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Some Intel PCs Can't Support Windows 10 Creators Update

PCs running Intel's "Clover Trail" Atom processors are effectively blocked from running the Windows 10 "Creators Update."

The issue revolves around Microsoft's plan, disclosed Thursday, to extend Windows 10 support to PCs running the Atom Clover Trail chips, but only via the older Windows 10 "Anniversary Update," not the current Creators Update.

The statement of support isn't posted anywhere at this point. It's just been provided to some press outlets, or to press that requested it. In essence, Microsoft is promising that machines using these Intel Atom processors can continue to run the Windows 10 Anniversary Update (version 1607), which was first released in August 2016, "until January of 2023, which aligns with the original Windows 8.1 extended support period," according to Microsoft's statement. Microsoft is promising security patch support through this period.

These Atom chip-based machines won't be supported on the current "Creators Update" version of Windows 10, though. The Creators Update (version 1703) was first released in April.

Essentially, Intel stopped supporting its Atom Clover Trail chips, a platform that's part of "Cloverview," which Intel first launched in 2012 and 2013. The lack of support is signified as the "end of interactive support" in this Intel table. These low-power processors feature long battery-use spans, and were perhaps found more often in consumer mobile laptop devices than in business machines.

End users who have devices with these Intel Atom chips will be blocked from upgrading to the Windows 10 Creators Update.

"Microsoft is detecting these [Atom] machines and blocking the Creators Update for them," a Microsoft spokesperson clarified via e-mail.

This latest twist on Windows client support stems from Microsoft's decision to make a single operating system, called "Windows 10," and deliver it in an agile fashion, like a service, with major features arriving biannually. The decision seems to have affected the "Wintel" pact, where collaboration between Microsoft and Intel was perhaps on a more workable schedule.

Last year, Terry Myerson, executive vice president for Microsoft's Windows and Devices Group, had announced modified Windows support plans, based on the processor used, including Intel Skylake chips, although the Intel Atom chip weren't mentioned at that time. Microsoft later published a list of Intel Skylake PCs with truncated Windows product support. A few months later, Microsoft relented and reinstated its traditional support policies for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 machines with Intel Skylake chips.

The only public notice about Microsoft's support plans for Atom chips seems to have been this April support forum post. It tells people experiencing a specific problem to "please wait and allow Windows Update to install the Creators Update after compatible drivers are released." However, those Windows 10 Creators Update compatible drivers won't be coming for Intel Atom users. They're stuck with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update.

Microsoft's principal statement, so far, on Windows 10 Atom support reads as follows:

With Windows 10, we introduced Windows as a Service, a model for continuous value delivery via twice annual feature updates and monthly quality updates. Along with this updated delivery cadence, we adjusted our support lifecycle policies to reflect the Windows as a Service model. Recognizing that a combination of hardware, driver and firmware support is required to have a good Windows 10 experience, we updated our support lifecycle policy to align with the hardware support period for a given device. If a hardware partner stops supporting a given device or one of its key components and stops providing driver updates, firmware updates, or fixes, it may mean that device will not be able to properly run a future Windows 10 feature update.

This is the case with devices utilizing Intel Clover Trail Atom Processors1 today: they require additional hardware support to provide the best possible experience when updating to the latest Windows 10 feature update, the Windows 10 Creators Update. However, these systems are no longer supported by Intel (End of Interactive Support), and without the necessary driver support, they may be incapable of moving to the Windows 10 Creators Update without a potential performance impact.

We know issues like this exist and we actively work to identify the best support path for older hardware. As part of our commitment to customers, we will be offering the Windows 10 Anniversary Update to these Intel Clover Trail devices on Windows 10, which we know provides a good user experience. To keep our customers secure, we will provide security updates to these specific devices running the Windows 10 Anniversary Update until January of 2023, which aligns with the original Windows 8.1 extended support period.

1Intel Atom Processors Z2760, Z2580, Z2560, Z2520 (Products formerly Cloverview)

About the Author

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

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