Windows 10: 500 million machines and counting

Martin Brinkmann
May 11, 2017
Updated • May 22, 2018
Windows, Windows 10

Microsoft Corporation revealed today that the company's operating system Windows 10 is running on 500 million computer systems.

The company's initial plan back in 2015 when the operating system was released was to push Windows 10 on 1 billion devices by 2018. Microsoft revised the goal last year to "longer than 2018" when it became clear that it would not be able to reach the goal.

The 500 million figure that Microsoft revealed during the keynote speech of the Build 2017 conference means that the company reached half that goal.

Lets take a closer look at the number. First, lets put the number in perspective. Microsoft did not reveal lots of figures in the past, but it did mention some.

windows 10 500 million devices

In September 2016, Microsoft noted that Windows 10 was installed on 400 million devices, up from 300 million in May 2016, and just a couple of days ago, Microsoft revealed that Windows 10 was used by 300 million users daily for 3.5 hours or more.

  1. May 2016 -- 300 million active devices.
  2. September 2016 -- 400 million active devices.
  3. May 2017 -- 500 million active devices.

The increase from 400 million to 500 million is 100 million, or about 12 million per month. This is far from the pace that Microsoft might have hoped for, but it is not too bad either on first glance.

While we don't have progress charts by month, the big jump between May and September 2016 can probably be explained by coinciding with the end of the free upgrade period. While upgrades to Windows 10 are still free, Microsoft stopped its efforts back then to push Windows 10 on devices running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.

Growth has slowed down if you look at the figures, and it is unclear if Microsoft counts all devices running Windows 10, or only PCs when it comes to active devices.

If Microsoft keeps the pace of the past eight months, which is about 12 million new devices running Windows 10 per month, it would take about 42 months or 3 years and 6 months to reach the 1 billion milestone goal set in 2015. Instead of hitting that goal in 2018, Microsoft might hit it in October 2020 instead.

A quick look at the market share reports provided by NetMarketShare paints a similar picture. Windows 10 rose from a percentage of 19.14% in June 2016 to 26.28% in April 2017. Windows 7, a version of Windows released back in 2009, dropped by only 0.55% in that time.

The bulk of Windows 7 users don't upgrade to a new version of Windows, regardless of whether it is Windows 8.1 or Windows 10.

The situation may change once the operating system hits end of extended support in 2020. Microsoft could create another campaign that runs on Windows 7 to get users to upgrade to Windows 10. Considering the end of support, more users may be tempted to take Microsoft up on the offer at that time. All of this is pure speculation however at this point in time.

Günther Born over on Borncity points out (in German) that Microsoft has another looming problem that it needs to address: fragmentation of the Windows 10 user base.

He cites figures from AdDuplex: Only 9.8% of devices run the Windows 10 Creators Update, 82.1% the Anniversary Update, 6% the November update, and 1.8% the RTM version (which support ended for on May 9, 2017).

If that reminds you of the fragmentation on Android, you are probably not completely wrong about that. PC users have the advantage that updates are available for their devices, something that is often blocked on Android by manufacturers who often support devices for a short period of time only.

It seems likely that fragmentation will only increase as Microsoft continues to push out two new feature updates per year. Microsoft has yet to address the issue publicly.

Now you: 500 million active Windows 10 devices, what's your take on that?

Windows 10: 500 million machines and counting
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Windows 10: 500 million machines and counting
Microsoft Corporation announced today that the company's operating system Windows 10 is running on 500 million computer systems.
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  1. Tinfoil_Hat said on May 12, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    no wonder there are delusional comments here… some of those comments are made by people forced to work with M$ software for ten, twenty, thirty and more years and becouse of that have developed a professional illnes. Some become plain mad, others can’t resist commenting badly about M$, others just died of extra-work trying to fix M$ originated IT-mess, others need psychiatric treatment, others…. well, you got it.
    As far as I’m concerned, being in IT-man since 1982 worked with CP-M, Unix, Solaris and M$, I can tell you I’ve got enough of Microsoft.

  2. ilev said on May 12, 2017 at 9:28 am

    Microsoft is still a neglected non-imported player in the OS world with just ~10% OS market share.
    The world’s OS is ruled by Linux/Unix..

  3. Corky said on May 12, 2017 at 9:25 am

    I’ve not checked the exact dates but this increase of 100 million from September 2016 i assume includes all those Xbox Ones that received the update to Windows 10, if so that means Windows 10 only managed to gain around 75 million desktop users, a number that seems pretty bad seeing how during the same time OEM’s sold twice that number of PCs.

    If my back of the envelope workings out are correct that means around half of all desktop PCs sold with Windows 10 get downgraded, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for Windows 10.

    1. Gary D said on May 12, 2017 at 10:41 am

      ” half of all desktop PCs sold with Windows 10 get downgraded,”

      Corky, don’t you mean upgraded to Win 7 (maybe 8.1). :)

  4. Jimmy said on May 11, 2017 at 11:04 pm

    The comments here on MS articles are always so delusional. Funny to read.

    1. said on May 14, 2017 at 10:45 am

      @Jimmy, we’ll see how smug you are when the next forced update breaks your machine and you come whining to the M$ forums looking for help. Unless you plan on being in denial about that happening.

    2. T J said on May 12, 2017 at 1:30 pm


      Just because you are paranoid, it doesn’t mean that there’s noone out to get you. :)

  5. Tinfoil_Hat said on May 11, 2017 at 9:46 pm

    “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”
    My personal opinion is that M$ may not lie about those figures (all in all almost every new computer ships with win10) but it’s just advertising, it’s just making people believe win10 is a great success. it’s just making people feel they are outdated and/or missing something great.
    M$ driving people: think: “500 million users… wow! win10 must be great”, “How can I survive without win10?”, That is what M$ tries to force people think but since so many are experiencing troubles to say the least, many are discovering the truth.

    Remeber Goebbels

  6. ddk said on May 11, 2017 at 8:20 pm

    MS taking a page out of Linux. Fragment the ecosystem. For what purpose, escapes me at the moment.

  7. Yuliya said on May 11, 2017 at 6:13 pm

    As desperate as they are nowadays into having more people move to their piece of junk OS, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if those statistcs include virtual machines as well.
    “Look how good is our OS, everyone is using it” – except that wouldn’t call the VM I use for testing whether or not some piece of software behaves maliciously, then close it after like ten minutes, an “active device”.

    1. hirobo said on May 11, 2017 at 7:40 pm

      I guess my device will make up 1/500,000,000, but only b/c it’s a dual OS tablet I bought off eBay for $100. I wouldn’t give Win10 a cursory glance on a machine costing more than that. Should tell u how I feel about Windows 10.

  8. Dave said on May 11, 2017 at 6:05 pm

    Just think. If MS hadn’t shoved this down everyone’s throats how much fewer they could tout. These numbers don’t mean anything other than MS is successful at being a-holes.

  9. pHROZEN gHOST said on May 11, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    I still have one PC with Windows XP on it. But it is not my main PC.

    On my main PC I have Windows 10 Creator’s Update. There are some issues with this update. So those with Windows 10 are advised to avoid it until MS fixes the problems.

    On another PC I have Windows 10 up to but not including CU. It will stay that way until the issues with CU are addressed.

    My big beef with CU is the fact that Windows Defender Security Center does not accurately reflect the actual state of the security software. It does not recognize Zonealarm. And, without a third party AV package installed, it complains that there is no AV & malware protection. It seems to ignore WIndows Defender even tho’ it is working as you can see in control panel / security and Maintenance. So, the real issue is just WDSC.

    I also have Linux on another PC.

  10. jern said on May 11, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    You write…
    Growth has slowed down if you look at the figures, and it is unclear if Microsoft counts all devices running Windows 10, or only PCs when it comes to active devices.

    Ed Bott (Beloved of MS) says…
    “The figure includes not only Windows 10 installed on PCs, tablets, and phones, but also on Xbox One consoles and a very small number of HoloLens and Surface Hub devices.

    The fragmentation issue is interesting. I thought Win10 was supposed to be MS’s last OS – one OS to rule them all. Now we see MS marketing different versions (e.g. Win10S). It’s creating the same problems for itself that it had in the past.

    1. Dave said on May 11, 2017 at 6:08 pm

      LOL. I just had that conversation with a co-worker. MS is full of so much bull, I’m always amazed that people have followed on with their junk for so long.

      1. 1984 said on May 12, 2017 at 3:41 am

        “I’m always amazed that people have followed on with their junk for so long.” What choice do people have? Possibly Macs, but a Mac isn’t much better. Two monopolies, extorting the world for decades. Then there’s Google, the pretend open, free system which is actually the biggest spynet in the world that MS and Apple are both trying to emulate.

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