Free ride over: Windows 10 growth slows to a crawl

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 2, 2016
Updated • Jul 5, 2017
Windows, Windows 10

The growth of Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system slowed down to a crawl in September 2016 according to several analytics service.

Microsoft never failed to mention that the company's Windows 10 operating system was the fastest growing operating system the company ever produced.

Considering that Windows 10 was offered as a free upgrade to any customer running a machine with a genuine Windows 7 or Windows 8 license, it is not really that much of a surprise.

More interesting is the question how Windows 10 would do once the free ride is over. Statistics for September 2016 indicate that the system is not doing that well.

windows 10 growth

If you check the stats over on Netmarketshare you will notice that the service recorded a decline in use between August and September 2016.

For August, it recorded an all-time high of 22.99%, and for September a decline to 22.53%. Third-party tracking services are never accurate though but growth slowed down considerably especially if you consider that Netmarketshare recorded a growth of 1.86% from July to August.

Microsoft ended the free offer officially at the end of July, but upgrades to Windows 10 are still free despite Microsoft's claims that they are not.

The monthly updated statistics of Valve's gaming platform Steam show a similar picture. Valve recorded an increase by 0.04% for Windows 10 in September 2016 to 47.48%.

Windows 10 has been the most popular operating system on Steam for a while likely because gamers are more inclined to upgrade their computer systems than other user groups.

StatCounter statistics confirm the observation. The company saw a rise of 0.05% in September 2016 for Windows 10 to 22.24%.


It is pretty clear that the effect of the ending of the free upgrade offer have caused growth to slow to a crawl. The one month delay can be explained by how and when stats are updated by the services.

It seems likely that growth won't pick up pace any time soon. While it may get a boost during the holiday season when more PCs get sold, it seems likely that the impact will be minimal.

There are not many events in the future that could accelerate growth again. Microsoft plans to end extended support for Windows Vista in 2017, but Vista is hardly relevant anymore these days. Even if that would be the case, users might consider staying on Vista like XP users did years ago, or upgrade to Windows 7 or 8.1 instead.

Microsoft could consider running another promotion but has not made any announcement yet in this regard.

Now You: Is Windows 10's growth period over? What's your take on the development?

Free ride over: Windows 10 growth slows to a crawl
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Free ride over: Windows 10 growth slows to a crawl
The growth of Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system slowed down to a crawl in September 2016 according to several analytics service.
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  1. A41202813GMAIL said on October 5, 2016 at 6:48 pm


  2. Tom Hawack said on October 5, 2016 at 8:19 am

    @ Valborex,

    “But keep the Faith, Tom Hawack, keep the Faith.”, I like the way you wrote that.
    True this is a tech blog, I often too often slip from the article towards off-topic considerations. I’ll just add a few lines to acknowledge your comment.

    Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata” ends with these words,
    “And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy
    confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its
    sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful
    world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

    I believe in mankind. But the world seems to be running as an infernal machine and sometimes we may be split between doubt, revolt and nevertheless hope. If at least we try to make the best of our relationship with the one next to us then all theories, politics, religions may very well elaborate their own paradoxes that it wouldn’t make our very own individual lives paradoxical.

    Have a nice day. I won’t say “Peace & Love brother” because that wording has never been my culture, but it’s the idea.

  3. Zach said on October 4, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    I suspect there are MANY more like me, that wanted to upgrade, but couldn’t.
    All i got was an error message that I couldn’t get help with. I GAVE UP!!
    So I’m staying with Win7 .

    Helped my friend install Win10, It did work as it was a new machine.
    He has had so many issues with it, he is ready to trash it.
    e.g. installed alternative to OFFICE (WP) MS keeps sending pop ups to advertise OFFICE.
    Quite annoying. That’s just one issue. There are more.

    1. Tom Hawack said on October 4, 2016 at 7:22 pm

      For us who live in western worlds of freedom and ignore all of totalitarianism the New Microsoft, brilliantly illustrated with its Windows 10 OS, has the invaluable merit of giving the touch, the taste, the smell of what it may be to live in an imprisoned state.
      I still don’t understand how such an amount of intrusion, of enforcement may be the very nature of an American developed OS. It would have been North Korea I could have understood, but an American company daring such an anti-freedom volume of code is beyond my very conceptualization. Let’s not forget that totalitarian ideologies may as well be those of far-right, which would concern a certain idea of business within certain American companies, not all fortunately. But I think America has to be careful with certain fascist business ideologies and behaviors which seem to be slapping — punching — the beautiful America we know, and that I know, knew.

      1. Valrobex aka: Bill Clinton & 007 said on October 4, 2016 at 10:14 pm

        @ Tom Hawack,

        Your observations and concerns are similar to many millions of Americans as well – me included. Businesses, unlike governments, however, must still “compete” in the free market. Just look at how many Ghack readers are giving up on Win 10 (also known as Microsoft.) And from the articles I’ve read Ghack readers are not the only ones having problems
        It might take a while but computer users will “vote” with their feet, or money, or what have you, and desert Microsoft. That’s the beauty of the free market system. (Apple is probably licking their chops in anticipation of the future desertion coming MS’s way. So long as Apple plays it “straight, that is…)

        There is a discernible “movement” going on in the USA that I, for one, welcome. It can be summarized in a statement like this: “We’ve had enough of this BS. And we’re not going to take it anymore!” It’s manifesting itself in US politics, US “culture”, and yes, even in the Free Market. I’m old enough to have observed it several times in the past – and the pendulum is swinging back to Righteousness.

        I know this is a tech blog, so I shall end my comments here. But keep the Faith, Tom Hawack, keep the Faith.

  4. klarkkent said on October 3, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    Microsoft gave me a bright shining red apple. I took a big bite, it tasted pretty good. I noticed the apple made a loud buzzing noise, as I swallowed. I turned the apple around, and saw a small hole in it. Down inside the whole was a wasp, just eating away at my new fruit. Umm …chuck up into my mouth.

    Hey Microsoft…

    apple core,


    who’s my friend.

    I use Win10 along with Steam for gaming. Most games (the expensive ones) are made mostly for Wndows right now, and some of those games use the new Direct x in Win 10. Most gamers spend way too much money on their PC’s; so it’s obvious we are looking for the best looking and working games. The results mentioned in the article, about steam, might be a little misleading. Increase?, yes, because there is an increase in new games using the new Direct x in Win 10; so many of us are using Win 10 on their main computer, to keep up with the new games coming out. I use Linux on my laptops and other PC’s. If most games switch to Linux, and work equally well on it, I will switch to Linux completely, in a heartbeat. Until then I will hold my nose long enough, to startup the Win10 spyware crap, so I can play my games.

    1. Tom Hawack said on October 3, 2016 at 2:47 pm

      “One apple a day keeps the doctor away”, that’s what Eve told Adam and look what it led him to.
      “Intel inside” when it comes to the chip, “The devil inside” when it comes to Eve’s OS. Yeah!

      Speaking of destinies, gaming is an addiction so many hard-core gamers might focus on a microsecond and totally ignore their privacy concerns. OK, OK you’re a gamer (not you, klarkkent), you swear Win10 is the best for your part-time leisure and you’re not an addict in any way. In that case you might as well avoid Win10, unless being tied to latest so-called top-notch technology is a way of life. I linger to know in what an OS such as Win10 would be the ultimate unless to consider a Rolls Royce equipped with a lawnmower engine.

      Remains that maybe — I do say “maybe” because I’m not concerned nor are any of my close relatives — maybe a skilled geek can shave the beast and extract the best out of its engine and avoid the worst of its built-in parrot features, but if so why not let things be said clearly : “Windows 10 out of the box is craps but the OS has a good potential made available for geeks. if you are not a geek, pass your way”. That would sound fair, no?

      1. Tom Hawack said on October 3, 2016 at 8:47 pm

        K, E, Double-L, O, Double-G, Kelloggs best to you, James :)

      2. James Bond said on October 3, 2016 at 7:54 pm

        @ Tom Hawack,

        Just remember, double 0 means license to kill…

      3. Tom Hawack said on October 3, 2016 at 3:32 pm

        OK, klarkkent, fair enough. Of course I was bouncing on your comment to propose my word of the day. But at the end, reading your last post, you do seem to happen to be a geek, gamer or not. This confirms that the positive comments concerning Win10 I may read or hear are always those of geeks. Martha Whatshername living in Main Street down in Thatplace, running the computer between getting super ready and the kids’ bathing is not a geek, has had, has and will have troubles, to put it mildly, with Win10. It’s a fact. I’m not saying you deny that fact, I’m only trying to be smart :)

        No problem with the Double-Post-Seven (007, lol), happens to us all, geek or not!

      4. klarkkent said on October 3, 2016 at 3:25 pm

        Sorry, got interrupted, (Anonymous post), so double post, now triple. Oh yea, and I guess I can call myself a geek. I try to be one anyway. :) So to answer your question, yes, sounds fair to me.

      5. klarkkent said on October 3, 2016 at 3:04 pm

        Well Tom, in my defense, I use Win10 Enterprise, LTSB, tweaked to the max. That’s the part at the end of the old saying about apple core, where I throw it at Microsoft, (not morally, correct on my part, I know, but Oh Well). And as far as being a gamer, my stupidity has no bounds. Guilty as charged. :)

        I can’t avoid Win10 because of direct x 12 and the new games that require it, (and the new ones that will in the future, unfortunately).

      6. Anonymous said on October 3, 2016 at 2:56 pm

        Well in my defense, I use Win10 Enterprise LTSB, tweaked to the max, That’s the part at the end of the saying, where I throw the apple at Microsoft.

  5. Gregory Nine said on October 3, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    I just got the WIndows 10 anniversary update, and it’s tanked my computer. The screen is black, and stays black. I called Dell, and I’ll have to pay to have them “look” at it. I can’t even let them take remote control of the machine, because the keyboard may not even be in communication with the computer–I can’t tell with a black screen.

    Anyone know how to join the class action lawsuit against Microsoft over this? Hundreds of thousands of people are having the same problem, from all the forums I’ve read. Anyone know of a fix? It’s a Dell XPS One 27, and there’s only one hardware button: the power button.

  6. 420 said on October 3, 2016 at 10:27 am

    Stupid microsoft, never has a company had so much market share and pissed all over it. I could say a lot more but why bother.

  7. Kevin said on October 3, 2016 at 7:25 am

    It would have been good to know how many ghack visitors use windows 10, probably not too many tech savvy people that know win10 contains spyware will install it.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on October 3, 2016 at 7:55 am
  8. ilev said on October 3, 2016 at 7:16 am

    October 31 2016 is the last for OEMs to sell PCs with Windows 7 Pro and Windows 8.1.

  9. Dave Litho said on October 3, 2016 at 6:22 am

    The inability to fully and easily disable all tracking and telemetry is what prevents me from using Windows 10.

  10. hirobo said on October 3, 2016 at 1:31 am

    guys I’m running a Windroid tablet and I love it! I have disabled WiFi in win10 (not turned off but disabled). MS will never collect a piece of telemetry nor will the tablet ever get to download 1 update. When I do need the internet, I switch into android and use an SD card as a data bridge between the two OSes. Windroid is the best thing that ever happened since I can’t see myself using win10 connected to the internet ever!

    1. Zdrobot said on October 13, 2016 at 12:00 pm

      That’s one way of running Windows 10 safely (if you can be 100% sure your WiFi is really off and doesn’t “wake up” occasionally when time comes to phone home), but not being able to look up stuff on the internet – isn’t it killing the whole idea of a tablet?
      I’ve been thinking about a wifi filtering device that would allow you to block MS hosts, just as hosts file must be able to, except it doesn’t really. But that would (a) cost money, (b) make you have to charge it, have it constantly with you, (c) make you update its black list. In short, it’s a hassle.
      Much simpler to run Linux, if it works on your tablet, IMO.

  11. Valrobex said on October 3, 2016 at 1:03 am

    Yes SFer,

    I too, have switched to Linux (Mint) and have no intentions of looking back. I’ll maintain my Win 7 laptop until 2020 then switch everything completely over to Linux. Hell, even my wife likes Linux Mint and what she knows about computers is contained in one word: “Nothing.”

    I grew up with Microsoft. First learned DOS on an original IBM PC and have been through all the OS iterations (however skipping over Vista.) But unless there is a major change in Microsoft’s approach, Win 7 will be my last MS OS.

    I’m sure we’re not the only ones, sad to say.

    1. MdN said on October 3, 2016 at 3:01 am

      Nah, there’s more of us. Used XP for a decade, knew it inside-out, until I tried Linux, stayed with Xubuntu, happy. Someone on a Linux-related site mentioned that StatCounter might not be the most reliable source as most of us who switched to Linux also know how to block ads and trackers, then again a lot of Windows or MacOS users do as well. Netmarketshare? How do they measure percentages? Cookies (that get blocked too)? :-) I do miss a few programs (hence I still have XP in dual boot, in case I ever need them again) but I can’t use Windows for more than half an hour any more without getting too nervous, everything looks weird and is in wrong places. :-)

  12. Nick said on October 2, 2016 at 11:36 pm

    I think the most telling thing about Windows 10 is the increases in Linux and MacOS figures, Windows 10 is causing a significant increase in Linux usage according to all the monitoring sites. It’s still very small but growing at increasing rates each month for the last 6 months or so. People are moving off Windows.

  13. windows xp said on October 2, 2016 at 10:56 pm


    1. Velocity.Wave said on October 3, 2016 at 7:19 am

      DOS 3.1 for life

      1. FREEDOS said on October 5, 2016 at 6:48 pm

        Well, DOS is closed source. Try FREEDOS:

        Open Source 1.1 Release 21-Aug-2010

        Get it for free:

    2. hirobo said on October 3, 2016 at 2:02 am

      Same here only I use XP in conjunction with Win7 in dual boot config.

  14. SFer said on October 2, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    May I introduce
    the obligatory mention to Linux?

    I switched to Linux
    after MS dropped XP
    (a perfectly functional OS
    despite instability and security problems).
    Screwed millions like me…

    Using Ubuntu Linux.
    Never looked back…

    I will not even install Windows
    if it were free in any of our PCs…

    So to MS, I say:
    – Thank you Microsoft!
    Were it not for your greed and tech fiascos,
    I would have never switched to Linux…”.

  15. Tom Hawack said on October 2, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    I’m still not sure if it’s been the forcing to accept the Win10 upgrade or the amount of negative users’ feedback which led me to a total lack of interest for the new OS; I guess the latter reason had been decisive maybe because I’m not fond of demagogy and that principles IMO may be bent by a smart pragmatism.

    Fourteen months after Windows 10 official launch the OS is still not free of problems, major issues seem to relay one another when one fix breaks another. I am deeply interested to discover the development of Windows 10, i’m not hoping it will be a failure because I dislike hatred and that a good browser is a good thing for everyone, especially on a Microsoft scale. But at this time it’s like a 6-1, 6-1, 5-1 at a tennis tournament. Microsoft will have to win this game and the two next if it wants to be the champion. We’ve seen it done :)

  16. pd said on October 2, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    Maybe when it’s finished, it’ll be worth paying half the amount they ask for. Until then, it’s not worth paying for or bothering with as it offers nothing but a half-arsed bunch of simplified screens that end up at a Windows 7 screen anyway.

    In the past I thought it might be worth upgrading Windows so that the flood of startup/background widgets or utilities that provide the same functionality as new versions of Windows, for older versions, for free, start to add up to a bit of an unwieldly feel, crowding the task list and making it harder to keep only necessary programs running whilst delaying startup.

    Then I took a look at the number of processes running in new versions of Windows. Then I sat there waiting for just as long whilst the Windows ‘false dawn’ gave me the impression I could use the system when really I just had to wait as long as I would on older versions.

  17. Anonymous said on October 2, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    It seems that future growth will be sluggish indeed.
    Windows 10 is overall a very good OS. Microsoft really messed up by imposing extensive data collection, forcing people to upgrade (the maximum delay is 12 months for most users, for home users there is even no delay possible), and by mounting ads in the OS. You cannot expect people will see you as a “partner company”, but rather as a hypocrite. Of course Google does it as well, but they at least admit it openly. Contrary, Microsoft’s de facto advantage was namely consistency and privacy, but they rather “sold their souls”.

    This is why many people have become reluctant to Win 10. They don’t care as much about new shiny features, UWP apps, new UI, etc. They just don’t want to be insecure about privacy (telemetry), and system stability (forced upgrades and updates, except for Enterprise users – who represent minority).

    Average users will however be “forced” to upgrade to Windows 10 through the following years. The Windows 7 extended support ends in 2020 and for Windows 8.1 ends in 2023. After that, there will be no choice (you can’t expect all these people moving to Linux). So expect Windows 10 share to begin rising noticeably after 2020. These will however be “I’m told I must to do that” kind of upgrades rather than “I want that new Windows 10” upgrades. Apparently MS doesn’t really care for its reputatation, because it has become “too big to fail” in the PC field.

    1. Zdrobot said on October 13, 2016 at 11:49 am

      “I’m told I must to do that” – well, these people must have “upgraded” to Win 10 by now, while it was FREE!!(tm) *salesman’s grin*
      As for those who have not, I don’t think they’re going to cave in in 2020. Dying PCs are going to be replaced with new machines bearing Windows 10, sadly, but I can’t see how end of support is going to scare significant amount of people into buying Windows 10 for their old boxes.

  18. DarkTheme said on October 2, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    This is normal all things have your first time

  19. Corky said on October 2, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    What i found most amusing is when i compared Windows 8/8.1’s combined highest market share with Windows 10 on statcounter, the highest combined market share for 8/8.1 was around 20% while Windows 10 is around 24% so Windows 10 has performed 4% better than 8/8.1 and Microsoft couldn’t wait to abandon that, maybe they’ll do the same with 10.

  20. Steve Hare said on October 2, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    Windows 10 functions in many cases like malware, adware, and spyware. Many of us are locked into the MS ecosystem. Many of us aren’t happy that MS continually “phones home” and is not very transparent with what it does with the data. We hoped for a secure OS – something that would put “personal” back into PC. For many of us MS is not creating a secure environment we can operate in. Rather, intrusive monetizing schemes abound, I would have preferred a much simpler, tighter, secure OS that would let me exploit other MS tools without feeling apprehension when pushing a button to select an option. I now actively look for non-MS tools to accomplish the tasks I need to. I now use MS when there are no other good choices. I am fortunate that I have the technical expertise to move to a new platform (for the most part). It’s kind of sad – I really liked MS. Now they are another faceless company trying to monetize the consumer. Greed got in the way, Huge opportunity for some Linux distros if they can make the customer experience simple.

  21. Jeff said on October 2, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    Steam is great as a gaming platform but it does not reflect the overall usage of Windows, i.e. the non-gamers which are in the majority. If you want close to actual statistics, I think you should look at NetApplications.

    Stats Counter too is flawed because it measures page views rather than unique visitors. Page views might reflect higher usage by a single person but it does not reflect the number of unique users. If you refresh 100,000 times, your computer is counted as 100,000 visitors.

    Net Applications goes by USERS. Meaning, that you can refresh 1,000,000 times and you’re only counted once. Go to a different site? You’re still the same user, or same device/copies in use. It is the only one that weighs the data to represent a worldwide picture, which is a much more sensible way of presenting the data if what you want is an international picture of what individual people are using.

    Their system is not perfect, but if you want to count how many people use a given browser, worldwide, theirs is the best number out there. Using page views,and unweighted data means that other people are mostly tracking heavy usage, rather than global percentage of users.

    1. Corky said on October 2, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      While i agree with your assessment of the two main bean counters Jeff i don’t agree with your conclusion, statcounter can be of use if you bear in mind how it gathers its stats, in effect it measures OS popularity or how active those users are.

      Besides both of the main bean counters are normally a few percentage points from each other and as it’s not an exacting science there’s probably plenty of room for inaccuracies.

      1. Parker Lewis said on October 2, 2016 at 3:57 pm

        Yeah the statistics provided by Netmarketshare are not enough to get the full picture. Talking about browser marker share for example, you will get a high percentage from the default browser in China for example, but once you count actual web usage (StatCounter), you may learn that the bulk of that high percentage is actually people who barely use their computers and therefore don’t represent a meaningful ‘customer’ to any web service. (Including browser vendors)

        Statistics answer questions. The more questions you answer the clearer your understanding. It’s also very easy to ask questions that are different from what you meant to ask, which is why statistics are tricky if what you care about is truth/reality…

        For instance, couldn’t the slow month of September be due to the fact that September is reputed to be a dead month for many kinds of businesses ? When people start to buy computers again, shouldn’t Windows 10 rise like a normal Windows version ? (Assuming manufacturers still sell their computers with Windows 10 as often a they did other Windows versions)

        We’ll see I guess. I’m not really aware of the various factors that affect desktop OS market share. Never bothered trying to answer exactly why Vista never succeeded and why 8/8.1 couldn’t dethrone Seven.
        There must be mechanical and situational reasons that are independent from product quality, and many other factors.

  22. Earl said on October 2, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    They should have simply priced it at what it’s worth and not tried to shove it down everyone’s throat. Any goodwill it might have earned as a worthwhile upgrade–if it even is one (which I wouldn’t know since their pressure tactics and forced upgrades only convinced me to never even try it)–was lost due to their bad behavior. What’s it worth? …maybe $29.95–once you disable all of the invasive, privacy-killing “features”.

    1. DaveyK said on October 3, 2016 at 12:41 pm

      Got it in one. MS’s attempts to force feed it down everyone’s throats whether they wanted it or not left a very unpleasant taste in people’s mouths. Similarly, using malware-like tactics and other forms of trickery to force it onto machines also put people off.

      I’ve said it before, MS’s behaviour reminded me of a rude and overly-pushy salesman who just won’t take no for an answer. Eventually, you reject the product he’s pushing (no matter how good or bad it may be), out of sheer principle…

    2. hallmike said on October 2, 2016 at 8:06 pm

      I would pay up to $99.95 for a Windows 10 “lite” which had no telemetry, no sponsored apps or ads, no OneDrive, no Cortana, no built-in non-removable apps, and no forced automatic all-or-nothing cumulative updates. Yes, I know I can disable or remove all of these things with a bunch of convoluted hacks and tweaks, but then I always have to check what the latest update broke or turned back on by default. I’d rather not have all that crap to begin with and just add what I actually will need and use. Until then I’ll continue to use Windows 7 while I learn Linux and test different distros in a VM until I find the one I like best and switch to it permanently.

      1. Declan said on October 4, 2016 at 8:12 pm

        hallmike, you have the right idea, a Win-10 Lite built according to your description. That would be an OS that people could use, modify, and get to appreciate. But MS has a business model that has become intrusive and dangerous, so there is no way they would let go of all that malware baked into Win-10. I wish it was otherwise, but ever since Gates stepped aside, the MS development drones have turned Windows into a tool for marketing with Big Brother as it’s nasty cousin.

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