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ISSUE 18.42.F • 2021-11-01

In this issue

PUBLIC DEFENDER: Most corporate PCs can’t install Windows 11, study says

Additional articles in the PLUS issue

LANGALIST: Update fails, and WaaSMedic runs for hours …

BEST UTILITIES: Freeware Spotlight — MyFolders

ON SECURITY: Security isn’t just a Microsoft thing

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PUBLIC DEFENDER

Most corporate PCs can’t install Windows 11, study says

Brian Livingston

By Brian Livingston

Microsoft has issued many, shall we say, evolving requirements for Windows 11 — confusing people about which devices actually qualify — but now a study of 30 million machines worldwide reveals the answer: at least 55% of PCs used by businesses don’t meet Win11’s upgrade requirements.

Surprisingly, the incompatibility is not due mainly to Microsoft’s insistence that version 2 of a motherboard-based device called a Trusted Platform Module be installed and enabled before a machine can upgrade to Win11.

Instead, more than 55% of PCs lack a new-enough CPU to meet the requirements, according to Esben Dochy, technical product evangelist for Lansweeper, the Belgium-based tech-management firm that conducted the study.

As I reported in the October 18, 2021, AskWoody Newsletter, Microsoft has recently posted a last-minute Registry tweak that allows almost any PC to upgrade to Win11, regardless of its CPU or TPM 2.0 status. For example, power users might download an ISO image of Win11, burn it to a DVD, and install the new OS from there.

But most PC owners will never attempt this somewhat technical procedure. Recognizing this, Lansweeper simply examined whether machines did or did not meet Microsoft’s stated requirements for a “normal” upgrade.

Figure 1 shows the percentage of business PCs — within the 60,000 organizations Lansweeper studied — that do or do not meet Microsoft’s Win11 requirements for CPU, RAM, and TPM 2.0.

Lansweeper workstation study
Figure 1. The study shows that 55.6% of PCs fail Win11’s requirements for a new-enough CPU, 8.95% fail to have sufficient RAM, and 47.45% don’t have a TPM 2.0 chip installed or enabled. Due to feature overlap, the percentages cannot be added together to determine how many PCs cannot install Win11 normally.  Source: Lansweeper study

More than 55% of the PCs studied didn’t have a new-enough CPU to meet Win11’s requirements. But it’s also possible that machines with Microsoft-supported CPUs would fail to install Win11 because (1) they lacked enough RAM, (2) TPM 2.0 was installed on the motherboard but was disabled by default, or (3) they lacked one of the other required features listed in the bullet points below.

Microsoft’s stated system requirements for Win11 to upgrade normally are:

  • A 64-bit CPU with at least a 1GHz clock rate and two or more cores. Examples include 8th-Gen Intel Core (2017), AMD Zen+ (2018), and Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 (2018).
  • At least 4GB of random-access memory (RAM).
  • At least 64GB of storage space.
  • Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), an improved standard that replaces the older BIOS (Basic Input/Output System).
  • Secure Boot capable.
  • TPM 2.0 enabled on the motherboard.
  • A Microsoft account and an Internet connection to enable first-time setup of Windows 11 Home Edition.

Win11 has numerous other requirements and optional features that call for specific hardware. Fortunately, those additional capabilities — such as graphics chips compatible with DirectX 12, which Intel, AMD, Nvidia, and others have supported since 2014 — are now common on newer PCs.

If a machine fails any of the tests mentioned above, Win11 might refuse to upgrade “normally” (e.g., without the Registry hack). However, you can’t add together the percentages in Figure 1 to come up with a global number of “unsupported” PCs. Lansweeper didn’t speculate on the worst-case total. It’s bad enough that more than half of business PCs fail Microsoft’s CPU requirements alone.

Lansweeper, established in 2004, employs more than 150 people in Europe and the US. It has boldface names as clients, including Samsung, Sony, IBM, and numerous governmental bodies. The company received a $158 million capital investment in June 2021 from Insight Partners, a private-equity firm, according to a Silicon Canals article.

But despite its sterling parentage, the Lansweeper study should be read with some serious caveats in mind:

  • Lansweeper can determine PC configurations only within the 60,000 or so organizations that it has a relationship with. The company’s Asset Radar technology can detect any machines that are connected to a corporate network. No preinstalled software is required in the devices themselves. But Lansweeper’s detection process could easily have missed some PCs other than the 30 million that were scanned. (And that’s a tiny fraction of the more than 1 billion PCs in the world that run Windows.)
  • Home-based PCs might be quite different from corporate PCs. It’s likely that many home PC users have even older and less beefy systems than businesses do. But Lansweeper can’t attempt to quantify this.
  • Business and home PC users could upgrade their hardware, adding RAM, storage space, or TPM 2.0 support, for instance.

We may never know the world’s actual percentage of “unsupported” PCs. But let’s assume, for the sake of discussion, that more than half of a workplace’s machines must be sent to the scrap heap, updated with new components, or entirely replaced with new units in order to install Win11 normally. That prospect must strike fear into the heart of any IT manager — or any family’s resident tech guru — who’d be responsible for such an overhaul.

Fewer than 1% of virtual machines can install Win11

For workstations that run virtual machines — such as VMware or Microsoft Hyper-V — “the news is grim,” says Dochy. “Only 0.23% of all virtual workstations have TPM 2.0 enabled.” Of course, these workstations could implement TPM passthrough, also known as vTPM, but that’s another project that would require modifications to many machines.

What if you wanted to install Win11 on a server? That news is bleak, also. “TPMs on physical servers only passed the test 1.49% of the time,” Dochy says, “which means about 98% would fail to upgrade if Microsoft creates a server operating system with similar requirements [to Win11] in the future.”

Figure 2 shows the percentages of workstations, servers, and virtual machines that pass (in green) or fail (in black or white) Win11’s TPM 2.0 requirements.

Lansweeper virtual machine study
Figure 2. About 99% of virtual machines running on workstations and servers lack the TPM 2.0 support to meet Microsoft’s Windows 11 requirements.  Source: Lansweeper study

It looks like a lot of machines will be staying on Windows 10 for a long, long time (in Internet years). Microsoft states that it will continue to support Win10 — including feature updates and security patches — through October 14, 2025, and the Redmond company might eventually extend that date even further.

By contrast, people who use the Registry tweak or other workaround to make Win11 upgrade on “unsupported” hardware may or may not receive official updates and security patches in the future, Microsoft says.

Unless you have a specific need, Win11 isn’t a must-have upgrade

As I wrote in my October 18 column, there are few, if any, compelling new features in Win11 for most people, aside from cosmetic changes. The exception is if you have an application that demands a particular TPM 2.0 form of encryption. All US government agencies, for example, are required to use the 256-bit SHA-2 algorithm that TPM 2.0 supports. (The older TPM 1.2 chip supports the flawed 160-bit SHA-1 algo.)

For everyone else, Windows 10 remains a stable and productive platform that will get updates for at least the next four years. That’s plenty of time for you to decide whether you really need Win11 — or you’d rather skip it until Windows 12 arrives.

For the moment, experts are recommending that most people stay on Win10. That includes reviewers from PC World (“You shouldn’t upgrade to Windows 11 yet”), Forbes (“Don’t rush to take that free upgrade”), Tom’s Guide (“I wouldn’t upgrade to Windows 11 yet”), and on and on.

For details on the 30-million machine study, see Lansweeper’s summary.

Scales of Justice Do you know something that we all should know? Tell me about it! I’ll keep your identity totally confidential or give you credit, as you prefer. Send your story via the Public Defender tips page.
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The PUBLIC DEFENDER column is Brian Livingston’s campaign to give you consumer protection from tech. If it’s irritating you, and it has an “on” switch, he’ll take the case! Brian is a successful dot-com entrepreneur, author or co-author of 11 Windows Secrets books, and author of the new book Muscular Portfolios. Get his free monthly newsletter.


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LANGALIST

Fred Langa

Update fails, and WaaSMedic runs for hours …

By Fred Langa

Windows 10/11’s built-in WaaSMedic agent is supposed to automatically detect and repair problems with Windows Update.

But sometimes, it can’t fix what’s wrong; other times, WaaSMedic itself is the problem!

Fortunately, there are a number of known solutions — including some new advice from Microsoft — to remedy this and other common Update problems.

Plus: Edge won’t stay dead! And: A Wi-Fi dongle takes down a keyboard and mouse.

BEST UTILITIES

Deanna McElveen

Freeware Spotlight — MyFolders

By Deanna McElveen

Sometimes you come across a free program and think to yourself, “Why is this not already a part of Windows?”

We’ve conditioned ourselves to use our computers a certain way. Need to sort a bunch of files? Well, start opening a bunch of windows and get to dragging. Sure, multi-pane file managers such as Q-Dir (my favorite) make things easier when sorting, especially if you use large or multiple screens, but what if I told you about something entirely new?

ON SECURITY

Susan Bradley

Security isn’t just a Microsoft thing

By Susan Bradley

Here at AskWoody, we concentrate on Microsoft patch days and security issues.

But insecurity, privacy, and protection of your sensitive information aren’t just a Microsoft thing. Attackers go where there are people, and computers, to attack. Recently, an ad claiming that Chromebooks were immune to ransomware caught my eye.

You’re welcome to share! Do you know someone who would benefit from the information in this newsletter? Feel free to forward it to them. And encourage them to subscribe via our online signup form — it’s completely free!


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