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When Does Support End for Other Versions of Windows?

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Leo, we know that support ends for Windows XP in a couple of weeks. What do we know about other versions of Windows?

We know quite a bit. In fact, Microsoft maintains a very public list of their end-of-support dates. Let’s go over them and what they mean – because “end-of-support” can mean different things.

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The master list

First, you can find Microsoft’s public list at go.askleo.com/winlifecycle.

For each operating system, there are three important bits of information.

  • The latest service pack, which must usually be installed to receive any kind of support for as long as possible;
  • The end of mainstream support;
  • The end of extended support.

So what’s the difference between mainstream and extended support?

The Deadline ApproachesEnd of support versus end of support

You can click through a link on that page and there’s another page that has a fairly lengthy and somewhat technical definition. But what it boils down to for the average user is this:

  • Mainstream support means that things like bug fixes that aren’t related to security, as well as possible responses to requested design and feature changes, could all happen.
  • Extended support means that Microsoft will only fix things that are security risks; or bugs that could result in some serious data loss.

After extended support ends, all that really remains are previously published Knowledge Base articles and possibly some limited Q&A in the product forums – although at that point I’d expect them to be almost 100% non-Microsoft support with answers and discussions coming from other product users.

It’s important to realize that all that “end of support” really means is that Microsoft won’t be making any further changes to the product. The product will keep working as long as there is hardware out there that supports it.

To put it all into perspective, mainstream support for Windows XP ended in April 2009. And of course, extended support ends on April 8 of this year.

Microsoft has some rules associated with mainstream and extended support ending. According to those rules, both types of support will end no less than five years after a product’s release and/or no less than two years after the next version is released. And how long they will support boils down to whichever of those two is longer.

So, they could have pulled Windows XP’s mainstream support much, much earlier, like five years after it’s release date or two years after Vista was released. Obviously, those are the minimums and XP was actually supported much longer than anyone ever planned or promised.

Post-XP versions of Windows


Most operating systems – not just those from Microsoft but Mac and Linux as well – have a usable supported life of about five years.
So, what about the other operating systems?
  • Mainstream support for Windows Vista with service pack 2 installed ended two years ago on April 10, 2012. Extended support, in other words security fixes only, will last for another three years ending on April 11, 2017.
  • Windows 7 with SP 1 installed comes to its mainstream end of support date next year: January 13, 2015. The end of extended support is January 14, 2020.
  • And Windows 8, – actually Windows 8.1 – will have mainstream support until January 9, 2018 and extended support all the way into 2023.

Now, of course, these dates are all subject to change, as we saw with Windows XP. Its support was actually extended a couple of times to well beyond its original planned end-of-life. The bottom line is that in this industry, things change. They keep progressing forward. The amount of time that Windows XP has been supported is unprecedented. Most operating systems – not just those from Microsoft but Mac and Linux as well – have a usable supported life of about five years. Rather than planning on them lasting significantly longer than that, it would instead be wise to plan for that turnover, to stay both current and safe.

10 comments on “When Does Support End for Other Versions of Windows?”

  1. I generally advise people to get a computer with the latest OS which is now Windows 8. I tell them that if they plan to keep their computer going for a longer period of time, the previous version (now Win 7) will become unsupported 3 years earlier.

    Now many people who are afraid of getting a Windows 8 machine because of the bad rap Win 8 is getting will get a machine which will become obsolete in 6 years instead of one they might be able to use for 9 years. 6 years might seem long enough for many people, but I’m helping a lot of people with 8 year old machines who might be up against a similar problem 6 years from now if they get Windows 7.

    In fact, Windows 7’s mainstream support is scheduled to end in less than a year. That means only security patches, no more improvements or fixes of annoying bugs.

  2. I have had some thoughts about upgrading from Windows 7 to 8. After reading this article, that’s what I think I will do for sure: either as a collage discount from Microsoft, assuming I graduate High School this year and attend collage the next, or next Winter break as a gift from someone. I tried Windows 8.1 once, and there are some things that I miss about it.

  3. Very good info, Leo. Thanks.
    I also liked Mr. Jacobs comment. It made me glad that I stuck with Windows 8 with my new computer. I wanted Windows 7 but Dell would have charged $50 to install 7 in a machine that already had 8 installed. I’m glad that I didn’t pay much attention to the naysayers about the things wrong with 8. I’ve learned to like it. I’ve learned that only the complainers were posting their gripes in forums. Very few of the thousands that like windows 8 ever mention it.

  4. Gosh, I did not realize how long it’s been since Windows XP came out. I was standing in line, with my money in my hand, the day XP appeared on the shelves, way back in October of 2001–over 12 years ago. It was a good product, and I feel I got my money’s worth. Rather than mess with XP any longer, today I nuked (DBANed) the hard drives on my old computer and moved on with Windows 8.1. I’ll probably be pushing up daisies when it’s prudent to abandon Windows 8.1. Tempus fugit.

  5. To Julian Adams:
    You are very lucky that your Windows XP PC supported Windows 8.1. Unfortunately my old XP PC did not support Windows 7. I had to buy a new PC to support Windows 7. I don’t mind purchasing a new OS every 6 years or so but I do mind abandoning a perfectly good PC (my Windows XP PC still ran great) just to upgrade to a new OS. Just to put things in perspective I work for the State of Maryland. Believe it or not in my office I am using Windows 2000. Which brings up a good point. As long as you are behind a router, have a good antivirus program and use safe web surfing you can continue to use your out of support OS.

  6. re: end of support for Microsoft software. My suggestion to them is to copy Apple and how they do it. They never out and out retire software, they just keep updating it. When it finally comes to more new things in the operating system and give the customer a choice. The upgrade is not as epensive for an upgrade compared to Apple vs Microsoft.
    I have both systems in our household. their are things I like on both systems. But Apple is the winner for supporting their customers. We have had our iMAC for 10 years with 2 upgrades for the new stuff. And it only cost $59 for the software. The new things or flaws are u[grades are done free of change as an update. Same for their software. I paid over $500 for Office 2000 Premium (I think that ws the name). It works perfectly but not the Outlook program ? In order to get Outlook it’s going to be another $500 to get an up to date version. Listen up Microsoft and get back to being #1
    Assume Microsoft keeps track of what people have to say so I’m hoping they will listen to what we the $$$$ and users have to say.

    Assume Microsoft keeps track of what people have to say.

  7. Hi Leo,

    Okay, finally Windows 7 reached its end of mainstream support, January 13.
    My questions,
    1. Windows removed Win7 mainstream support on Jan 13, I run my Windows Update on January 18, not exact January 13 on time, yet can I still download and install the mainstream support update after January 13?

    2. From an article I read, “Extended support means Microsoft will not provide free support for this version any more. Even if you are using a paid license or have signed up for a licensed program, you will be charged for Windows 7 support, as revealed in the support lifecycle policy of Microsoft.”
    What does the ‘free support’ mean here?

    Thank you

    • You should be able to get all of the existing updates now and for many years into the future, even after extended support is closed. Now it’s even possible to get all of the existing XP updates.

  8. When XP reached end of support, we got hundreds of questions about it. Vista reached end of support 3 months ago, and I think we got only one question about continuing to use it. Vista was really an unpopular OS.

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