Microsoft Embraces Right to Repair

Posted on October 10, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Microsoft, Microsoft Surface, Mobile, Xbox with 32 Comments

Analysis: Microsoft Earnings

Activist shareholders have convinced Microsoft to dramatically expand its “Right to Repair” efforts by the end of 2022.

“This is an encouraging step by Microsoft to respond to the upswell of federal and state activity in the right to repair movement,” says Kelly McBee of As You Sow, which describes itself as the non-profit leader in shareholder advocacy. “Excitingly, this agreement will begin to allow consumers to repair their Microsoft devices outside the limited network of authorized repair shops.”

While Microsoft isn’t a leading hardware maker by any measure, it does ship millions of Surface PCs and devices, Xbox videogame consoles, and peripherals of all kinds. And so its embrace of Right to Repair is notable and will lead, hopefully, to other gigantic corporations following it down the same path. This is the first time that shareholders have convinced a hardware maker to embrace Right to Repair, but there are similar shareholder resolutions filed with Apple and Deere & Co. (the tractor maker).

As You Sow notes that electronics are the fastest growing waste stream in the world, and that nearly 70 percent of the emissions associated with personal computing devices arise during production. By allowing customers to more easily repair those electronics, Microsoft can help keep them stay in use for longer time periods and minimize the damage caused by having to unnecessarily build replacements.

Microsoft has agreed to complete a third-party study evaluating the environmental impact of broadening the access to repair locations for its Surface and Xbox hardware. It will also expand the availability of certain parts and repair documentation beyond its authorized service provider network. And it will initiate new mechanisms to enable and facilitate local repair options for consumers.

“I applaud the sincerity that Microsoft brought to the table in negotiating this agreement and hope additional manufacturers follow suit,” McBee added. “Microsoft’s action demonstrates that the company recognizes that extending the lifetime of its devices through repair is essential to meeting its climate goals and that the company is serious about taking action to do so.”

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Comments (32)

32 responses to “Microsoft Embraces Right to Repair”

  1. navarac

    ....always assuming the software lives longer than it does today and does not artificially make the hardware obsolete. Windows 11 - I am looking at you.

    • StevenLayton

      Windows 10 has another 4 years left. If bought new, how old will an unsupported PC be then?

      • MikeCerm

        Not even 4 years old. There are lots of cheap laptops out there PCs still being sold new today with Celeron N3350 CPUs that are not compatible with Windows 11. These are barely usable for web browsing today, so I personally wouldn't want to be using one 5 years from now, but just making the point it's possible to buy new hardware today that will receive less than 4 years of support from Microsoft.

      • digiguy

        How old? My 2017 laptop will be 8 year old in 2025, it is a good reason to stop using it? No!

        My 2012 laptop with a 35w Sandy Brydge i7 16GB RAM is still pretty snappy, came with Windows 7 and is on 10 since 2015, it will be 13 by 2025 and just as good as it is now by then (I replaced the 84w battery a couple of years ago). Why would a 2017 one not last just as long? This argument must stop. At least when it comes to enthusiasts.

        My 2014 i7 with 32GB RAM could work great for another 10 years.

        I have 10 Windows 10 devices (and several businesses) of which 8 are not supported by W11 and I am already planning the post 2025 use.

        I will keep them online and stop using the browser, instead remoting into either my supported devices laptops or my M1 Mac Mini. No local network. As simple as that. Apps should continue to support W10 for at least 3-4 more years (just like W7, since it's on extended support from MS), probably quite a few more years. Also I am considering doing what some W7 die hards (I am not one, and never was) are doing, using the ESU bypass to continue getting the Corporate updates that MS does for the extended support. I couldn't care less about those that say that unsupported hardware should be thrown away or put offline (which is basically the same nowadays) or moved to Linux (which lacks my most important apps). Having said that, I am sophisticated user, and IT expert, this is not something regular people should do.


    • wright_is

      Until Windows 11, the length of time that hardware has been supported is better than nearly everybody else in the industry. Linux being the only exception.


      My iMac was dropped by Apple in 2011/2012, yet Microsoft kept providing Windows updates on the boot camp side until 2020.


      None of my hardware is compatible with Windows 11, but will still receive another 4 years of support - although I have already swapped my main PC to Linux.


      i still have Microsoft keyboards and mice from the turn of the century that still work, so the quality of their (older) hardware was certainly worth the money. My Surface Pro 3 on the other hand killed its battery after about 2 years. I couldn’t replace the battery, but at least MS swapped out the whole device for free.

      • MikeCerm

        "Longer than nearly anyone else in the industry... except Linux." So basically worse than everyone but Apple? Are there other OSes with any market share? Until the x86-64 instruction set is deprecated, there's no good reason Microsoft should be cutting off support. If you want to run Windows 10 on an Athlon X2 from 2004, you can. It will be slow, but it will work better than XP ever did because you can throw an SSD in there for $30. Windows 11 would run fine there too, if Microsoft would allow it. They should just allow it. Throw up a warning that says, "this is not recommended," and then let people click, "continue anyway."

        • wright_is

          x64 isn't the problem (x86 is now dead, in terms of Windows 11, there is no 32-bit version), as such. It is how old the instruction set is and how much backwards compatibility Microsoft builds in.


          Each new generation of chips using the x64 chips brings new features and new security measures, but those have to be built into the operating system, but Microsoft can't do that as long as they support the older chipsets. This is a move in the right direction, but the chips that bring the improved security and features that are really needed are possibly the 9000 series or, more realistically the 10000 and 11000 series Intel (and the corresponding AMD Ryzens). But if they turned round and said that Windows 11 would only run on new hardware, built in the last 18 months, there would have been even more of an outcry. I think they have the right idea, but the communication has been terrible and they should have made Windows 11 only available on new hardware going forward.


          The sops to installing it on unsupported hardware are the wrong message, to moving Windows 11 forward into the 21st century.

          • MikeCerm

            The instruction set is called x86-64, AMD64, Intel 64, or just x64. x86 is not dead, it's still shipping in every AMD and Intel CPU, and 64-bit Windows still runs x86 apps. Windows 11 just won't run on CPUs that don't support x86-64.


            Everything about your 2nd paragraph above is wrong. There are no new security features in 8th through 11th-gen Intel CPUs that distinguish it from the unsupported previous generations. There have been microcode changes, but no changes the fundamental change to the ISA such that, for example, you can't install the original launch version of Windows 10 from 2015 because these newer architectures didn't exist yet. You can, it works fine. There are newer extensions like AVX512, but that's not a requirement for Windows 11. Apart from a minor improvement in clock speed, there's no meaningful difference between (formerly Atom-based) Apollo Lake and Gemini Lake that would Gemini Lake more secure and therefore supported in Windows 11 and Apollo Lake unsupported. There's just a minor difference in clock speed. The decision by Microsoft on which CPUs to support was entirely arbitrary, based on the age of the chips and not about the security or performance characteristics. To suggest otherwise is just silly.

            • wright_is

              Each new generation of processors brings new hardware security features, like Hardware Shield, as well as partial hardware mitigation of Meltdown and Spectre variants. The latter means that Microsoft can start to remove some of the extra code that slows the system down, because they have to work around those hardware security holes in software. That makes the system faster, leaner and more secure at the same time.

      • madthinus

        I honestly think Microsoft will emerge on the right side of the argument against older pcs with Windows 11. Looking at 6th gen and older laptops in our business, those devices have come to end of life. An ssd upgrade and ram upgrade no longer cut it. By the time Windows 10 get to end of support, I think 7th and 6th gen devices will be at the same stage.

        • MikeCerm

          What is the argument against supporting older hardware? I support hundreds of people who get by just fine with hardware a lot older than than 6th gen, who would have no problem using their desktops and laptops another 5 years or more, or at least until it literally dies. I put new SSDs into 10 year old systems all the time, and people are happy to keep them running a few more years. Literally no reason to upgrade ever if you're a general office-type worker. 11th gen CPUs have more cores than 4th gen CPUs, but those cores are only like 20% faster, and if all you do is use web apps and email, who cares? People who have working machines that aren't Windows 10 compatible are going to run them on Windows 10 for the next 5 years, and until they die a natural death thereafter, regardless of when Microsoft stops supporting them. So, how is Microsoft on the right side here?

          • wright_is

            What is the argument against supporting older hardware?


            The same as it has been for the last 30 years. Microsoft is always reluctant to move forward with Windows. It always keeps the old around, as well as introducing the new, better, safer technologies alongside them.


            That means that Windows has always been full of security holes that are hard to patch. Legacy hardware and legacy software support has always remained the priority, over security. Just look at the debacle that was the print sharing security holes that it has taken Microsoft over 3 months to sort out. Each month, they try and put in another shim to stop the malware, whilst not actually removing the broken functionality that was insecure by design, back in the 90s, when it didn't matter, because everything was local and the threat of internet based malware wasn't even on the horizon. Each new shim brings a partial fix to the problem. But the only real fix is to drop the current print sharing mechanism and re-do it properly. But people are up in arms at the thought!


            There is a workaround, you completely disable the remote loading of drivers and let the administrators install them manually on each machine as needed. Luckily for us, that is what we had done from the beginning. No automatic remote driver loading and users can't add new printers themselves. When we pass out a new PC, it is pre-configured with all printers the user needs for their job. If they move to a new department, we remove the old printers and add new ones. It is a chore we have taken on, for improved security.


            But most people don't want the extra hassle and they are reluctant to give up a working (or broken) system, even if it brings improved security.


            The problem is, the current iteration of Windows 11 is the wrong product at the wrong time. The aims that Microsoft announced, when they announced Windows 11 are good and it is a first step in the right direction, dropping some of the legacy crud that is holding up Windows and making it less secure. But the cut-off actually needs to be by Core i 10,000, but that is too new, so they had to let in a couple of older generations that don't have all the required security features, but at least have some that older chipsets don't have.


            Once the 8000 and 9000 series become scarce in running machines, I expect we will see the next step forward.


            Don't forget, one of the big changes with Windows 11 is the dropping of a 32-bit version, which also means that support for older, 16-bit, software is also gone. Microsoft went from suggesting people use the 32-bit version of Office on Windows 64-bit, for backwards compatibility with add-ons, to actually recommending the 64-bit version, after nearly a decade, even though it breaks backwards compatibility.


            Linux has this problem as well, although, because it is open source, distributions can chose not to compile in support for things that really are of no use to their main userbase - such as ISA bus, RLL and MFM support etc. In fact, these are only now being officially dropped from Linux, even though the technology hasn't been available since the mid 90s.


            Apple has less problems with this. They dictate what will and won't work. One reason why they have such problems gaining a foothold in the corporate world, outside the coloured pencils department. Corporate computing looks at long term usage, they have hardware (not PCs) that has a lifespan of decades, yet they are controlled by PCs. Those PCs need to be able to run the same software for those full 20 years, something that isn't possible with Apple, they have been through 2 architecture changes in those 2 decades and have thrown out dozens of overhauled and outdated system APIs.


            Microsoft, on the other hand, still uses the same underlying APIs, alongside newer ones - one of the major reasons why none of the newer technologies really take off. Apple tell the developers, "as of tomorrow, your old code won't work, get busy rewriting it for our supported platform!" Microsoft says, "here is a new platform, we hope you like it, but, hey, you can carry on as before!"


            There are some minor changes over the years, including improved baseline security, we have old equipment whose software can't run on modern Windows, it is stuck on Windows 9x or Windows XP, but at least we can still buy new hardware that runs those operating systems, or at least newer older hardware. The problem is, the hardware still works fine, but the software has never been updated. If we want a newer version of the software that will work on Windows 10, we'll have to spend a couple of million rebuilding our labs and factory, kitting it out with new plant equipment that does the same job as the old, working, hardware, all because the software on a 300€ PC needs to be replaced.


            In general, a lot of software written at that time still works today, in our case, it is the drivers that aren't compatible with Windows Vista onwards, but other software written back then still works. We still have an industrial scales (for weighing HGVs/big rigs entering and leaving the factory) that is written as an add-in to Access 2003. The users still have to have Access 2003 on their PCs, so they can just weigh the trucks, that is a big security risk, but it runs.


            That is the problem Microsoft always faces and with Windows 11, they are finally saying enough is enough, even if the hardware requirements at the moment are arbitrary. I believe we will see them tightening up the specifications, and the resultant security, with each new generation of hardware.

            • digiguy

              Much of this does not matter to most Windows 10 users, as they would gladly NOT upgrade to Windows 11 and keep receiving security updates for as long as possible. And you know what? Microsoft will continue to provide those updates to corporate customers for a fee for a while... (rumors say this time it will be till 2029). So it's absolutely possible to support older hardware with just security and no new feature. But non corporate clients don't have that choice, so there will be a ton of hardware that still works very well and will work just as well in 4 years that will either become ewaste or continue to be used without any security updates. Experts will find solutions to stay safe anyway on Windows 10 past 2025 (as I said above), but the many millions who are not will create more security issues or make a lot of unnecessary ewaste (if we consider all the computers, made from 2012 on, that are not broken and still perfectly usable in 4 years)

            • madthinus

              It has become clearer to me that the Virtualisation technology they are looking to use to virtualise software in sandboxes require some hardware based features that is just not present in older chips. They are in 8th gen and Zen2 products. For all the fear mongering of the PC Gamer article last week of gaming performance going to the dogs when you turn these on a gaming PC, it did make the security features that this enables clear. I can see them introducing application sandboxing in later versions of Windows 11 that will require supporting hardware. For the transition to this, they will keep Windows 10 secure and fresh for another 4 years, while introducing new hardware and a more secured baseline with OEM's.

  2. blue77star

    Since 2000 I ditched OEM in favor for custom build desktop machines and never regret it. Windows 11 will have a slow and painful adoption and in 5 years won't be as successful as Windows 10 before it gets replaced. See Windows 11 is unnecessary.

  3. winner

    Is that why they glue their SurfaceBook together? So that it can be easily repaired?

    • StevenLayton

      Ah, but those devices were designed and build before Microsoft saw the light :)

      Lets judge them on the next devices they design.

    • rm

      Depends on how easily you can heat the glue, open the SurfaceBook and re-glue it when done. Just different tools if it is easy. But, when it is hard to open, other parts can be broken, and hard to put back together, that is another story that needs to be addressed.

  4. csteinblock

    "Microsoft can help keep them stay in use for longer time periods"...

    At least until they artificially kill it by no longer giving software updates!

  5. ponsaelius

    Good news. I keep watching presentations where tech company (fill in your favourite) talks about the environment but seems to be not including the issue of repair. There will always be the people who want the latest thing, but people should be allowed to keep things working that works for them.


    Some manufacturers, and I am looking at Apple here, talk a lot about the environment but seem to produce products that appear to be designed to be unrepairable. Except by Apple of course.



  6. waethorn

    They're gonna have to do this: they can't keep selling new machines with a global chip shortage on the go.


    Mind you, "right to repair" is just lip service if they keep making machines with industrial adhesives and proprietary connectors.

    • wright_is

      The new EU system, where electronics have to have a repairability score should change that going forward. The score will be lowered for the use of non-reusable fastners (i.e. glue or bits that deliberately break, when you open the casing and remove parts). In France, the cost of the spare parts, compared to the original price of the device is also taken into consideration.


      Manufacturers also have to make the parts available to independent repair facilities.

    • shark47

      Apple is responsible for our obsession with thinness. Everyone is doing it now because that’s one of the things reviewers care about.


      i wonder what happened to the company that promised a modular laptop that was fully user upgradable.



      • MikeCerm

        The company is called Framework, and they're available now. Starts at $1000 for a run-of-the-mill i5/8GB configuration. They're pretty nice, everything screws (or magnets) together, so there's no glue or anything. I'd probably buy one for myself if I ever need a new laptop, just to support the cause, but they're definitely not the best value for normal people, Their website is frame.work

        • MikeCerm

          It should be said, all they've delivered so far is their first generation laptop, and it will be years before we know whether they're capable of delivering on their promise of an upgradable/repairable laptop, i.e., when Intel starts shipping whatever comes after Alder Lake, or when AMD finally supports Thunderbolt, will Framework keep the exact same chassis design so I can just drop a new motherboard assembly into a Gen1 chassis and have all the screw holes and ports line up. Apple keeps the exact same design for multiple generations, so there's no reason Framework can't keep the same physical spec (it's not like the laptop form factor has meaningfully changed in the last 10 years), but companies do like to refresh their products from time to time, and can Framework really promise they're never going to abandon users of a previous generation?

          • waethorn

            Intel tried this in the channel a bunch of times already, and failed. Remember Verified-by-Intel? How about Common Building Blocks? And then they made hollow promises about OEM solutions built around Intel Compute Card, which was discontinued pretty much out of the gate. Now they’re playing the same game with Intel NUC Compute Elements, which haven’t exactly been flying off shelves, and going back to laptops, now under the NUC brand.

    • hrlngrv

      Exactly my thoughts.


      Does any OEM make any laptops with easily detachable bases from keyboards to access their internals?


      OTOH, there's no excluse for any immovable desktop PCs (those which only use AC power, no batteries) not to be fully accessible. IMO, that should include all-in-ones, but as I'd NEVER consider buying one I don't really care whether they're glued together.

  7. madthinus

    This is cute. Will they stop lobbying against it as well? Because that would be great.

  8. billreilly

    I wish they had done this before I bought my Surface Pro 4 so that I could have fixed the swollen battery that totally f#cked up the computer which is now absolutely worthless!... Too little too late, thanks a lot Microsoft!

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