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An IT admin’s guide: Windows 10 end of support explained

In this guide, we look at what issues end user computing IT teams need to consider when migrating from Microsoft Windows 10 to Windows 11

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Every time a new version of the Windows operating system (OS) is released, the countdown clock starts ticking on the end-of-support date of its predecessor. Windows 11 was released in October 2021, which means IT departments and users have until 14 October 2025 to migrate from Windows 10 to Windows 11. After this date, Microsoft will no longer provide Windows 10 updates and security patches.

The majority of devices can be updated automatically through the Windows Update service, but this only works if PCs have been kept up to date. Microsoft releases two major updates a year, which are automatically installed via Windows Update. But some IT departments choose to update manually or use what Microsoft calls the Long Term Servicing Channel, which enables them to keep running a consistent operating system software environment for longer.

Organisations running older hardware or incompatible software may not be able to upgrade to Windows 11 at all. However, the majority of IT departments are unlikely to face any major issues in moving from Windows 10 to Windows 11. Those that need more time can extend support for Windows 10 for a further year. 

Why Windows Update complicates OS migration

According to Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal, because Microsoft releases updates every six months, end-user computing PCs effectively get a new Windows OS twice a year. “Every time a new version comes out, enterprises are upgrading,” he says.

What the end of support means is that after 14 October 2025, these regular updates to Windows 10 will no longer be available. Although, as has occurred in the past, Microsoft may continue to offer critical security updates and IT departments can, should they wish to continue running Windows 10, purchase an extended support contract. However, those organisations still running Windows 10 after the end-of-support date may be opening up their IT to unnecessary cyber risks.

In a blog post, Lansweeper, which provides a tool for auditing PCs on a network to determine what software they are running, points out that Microsoft has introduced a great deal of complexity with its twice-yearly updates, along with numerous other iterations of Windows 10.

“The sheer number of versions and editions of Windows 10 adds a lot of complexity to the support structure. They make it hard for anyone to really grasp when the product that you are using will no longer be supported,” warns Esben Dochy, senior technical product evangelist at Lansweeper.

For instance, the Home and Pro edition end-of-life dates are different from the end-of-life dates for the Enterprise, Education and IoT Enterprise editions of Windows 10. Dochy says some versions are available as LTSB (Long Term Servicing Branch) or LTSC (Long Term Servicing Channel) editions, which also have their own specific end-of-support dates.

Windows migration milestones

  • April 2014: CIOs may not wish to carry on running the 12-year-old Windows XP OS, but thousands of incompatible applications leave many with no choice.
  • January 2020: CISOs can take advantage of support ending for Microsoft Windows 7 by making the case for more investment in cyber security.
  • August 2025: Survey shows IT decision-makers prioritising desktop productivity and PC refreshes, with more in the US prioritising Windows 10 to 11 upgrades.

Should you extend support for Windows 10?

Microsoft says the Windows 10 Extended Security Updates (ESU) programme gives customers the option to receive security updates for PCs enrolled in the programme. Organisations that choose to continue using Windows 10 beyond October 2025 can enrol their PCs into a paid ESU subscription, under which Microsoft will continue to send out critical and important security updates after support ends. Microsoft says that to be eligible to install updates from the ESU programme, devices must be running Windows 10, version 22H2.

There may be some IT departments that have not been organised in handling the upgrade to Windows 11. But Atwal believes the majority will have a Windows 10 to Windows 11 upgrade process in place, even if it runs beyond the end of support date.

“October 2025 is still a relatively good window to aim for,” says Atwal. “You will either have upgraded to Windows 11 or are in line to upgrade at that point.”

He believes those IT departments that have not fully migrated to Windows 11 by then may only need a few months of extended support. However, even if only a few months of extra time is needed to complete a Windows 10 to Windows 11 migration, IT departments will have to pay for the full year of ESU and enrol PCs before 14 October 2025. The operating system on these PCs may also need to be updated to qualify for the programme.

Will there be any Windows 10 to 11 compatibility issues?

When IT departments moved their PC estate from Windows 7 to Windows 10, it was considered a major undertaking. Many skipped Windows 8, which meant they were jumping right into Windows 10. Some faced IT application compatibility issues. Many IT departments aligned the upgrade with a refresh of their PC estate. 

Atwal does not anticipate that the move from Windows 10 to Windows 11 will cause many software incompatibility issues compared to the major shift that occurred with the move from Windows 7 to Windows 10. However, some businesses may discover that some devices are incompatible, like locally connected printers and other external peripherals such as USB headsets and Bluetooth audio devices, where device driver software may not have been updated and certified to run on Windows 11. Older applications may also encounter issues, but these can generally be resolved by running them in “compatibility mode”, which emulates an older version of Windows.

Will your PCs meet the minimum specification for Windows 11?

Windows 11 only runs on a PC with a compatible 64-bit processor from AMD, Intel or Qualcomm. The device must have at least 1GB of memory installed, 64GB of local storage and TPM 2.0 – a trusted platform module, which provides hardware-based encryption. Even if one is installed, PC admins will need to ensure that the PC’s firmware (UEFI Bios) has TPM enabled.

In May 2023, Lansweeper reported that only 67.57% of PCs had the correct processor required by Microsoft to support an automatic upgrade, over the air, to Windows 11. While the majority of machines passed the RAM test (93.86%), only about 74.8% of PCs met the trusted computing module requirement. Lansweeper reported that just under 9% failed and 16.44% were not TPM compatible or did not have it enabled. But the regular PC replacement cycle that tends to occur in enterprise IT means most devices will meet the minimum hardware specification by the time support ends, and on some incompatible devices it may also be possible to find a workaround for the TPM 2.0 restriction.

Atwal notes that there was a substantial replacement of PCs through the Covid-19 pandemic. “Older PCs that were out there pre-2017 or pre-2018 probably got upgraded through that cycle.” While Windows 11 is only certified to run on newer processors with a TPM, Atwal believes the PC refresh that occurred in most enterprises during the pandemic probably means there are very few, if any, incompatible devices remaining as enterprise IT assets. 

Some organisations may well have Windows 11-ready PCs, but chose to install Windows 10 as they were not ready for the upgrade. In the past, he says, IT departments generally aligned their PC refresh with an operating system upgrade. But Windows 10’s introduction of twice-yearly OS upgrades separated the PC hardware refresh cycle from the operating system upgrade. This means IT departments now have a choice, since they are no longer restricted by the need to upgrade both the hardware and the operating system at the same time. Atwal says: “What we’re hearing is that businesses that have maybe a two-year-old PC will update just the Windows operating system.”

What local data issues should PC admins be aware of?

Cedric Grantham, a data recovery specialist at EaseUS, which offers tools to help migrate data from one PC to another, notes that business PCs can face several challenges when an IT department needs to migrate them to a new version of Windows. He says this includes insufficient IT knowledge among enterprise employees, which makes data transfer difficult.

Although organisations may want all data to be held centrally, either on corporate file servers and enterprise systems or in a cloud-based service, Grantham says: “The amount of data on corporate PCs is large, typically several hundred gigabytes or more, and manual transfer of this data is time-consuming and costly.” 

During the Windows operating system upgrade process, compatibility tests or hardware and software issues may cause the upgrade to fail or result in data loss, according to Grantham. “A full backup of your existing system and data is therefore a necessary precaution before upgrading,” he says.

Should you do a clean Windows 11 install?

While Microsoft offers the option to upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11, a clean install of the new operating system is often regarded as the best approach, as it means applications that are no longer used and old device driver software do not get migrated to the newly configured device.

A clean upgrade generally involves formatting the PC’s hard disk. Locally held application data cannot be transferred to the new computer. For instance, Grantham points out that account data and settings – such as account avatar, lock screen wallpaper, desktop background, themes, power options, network location, and so on – cannot be easily transferred.

“Transferring local computer data to a cloud server is difficult to accomplish manually and there is a risk of data leakage when a third-party software tool is used for data transfer,” he says.

A clean install means system configuration settings need to be set up again on the device. EaseUS has seen a small number of its customers encounter issues if they have deployed local Windows domain servers that laptops and desktop PCs need to connect to to authenticate to a local area network (LAN).

While many enterprises will be using Azure Active Directory to authenticate Windows users, Grantham says enterprise users running local domain controllers will face the hassle of reestablishing domain control on the new Windows 11 computers.

Is this the end of Windows upgrades?

Gartner’s Atwal believes Microsoft is positioning Windows 11 as a strategic upgrade in terms of where it wants Windows users to go. Windows 10 effectively separated the operating system from the PC hardware. A new operating system offers new features.

For instance, Windows 11 supports newer Wi-Fi specifications and PC manufacturers are promoting the benefits of neural processing unit (NPU)-equipped devices, which have built-in artificial intelligence (AI) optimisation. This can be combined with support for better noise cancellation and video effects like the ability to blur backgrounds seamlessly.

Such features tend to work best when the new hardware is used with the latest version of the operating system software. So while the majority of an organisation’s IT estate is likely to be Windows 11-ready, only devices built on the latest hardware will be able to take advantage of some of the functionality updates in newer versions of Windows.

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