No, Windows XP is not more popular than Windows 11

Alarmingly low Windows 11 adoption rates don't hold up to scrutiny.

There's no denying that Windows 11 adoption isn't where Microsoft would like it to be. Through a combination of the usual consumer hesitation and a real dearth of compelling reasons to upgrade, the latest release just isn't landing with users the way Windows 10 did. 

But a few recent news stories have given a more dire outlook than can actually be justified. Specifically a recent digital survey indicated that Windows XP, an OS released more than two decades ago, still has more users than Windows 11. In a word: no.

These stories are based on the latest report from a company called Lansweeper. The data was collected to promote the company's Windows 11 migration services. 

According to the report from April 4th, approximately 80 percent of all Windows machines are running Windows 10, with two per cent on Windows 8, 5 per cent on Windows 7, and a little over nine per cent running various flavours of Windows Server. 

Now for the juicy comparison: while 1.71 per cent of machines surveyed with Lansweeper's methodology were running some version of Windows XP, just 1.44 per cent had upgraded to Windows 11. Six months after a major operating system release, it's a pretty damning metric.

But is it a fair one? As illustrated by the huge chunk of Lansweeper's results reporting Windows Server, it's heavily skewed towards IT and other industrial machines. Machines that don't typically represent a single user, either in a home or corporate sense. 

Penny-pinching corporations are infamous for being hesitant to upgrade almost anything if it's still working, even if their IT departments (and Microsoft) are begging them to do so. I'd wager a few bucks that the stand-alone job processing workstation I used at my first printshop job is still running Windows XP. But that doesn't really represent someone browsing PCWorld on a daily basis.

Credit: Lansweeper

This hard split between consumer and corporate is illustrated in Lansweeper's own report. According to the data, consumer use of Windows 11 is sitting at approximately 2.25 per cent, with the combined stat weighed down by corporate users at 1.1 per cent. A mix of early adopters and those who've simply purchased new PCs in the last six months explains the former.

Other recent hardware surveys show more optimistic upgrade rates. The Statcounter survey from April, with a much wider pool of billions of web page hits, shows Windows 11 at an 8.57 per cent share of total Windows users.

While that's still lagging behind the still-popular Windows 7, it's more than twenty times the share of Windows XP users, just 0.45 per cent. 

The March hardware survey from Steam, which skews towards early-adopting gamers, shows an even more rapid adoption. 16.8 per cent of Steam users are on Windows 11, the second-most of any operating system and more than all versions of OSX and Linux combined. Windows XP is so low on that list that it isn't even reported.

Microsoft still has a lot of work to do to convince Windows users of the world that 11 is worth the upgrade. But the idea that it's so bad that Windows XP is preferable for a big slice of customers just doesn't stand up to scrutiny.