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Windows 10 migration plans hit a wall

Microsoft's free Windows 10 upgrade offer boosted adoption last year. But now, without that incentive, businesses are holding onto Windows 7 for as long as they can.

As adoption stalls, some organizations are delaying their Windows 10 migration plans because of lingering concerns.

Windows 10 saw rapid adoption when it first launched, and Microsoft claimed it was the fastest-growing operating system ever. But for the companies sticking with Windows 7, questions about IT control over automatic updates and support for legacy applications are still unresolved.

"Windows 10 has not proven itself," said Jim Davies, director of IT at Ongweoweh Corp., a pallet and packing management company in Ithaca, N.Y. "I won't switch to a new OS until it's proven itself. ... New is not always better."

In February, Windows 10's market share dropped slightly, from 25.3% to 25.19%, according to NetMarketShare, which collects OS data from internet users. At the same time, the Windows 7 numbers went up, from 47.2% to 48.41%.

Looking specifically at the enterprise, Windows 10 adoption is leveling off there, as well. In 2015, the year Windows 10 debuted, less than 14% of businesses planned to migrate, according to the TechTarget IT Priorities Survey. That number skyrocketed to over 40% last year -- thanks to Microsoft's free upgrade program -- but only inched above 46% this year.

Windows 10 problems

When Microsoft sends out a Windows 10 update, the user doesn't have any say over when the download and installation happens. The PC can automatically download an update and restart itself while the user is in the middle of working on something. IT can temporarily postpone these updates and restrict them to certain times of the day, but can't completely control them.

A separate issue occurred with the arrival of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update in August, when the operating system didn't recognize some third-party applications -- including crucial antivirus software. Because of these issues, Windows 10 isn't ready for businesses to use, Davies said.

Migrating to a new operating system can be a headache in itself. IT departments must vigorously test the new OS, test the compatibility with legacy applications and deploy it to all their users. The number of users in an organization and the number of legacy apps it uses play into how long the migration process will take.

Migrating operating systems can be a very disruptive transition.
Jack Narcottaanalyst at Technology Business Research Inc.

"Migrating operating systems can be a very disruptive transition," said Jack Narcotta, analyst at Technology Business Research Inc., in Hampton, N.H. "Microsoft has tried to make it as easy as possible, but it's still a disruptive process."

Ongweoweh Corp. has some financial applications that only run on Windows 7, and that's another reason the company has no Windows 10 migration plans, Davies said.

The company will have to start making plans to move away from Windows 7 prior to its end-of-life date in 2020, however. 

"When we are forced off Windows 7, we'll likely go to Windows 10 at some point, but I'm going to go fighting," Davies said.

Windows 10 deployment plans

Windows 10 vs. Windows 7

Although the dip in NetMarketShare's Windows 10 numbers is negligible, there is still a notable difference in usage between Windows 7 and Windows 10. The newer operating system still has 23% less of the market, almost two years after its launch.  

Since Microsoft's free Windows 10 upgrade offer expired last July, organizations are now holding onto their older PCs for as long as they can, said Zeus Kerravala, founder at ZK Research in Westminster, Mass.

"You needed beefy computers to run Windows 10 well," Kerravala said. "Organizations are stretching out the lifecycle of their computers out a little more."

Businesses might not see Windows 10's new features, such as Continuum, Cortana and the Edge browser, as being worth the cost of new hardware, and they would rather stick with what they've got for now, he added.

Next Steps

How to avoid a Windows 10 migration

IT pros frustrated with Windows 10 ads

Three Windows 10 upgrade changes IT must know

Dig Deeper on Microsoft Windows 7 operating system

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What Windows 10 problems has your company dealt with?
Updates are a disaster. It's like they don't even test with profiles in a business environment. Many updates rebuild users profiles but fail to properly convert everything. We have to keep dispatching techs to reconfigure settings that despair after upgrades. Also they keep blowing away manufacturer device drivers. Anniversary update failed to complete on 35% desktops, that's going to be fun with 2000 desktops and mandatory updates.
Honestly, was not that much of a deal for us.
The in-place upgrade from 7 was seamless. Run upgrade, a few clicks to adjust screen settings, all done. Had to reinstall printer drivers here and there, no problem.

The replacements (migration to new PCs, not in place) is unfortunately much more difficult, so we've ended up making it simpler by throwing money at the problem.
We've used this process for that:
How-to: Windows 10 Migration with programs and profiles

Hope this helps!

We have about 40 percent converted and continue to move forward. Have not really seen any major issues. Both my System Admin PC are 10 and work great
We converted all of our computers to Windows 10 during the free upgrade, partly because it was free, and partly because we were going through a PCI audit.
It took a little effort to determine how to get our legacy applications, written for XP, to work but they are all working fine.
The only problems we have run into was Quick Books was broken by one of the updates and the drivers it keeps downloading for our HP printers breaks one of our print programs.
Migrating to Win10 Enterprise has several implications on any type of industry whether it is financial sector, banking sector or for that matter any manufacturing sector. The most important part of this is how the web applications that are running on Win7 are compatible with Win10 and the several third party vendor applications that are running on Win7 have also in align with Win10 compatible. By the way how many third party win7 applications are compatible with win10 leaving alone other in-house Win7 applications some are compatible with win10 and some are to develop win10 compatible before any migration takes place. A huge infra testing and functional testing may evaluate how far Win10 compatible with Win7 applications that are currently running is again a big challenge to any organization.