Windows 11: To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade?

With Windows 10 nearing its end of life (EOL) and Microsoft selling Windows 11 hard to users, IT departments are under pressure to decide whether or not to upgrade. Two questions loom large: Are they ready and is it worth it?

Support for the older version of the OS will end in October, 2025, but rolling out an enterprise-wide upgrade is no easy task. It’s particularly difficult if it must be done manually. Windows 11 had more stringent hardware requirements. What’s more, updates are not guaranteed if these requirements aren’t met. That means that a first step to determining what machines to upgrade is to know what machines in the IT estate meet all the requirements. The larger the enterprise, the more daunting the task.

According to Lansweeper’s 2021 Windows 11 readiness research and data analysis, only 57.26% of workstations out there could successfully complete the upgrade at the time. While the majority of systems (92.85%) had enough RAM installed, 43% didn’t meet the CPU requirements, and nearly 15% didn’t have TPM installed or it wasn’t enabled. The outlook was even bleaker for virtual machine (VM) workstations. Only about half met the CPU requirement, and just 67.1% had enough RAM. Almost all VM workstations lacked TPM support.

Since the report was created, these numbers have improved slightly – 12% more devices now meet the CPU and TPM requirements. While that’s promising, it’s unlikely all Windows devices will be ready by the time Windows 10 support is no longer available.

In addition to a lack of readiness, new AI functionality embedded in Windows 11 may be inhibiting rather than aiding adoption, according to members of Reddit’s Windows 11 community. Even though it makes the AI-powered Bing search engine available in the taskbar, it could be causing other problems and interfering with the operating system’s basic functionality. Reports of slow memory speeds, error messages and desktop icons that vanish are adding to users’ hesitance to upgrade.

In light of these factors, it’s not surprising that as of May 5 this year, only 5.47% of users had upgraded to Windows 11, up a mere 2.86% since October 2022. Over 80% of Windows-based machines in enterprise environments are currently running this soon-to-be outdated software.

However, the reality is that the current version – Windows 10, 22H2 – is the final version. Once support is no longer available, outdated machines will be vulnerable to cybersecurity threats and malware.

The best path forward: IT discovery and automation

If you don’t know what machines in your IT estate meet the stringent hardware requirements of Windows 11, your first step is to find out. Consider these best practices:

Perform a Windows Readiness audit. A thorough audit can help uncover the work that must be accomplished for a successful rollout of Windows 11. This involves discovering and creating a complete and accurate inventory of all your IT assets, and supplementing the list with detailed and granular information about the type and location of devices, what systems are installed, the versions of those systems and more.

Implement a phased rollout: Consider deploying the Windows 11 update in a phased manner. Start with a smaller group of users or departments and gradually expand the rollout based on the feedback and performance during each phase.

Educate and train end-users: Windows 11 introduces new features and a different user interface compared to previous versions. Provide end-user training and documentation to help employees familiarize themselves with the changes and maximize productivity.

Monitor the update process closely. Make sure you have processes and technologies in place to track and address any issues that may arise. Establish channels for users to report problems, and have a support team ready to assist users during and after the update.

Don’t Wait Until It's Too Late

A single cybersecurity incident can be devastating to a business – and once the deadline hits and Windows 10 is no longer supportive, you’ll be at risk. Even if you don’t plan to upgrade right away, understanding the state of Windows 11 readiness in your organization and what it will take to execute the rollout will help you be better prepared when the time comes.

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