Windows by the numbers: Windows 10 is on track to reach 85% by mid-2021

It's not unusual for Windows 10 use to rise as Windows 7's use falls, which is what happened (again) in June. One continuing surprise: it was the third straight month where Linux saw gains.

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Windows 7 again retained its majority user share in August, setting the stage for a potentially chaotic migration to its successor, Windows 10, over the next 28 months.

According to analytics vendor Net Applications, Windows 7's user share in August was 48.4%, a decline of half a percentage point. The veteran operating system, which powers the bulk of enterprise personal computers, ran 53.4% of all Windows machines in the same period. (The second number is larger because Windows was detected on 90.7% of the world's PCs, not 100%; the remainder ran macOS or one of the many flavors of Linux.)

The problem is that even with a small downturn last month, Windows 7's share has barely budged since April 2016. In the intervening 16 months, the operating system has gained six-tenths of a percentage point. During the same span of time, other editions have dumped significant user share: Windows 8 and 8.1, for example, unloaded more than 10 points in the same stretch, while the ancient Windows XP dropped 4.6 percentage points.

Windows 10 grew by nearly 13 points over those 16 months.

Windows 7's refusal to recognize an upcoming retirement — Microsoft will halt all support in January 2020 — meant that it fell even further behind the decline pace set by Windows XP six years ago. At the same mark before its April 2014 retirement, with 28 months left to go, XP accounted for 50.4% of all Windows PCs, about three points lower than Windows 7's August share.

The difference between Windows 7 and Windows XP at the 29th month mark had been just five-tenths of a percentage point.

Although some analysts have argued that businesses have begun to pack up Windows 7 and deploy Windows 10 — and that the trend will play out more expeditiously than it did when they shifted from XP to 7 — there has been no hint of such in Net Applications' data.

Other sources put Windows 7 in an even tougher spot. Irish metrics company StatCounter said that Windows 7 powered 54% of all Windows personal computers last month; Windows XP had accounted for just 46.3% of all Windows at the same point in its pre-retirement timeline.

The replacement for Windows 7, the this-OS-is-forever Windows 10, added five-tenths of a percentage point to its share in August — a bit more than half the increase of the month before — to run 28% of all PCs and 30.9% of all Windows desktops and laptops. By Computerworld's calculation — using the 12-month trends as shown by Net Applications — Windows 10 will be on a third of all Windows PCs by February 2018.

Net Applications and StatCounter estimate share by detecting the agent strings of the browsers used to visit its clients' websites, then tallying the various operating systems listed in those strings.

windows 7 market share IDG/Net Applications

Windows 7 has fallen behind the pace that XP set years ago as it headed toward retirement. The enterprise default OS retained a majority of the Windows installed base last month.

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