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No piece of software can last forever. Sooner or later, nearly every program has to go and its replacement takes the stand 5 Legendary Windows Tools Replaced by New Features 5 Legendary Windows Tools Replaced by New Features Windows includes lots of tools that you use every day, but some have lasted longer than others. Here are parts of Windows that don't exist anymore. Read More . The Windows operating system (OS) itself is no exception.

What happens when Windows reaches the end of its lifetime? What Windows products are currently supported? And what do you need to do about it? We’ll answer these questions and more as we look at how the Windows lifecycle works.

What Is the Windows Lifecycle?

Whenever Microsoft releases a new version of Windows, they also announce its end of support date. You can find these dates in a table on Microsoft’s website. You’ll notice two dates: Mainstream support and Extended support:

  • During mainstream support, a version of Windows receives security updates as well as possible feature updates. You can also get help How You Can Get Help in Windows 10 How You Can Get Help in Windows 10 Need help with Windows 10? Here are the best ways to find the assistance that you require, whether it's with the operating system itself or any installed applications. Read More from Microsoft via the phone or web chat at no charge. This lasts for at least five years after that version launches.
  • After this, Windows enters extended support. During this period, Microsoft continues to issue security patches. But you won’t see new features or bug fixes unrelated to security anymore. If you need official help, you’ll have to pay Microsoft (or just learn to troubleshoot on your own Windows Troubleshooting for Dummies Windows Troubleshooting for Dummies Windows takes a lot of crap for problems outside of its control. Learn about the biggest issues people incorrectly pin on Windows and how to actually troubleshoot them. Read More ). This begins at the end of mainstream support and lasts for up to 10 years after the OS release.

Once extended support ends, that version of Windows is effectively unsupported. Microsoft won’t offer any updates — even for security issues — except in the most dire of circumstances like WannaCry The Global Ransomware Attack and How to Protect Your Data The Global Ransomware Attack and How to Protect Your Data A massive cyberattack has struck computers around the globe. Have you been affected by the highly virulent self-replicating ransomware? If not, how can you protect your data without paying the ransom? Read More . Even then, the patch came after the attack, so it didn’t protect outdated computers.

Which Windows Versions Are Out of Support?

Taking a look at the lifecycle table, we can see that Windows Vista is no longer supported after April 11, 2017. The next oldest version is Windows 7, which has extended support until January of 2020. Windows 8.1 will receive mainstream support until January 2018 and extended support until 2023.

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windows lifecycle fact sheet

It’s important to note that you must have the latest Service Pack installed to receive security updates. If you don’t have Service Pack 1 installed for Windows 7, you aren’t on the most current version. Similarly, the original version of Windows 8 is out of support as well. On Windows 10, the end of service dates only apply to the latest versions (which we’ll cover in a moment).

Infamously, Microsoft dropped support for Windows XP in 2014, yet people still continue to use it Why Windows XP Won't Be Going Away Anytime Soon Why Windows XP Won't Be Going Away Anytime Soon People cannot let go of Windows XP. In businesses and homes the world over, it will stick around. We spoke with three Windows XP users from different generations and backgrounds to find out why. Read More . This is due in part to business use, but many home users are still stuck on Windows XP. Know that you’re not safe using XP anymore Windows XP Security Risks: They're Real And Heading Your Way In 2014 Windows XP Security Risks: They're Real And Heading Your Way In 2014 Given the extensive coverage, you could easily think Windows XP end of support was just a hype. Sadly not. Without security updates, the aging operating system becomes a Trojan horse in your home or business. Read More , and should upgrade to a newer version as soon as you can. But don’t worry. You can still put your old XP or Vista computer to use How to Best Use Your Old Windows XP or Vista Computer How to Best Use Your Old Windows XP or Vista Computer Windows XP has not received security patches since 2014. As of April 11, Windows Vista is following suite. We show you five ways to safely use your unsupported XP or Vista computer. Read More .

How Is This Different for Windows 10?

It’s different with Windows 10. The Windows lifecycle was more of a pain before Windows 10 came along: once support ended, you basically had to upgrade your computer or pay for a new copy of Windows. Since Microsoft offers Windows 10 as a service Windows 10 Is the Last Version of Windows. Ever. Windows 10 Is the Last Version of Windows. Ever. Microsoft is sick of you not upgrading, and has a solution: Windows 10 will be the final "version" of Windows. Ever. This could mean that you will never again have to buy Windows. Read More , it’s regularly making Windows 10 even better and releasing those updates free for home users.

This means instead of releasing a brand-new Windows version every few years, Microsoft tweaks Windows 10 regularly. Moderate updates launch a few times a year — such as November 2015’s Fall Update — and major updates occur about once a year.

Since its release in July 2015, we’ve seen both the Anniversary Update and Creators Update add lots of Windows 10 features A Peek Into the Windows 10 Creators Update A Peek Into the Windows 10 Creators Update Microsoft just announced the next major Windows 10 upgrade. The Creators Update will come to 400 million users in Spring 2017. Here are the highlights of Wednesday's Windows 10 event. Read More and make the overall experience smoother. Microsoft releases these major updates in cycles, so not every user gets them at once.

Windows 10 Lifecycle Dates

We looked at the Windows lifecycle page earlier. Scroll down a bit, and you’ll see an Updates and service packs header. This details when the latest service packs became available for each OS version:

windows updates and service packs info

Take a look at the Windows 10 section. You’ll see it’s divided into sections based on OS version. Unless you’re familiar with them already, these version numbers are pretty obtuse:

  • Version 1507 is the original version of Windows 10.
  • Version 1511 is the November Update from 2015.
  • Version 1607 is the Anniversary Update.
  • Version 1703 is the Creators Update, current the newest version.

If you want to see which version of Windows you’re using, press Windows key + R to open the Run command and type winver. This opens a little box with information about Windows. Near the top, you’ll see which Windows 10 version you’re on.

windows version

Did you notice that the original Windows 10 version is no longer supported? That means if you’re still using it, you need to upgrade right away Why to Upgrade Windows at the End of Extended Support Why to Upgrade Windows at the End of Extended Support Eventually, support for every Windows version expires, leaving PCs full of holes, entry points for malware, and opportunities for hackers. Windows 8 recently reached end of support status - we show you why and how... Read More to continue receiving security updates. Thanks to automatic updates in Windows 10 How to Manage Windows Update in Windows 10 How to Manage Windows Update in Windows 10 For control freaks, Windows Update is a nightmare. It's designed to operate in the background, automatically keeping your system safe and running smoothly. We show you how it works and what you can customize. Read More , you don’t have to worry about manually checking as much.

How Should I Upgrade?

Let’s go over the various lifecycle scenarios that apply to you, based on the Windows version you’re on.

Windows 10 Creators Update (1703)

If you’re already running Windows 10 Version 1703, congrats! You’re on the cutting edge and don’t need to take any action. Check out our guide on what to do in the Creators Update Do This After Installing the Windows 10 Creators Update Do This After Installing the Windows 10 Creators Update The Windows 10 Creators Update will soon roll out to a computer near you. Once you've upgraded, go through these settings to configure new options and restore your privacy preferences. Read More and consider becoming a Windows Insider Be the First to Test New Windows 10 Builds as Windows Insider Be the First to Test New Windows 10 Builds as Windows Insider Windows Insiders are the first to test new Windows 10 builds. They are also the first to suffer from bugs. Here we show you how to join or leave the program and how to share... Read More if you want to test new versions first.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update (1607)

Those running the Anniversary Update, don’t fret. Microsoft may not have rolled out the Creators Update to your PC yet, but it’s coming eventually.

You can grab the Creators Update now How to Get the Windows 10 Creators Update Now How to Get the Windows 10 Creators Update Now The Windows 10 Creators Update will roll out in April. Are you eager to try it? Or would you rather avoid it? We'll show you how to get Windows 10 1703 on your own schedule. Read More , or just wait until it comes to you normally.

Windows 10 Fall Update or Original Version (1511, 1507)

The 2015 Fall Update is still in support, but the original version of Windows 10 isn’t. The good news is that upgrading is simple and free.

If you’re running either of these versions, you should run Windows Update to download and install the latest versions. Open Windows Update by going to Settings > Update & Security. Click the Windows Update tab on the left, then click Check for updates. Let Windows find and install updates, then install them so you’re up-to-date.

Should you have a problem with Windows Update, use Microsoft’s download tool to grab the latest updates directly. We recommend you make a backup first just in case something goes wrong during the update process.

windows 10 download tool

Windows 8.1

If you’re not keen on Windows 10 Many People Refuse the Free Windows 10 Upgrade, Here's Why Many People Refuse the Free Windows 10 Upgrade, Here's Why People like free stuff. Yet many refuse to upgrade to Windows 10. We have asked them why. Read More , Windows 8.1 is the next best place. Microsoft will support this OS until 2023, so you don’t have to worry about upgrading any time soon. Windows 8.1 offers plenty of cool features 5 Ways Windows 8.1 Can Make You More Productive 5 Ways Windows 8.1 Can Make You More Productive Who would ever want to buy a new computer and be forced to start using Windows 8? Well, this guy right here for one. Turns out Windows 8.1 is amazing for productivity! Let me explain... Read More , so you’re covered.

Windows 8

As we mentioned above, Windows 8 isn’t receiving support anymore. You’ll need to upgrade to Windows 8.1 for free How To Safely Upgrade To Windows 8.1 How To Safely Upgrade To Windows 8.1 Are horror stories of how Windows 8.1 upgrades went horribly wrong keeping you from upgrading yourself? If you are longing to try Windows 8.1, you can now learn from other people's lessons and upgrade safely! Read More to receive further updates.

Windows 7

Good old Windows 7 will receive support until 2020, which will be here before you know it. You’re clear to use Windows 7 for a few more years, but you should plan to upgrade to Windows 10 before long. If you don’t mind doing it soon, you can still use a workaround to upgrade to Windows 10 for free Missed the Free Windows 10 Upgrade? Psst, Here's a Backdoor! Missed the Free Windows 10 Upgrade? Psst, Here's a Backdoor! The upgrade to Windows 10 remains free for users who depend on assistive technologies. However, Microsoft doesn't check whether you really do. We show you how you can use this backdoor to get Windows 10. Read More . Otherwise, you can wait until 2020 to buy a new computer or buy a copy of Windows 10 normally Need a Legal & Cheap Windows License? These Are Your Options Need a Legal & Cheap Windows License? These Are Your Options Windows is expensive. For the budget-conscious among you, we have compiled tips and tricks that will help you save money on your next Windows license or product key. Read More .

Windows Vista or XP

Still using Windows Vista or XP? You need to jump to a modern version of Windows, but your options are pretty limited. If you’re lucky you can grab a cheap copy of Windows 7 or 8 How to Get a Cheap Windows 7 or 8 License Now to Upgrade to Windows 10 for Free How to Get a Cheap Windows 7 or 8 License Now to Upgrade to Windows 10 for Free Worried about the future of your old or pirated Windows copy? Now is the time to snatch a cheap Windows 7 or 8 license to secure yourself that free upgrade to Windows 10. We show... Read More and use the above workaround to update to Windows 10. But since Vista and XP are so old, computers running them probably won’t have the power to run Windows 10. We recommend replacing your PC 7 Warning Signs It's Time to Replace your Old PC 7 Warning Signs It's Time to Replace your Old PC When should you buy a new computer? Read More with a fresh Windows 10 system.

Upgrade Problems and Workarounds

Trying to upgrade from the original version of Windows 10 and having issues 6 Common Windows Upgrade Issues & How to Fix Them 6 Common Windows Upgrade Issues & How to Fix Them Upgrading Windows 10 can cause a number of complications. We show you what to watch out for and how to prevent or fix issues. Read More ? You can try a few workarounds to make the upgrade work. Back up your data before doing these so you don’t lose anything.

First, try using the Update now button on Microsoft’s Windows 10 download page. If this doesn’t work, try creating Windows 10 installation media How to Create Windows 10 Installation Media How to Create Windows 10 Installation Media Regardless of how you arrived at Windows 10, there's a way to create your own installation media. Sooner or later you might need it. Let us show you how to be prepared. Read More and running the upgrade that way. Still not working? Some have reported having better luck with the upgrade when they disable their antivirus and disconnect any external USB devices like flash drives. You should also free up some disk space 6 Tips to Free Up Disk Space in Windows 10 6 Tips to Free Up Disk Space in Windows 10 Even a terabyte of storage space is quickly filled with media files. Here we'll show you how to easily free up gigabytes of disk space in Windows 10 by removing redundant system files. Read More since a lack of space can cause the upgrade to stop.

If you still can’t make the jump, try resetting Windows and doing the upgrade from a clean slate. Confirm that your hardware meets the minimum requirements for Windows 10, as well. If you can run Windows 10 in its original form, you should have no trouble running the new versions.

Are You Using a Supported Windows Version?

When the free Windows 10 upgrade offer ended in 2016, we discussed what would happen if you didn’t upgrade If You Don't Upgrade to Windows 10, This Will Happen If You Don't Upgrade to Windows 10, This Will Happen After July 29, Windows 10 will no longer be a free upgrade. Here's what that means for users of each version of Windows. Read More . We’re starting to see the results of this major change, but it’s thankfully not too bad yet.

Most Windows 10 users enjoy automatic updates and thus are on the latest version without thinking much about it. Anyone still using the original Windows 10 version can upgrade free without much hassle. Those on Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 actively refused the free upgrade to Windows 10, but still enjoy a supported OS. Plus, they can jump to Windows 10 free anytime they like thanks to the workaround.

While keeping track of Windows lifecycles can be a bit of a pain, it’s important for your safety to stay current and apply security patches. Staying on the latest version of Windows goes a long way in keeping you safe.

There’s another version of Windows 10 we didn’t discuss here. It’s called Windows 10 S, and we’ve covered everything you should know about it Windows 10 S: Everything You Need to Know Windows 10 S: Everything You Need to Know Windows 10 S is a new stripped-down version of Windows 10 designed for schools. Let's discuss the good and the bad, and decide if you should buy one of the new machines. Read More .

What version of Windows are you running? Have you ever used an unsupported version of Windows? Tell us your experiences in the comments!

Image Credit: omihay via Shutterstock

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  1. fcd76218
    August 1, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    "Know that you’re not safe using XP anymore"
    Know that you are not really safe using ANY version of Windows.

    • Tina Sieber
      August 4, 2017 at 6:09 pm

      Or anything connected to the internet for that matter.

  2. DrMP
    July 30, 2017 at 11:35 pm

    For older machines, e.g. those running XP, there may be no supported version of Windows that would run usefully. Linux is a good alternative, and some versions look and feel almost like Windows. For example, Ubuntu 16.04 LTS is supported through first quarter 2021, and transition to 18.04 LTS (supported to 2023) should be painless. If unsure, try dual-booting XP and Ubuntu. BTW, many Windows programs run flawlessly in Wine on Linux, such as IrfanView, or already have Linux versions, such as Calibre, Firefox, Thunderbird and LibreOffice.

    • TJ
      July 31, 2017 at 6:19 pm

      Zorin OS or Linux Mint for the Windows 7 Feel, anything with an unmodified Gnome for the windows 8 feel, Elementary OS for MacOS feel. There's really no excuse to not have an updated OS.

  3. Cafeína en Vena
    July 30, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    I follow with my windows 7 and I am delighted. I refuse, for the moment, to change, everything I've seen after 7 has seemed worse.

    Regards!

    • Robfuscate
      July 31, 2017 at 8:02 am

      Yes. I agree. W10 can't do simple things - like search for a file on your PC, or shut down without rebooting. I wish I'd never upgraded any of my W7 Pcs.

      In fact I found W10 so awful I, gulp, bought a Mac.

  4. MikeOh Shark
    July 28, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    I switched to Linux Mint on the day that Mint 13 Mate was released. I use Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, VLC, Wine, TeamViewer, and a bunch of lesser known programs. I am not a gamer so Linux does everything I need.

    It's easy to try Linux. Use a live CD or USB version, install into a virtual machine (I also use Virtual Box), or just install to a flash drive and do some tweaks to reduce writes. It cost me less than 10 dollars to try.

    I'll never put up with Microsoft licensing again.

  5. Dave
    July 28, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    Just one of the MANY MANY MANY reasons, after 20 years of using/supporting Windows, I no longer use it on any of my personal computers.. I watch with mixed emotions at all of the abuse MS heaps on those who still, for whatever reason, use their products.
    Amusement at what businesses/people will let them get away with, and sorrow for those people who don't know that there are
    alternatives to MS...

    • Tom
      July 30, 2017 at 9:44 pm

      Amen

  6. Patrick Saunders
    July 28, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    Microsoft's problem is that it treats its consumer customers the same as its business ones, assuming the average consumer can afford to upgrade whenever their current version of software is no longer supported. It's even worse nowadays with most consumers cutting back. The concept of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" applies and consumers are only likely to ever upgrade their OS when they have to buy a new PC. Another area where this occurs is in developing countries where many schools and charitable institutions depend on secondhand equipment donated to them. This situation makes the case for moving to an OS such as Linux stronger.

    • Tom
      July 30, 2017 at 9:46 pm

      Well, said.