When Windows 11 Dev Beta Channels Diverge, Then What?

Among other things, this explains why MS broadcast an email warning to Dev Channel Insiders last week that “unstable and buggy preview builds will soon begin rolling out in the Dev Channel” (source: WindowsLatest,  May 8). In other words, the Dev Channel is returning to its primary role as a “first exposure” to new features, functions, and whatnot making its way into limited circulation for testing and feedback. Frankly, I’m looking forward to this.

As for the Beta Channel, it’s gearing up for progressively more locked down snapshots of what will become the 22H2 release for Windows 11. Thus, it should become an increasingly accurate rendition of the next production Windows 11 release. Again: I look forward to this, too.

You can see the Winver output from these two different versions in the lead-in graphic for this story. The Dev Channel release (Build 25115.1000) is to the left.The Beta Channel release (Build 22621.1) is to the right.

Fun and Foibles A’Comin…

With a more freehwheeling and experimental take on Windows 11 coming to the Dev Channel, life is about to get more interesting. Who knows? There may be bugs or hiccups to detect and report, and trouble to shoot. That’s why I signed up for the Insider program, and why I’m looking forward to more new stuff ahead. Sure, there may be instability and bugs. But that’s a good thing in the interests of getting things out there, and then getting them right. Cheers!