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Microsoft Restores Original Support Policies for Windows 7/8.1 PCs

Microsoft this week said that it is reinstating its original support policies for Intel "Skylake"-based Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 systems, adding several years to their respective support lifecycles.

According to a blog post Thursday by Shad Larsen, director of Windows business planning at Microsoft, the current policy now respects Microsoft's originally published Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 product lifecycle support timelines. Microsoft and its OEM partners are now committed to supporting Windows 7 on Skylake machines until the end of Windows 7's "extended support," which happens on Jan. 14, 2020. On the Windows 8.1 side, Microsoft and its OEM partners now promise support on Skylake machines through the extended support date of Jan. 10, 2023.

Microsoft's rolled back support policies for Skylake-based machines also extend to Windows Embedded 7, 8 and 8.1 products.

Windows 7/8.1 Policy Changes
Skylake processors, also known as "Intel Core sixth-generation products," are part of many PCs being sold today. They appear under the Xeon, Pentium and Celeron brand names. Typically, Microsoft's published Windows support policies don't change based on processor technology releases.

However, in January, Windows Executive Vice President Terry Myerson announced that Microsoft would shorten its support for Windows 7/8.1 machines to July 17, 2017 for machines running Skylake processors, although critical security updates would continue to get delivered.

In March, Jeremy Korst, general manager of Windows marketing, modified Myerson's announcement. Windows 7/8.1 end-of-support dates were extended one year beyond what Myerson had declared, Korst explained at that time.

This week, per Larsen's announcement, the original support policies are now back in effect for Windows 7/8.1 on Skylake-based machines. But Microsoft will still draw a line for Windows support with regard to future processor technologies. Only Windows 10 will be supported for those technologies. Here's how Larsen explained it:

As previously communicated earlier this year, future silicon platforms including Intel's upcoming 7th Gen Intel Core (Kaby Lake) processor family and AMD's 7th generation processors (e.g. Bristol Ridge) will only be supported on Windows 10, and all future silicon releases will require the latest release of Windows 10.

Microsoft went back to its traditional support policies for Windows 7/8.1 on Skylake processors because some customers had "a few systems that require longer deployment timeframes," Larsen explained.

Possibly, organizations may have expressed a need to purchase new PCs running Windows 7/8.1, but Microsoft's truncated policy would have compelled them to use Windows 10 in those cases. Larsen said Microsoft listened to customer feedback when it made its decision.

Windows 10 Support
Support policies also are getting an unusual twist of sorts with Windows 10. It looks like organizations now will have to track Microsoft's product lifecycles based on the Windows 10 version number, as well as the update support branch they follow.

It's kind of confusing. For instance, Computerworld author Gregg Keizer noticed that Microsoft listed a product lifecycle end date for Windows 10 that was "extended" by one year for version 1607, which is the so-called "anniversary update" of Windows 10 that reached "general availability" status this month. However, the so-called extended date is just for Windows 10 users following the long-term servicing branch (LTSB) update approach for Windows 10 version 1607.

Windows 10 version 1607 LTSB support will end on Oct. 13, 2026, according to Microsoft's Windows 10 lifecycle support page. There's no end-of-support date listed for "current branch for business" (CBB) Windows 10 version 1607 users, likely because it's just a "current branch" release right now and will reach CBB status in about four months' time, Microsoft has explained. The CBB omission from the lifecycle support policy is confusing. Windows 10 version 1607 LTSB is actually getting released on Oct. 1, but it's listed in the policy nonetheless.

On the other hand, Windows 10 version 1507 support is still set to end on Oct. 14, 2025.

Microsoft typically offers 10 years of product support for Windows. The support is broken into two five-year phases, called "mainstream" and "extended." Windows 10 is Microsoft's "last" product brand name for the Windows client, the company has indicated. There won't be a future "Windows 11," per this scheme. And, even though Windows 10 is described by Microsoft as "Windows as a service," it still follows the old 10-year lifecycle support policy.

The difference this time is that the version of Windows 10 that an organization starts off with will determine the product-support end dates, apparently.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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