The cessation of Microsoft's support for the Windows 10 operating system could lead to the disposal of approximately 240 million personal computers (PCs), potentially contributing to increased landfill waste, according to Canalys Research.
The electronic waste generated from these PCs is estimated to weigh around 480 million kilograms, equivalent to the weight of 320,000 cars. Despite the potential for many PCs to remain functional after the end of OS support, Canalys cautioned that demand for devices lacking security updates might be low.
In response to this, Microsoft has outlined a plan to offer security updates for Windows 10 devices until October 2028, with an undisclosed annual fee. Canalys suggests that if the pricing structure for extended Windows 10 support follows past trends, migrating to newer PCs could become a more cost-effective option, leading to an increase in the number of older PCs being discarded.
Microsoft's decision to discontinue support for Windows 10 by October 2025 aligns with the anticipation of the next generation of the operating system, expected to incorporate advanced artificial intelligence technology into PCs. This innovation could potentially rejuvenate the sluggish PC market.
Despite these developments, Microsoft has not yet responded to inquiries about the environmental impact of disposing of Windows 11-incompatible devices.
Canalys Research also highlighted the positive aspect of recycling, stating that hard drives from personal computers and data storage servers are recycled to extract materials for use in electric vehicle motors and renewable power generation. Noveon Magnetics Chief Commercial Officer Peter Afiuny emphasized the potential of turning end-of-life computers into magnets to power sustainable technologies like electric vehicles and wind turbines, meeting the growing global demand for electricity.
Afiuny also noted that hard drives are often discarded prematurely, contributing to an excess of rare earth magnetic material waste. In a similar vein, Redwood Materials, a battery recycling firm, highlighted the nearly infinite recyclability of batteries, recovering metals such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, and copper.