How long will Microsoft support XP and Vista?

How long will Microsoft support XP and Vista?

Summary: In the comments to an earlier post, a reader wonders out loud whether Microsoft plans to dump its Vista users when Windows 7 comes out. Fortunately, the support lifecycle for all Microsoft products is well documented. In this post, I show you where to look up the details and explain why XP and Vista users will still have access to critical support resources even after Windows 8 is released.


In the Talkback section to another post, a reader asks a question about when Microsoft plans to drop support for Windows Vista. I hear variations on this one all the time, so I figured it’s worth covering here:

If MS is pushing up Win 7, what is going to happen to all the Vista users? Are they going to get screwed by a short term OS? It seems that MS is stuck between a rock and a hard place on this one. If Vista becomes a speed bump, then the Vista users will be angry. If they don't then all the people who hate Vista will be angry. While in total numbers Vista users are small in number now it still is a large number of people.

I might quibble with the characterization that the total number of Vista users is small. Even if you discount Microsoft’s numbers by 50%, you still have 100 million people using Vista today. That's a huge number by almost any standard and is only small when you compare it to the billion or so Windows machines in existence. So, are those millions and millions of customers out in the cold when Windows 7 comes out?

In a word, no. Microsoft has a well-documented support lifecycle for its software products. It’s part of the agreement that the company makes with everyone who installs Windows, especially business customers who want some assurance that they’ll be able to get updates and support for operating systems and applications even if they choose not to upgrade to the latest and greatest. Here are the high points and how they relate to Windows Vista.

The lifecycle includes two main phases:

  • The Mainstream Support phase includes security updates, non-security hotfixes, no-charge incident support, paid support, warranty claims, design changes and feature requests, and access to online resources such as the Knowledge Base and Microsoft Help and Support.
  • In the Extended Support phase, Microsoft continues to provide security updates, paid support, and online information. Customers who want hotfix support can purchase an extended agreement within 90 days of the end of the Mainstream Support phase.

After the Extended Support phase ends, you can continue to use online self-help resources, but all other support has to be provided through third parties or through custom support agreements such as those enjoyed by some large corporate customers.

So how do these support options map for you? That depends on whether you’re using a business or consumer product.

  • For Business and Developer products (which includes Business, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions of Vista), the Mainstream Support phase runs for a minimum of five years or two years after the release of the next edition of the product, whichever is later. Assuming that Windows 7 ships in 2009 or 2010, that means Vista will enjoy mainstream support until at least November 30, 2011. The Extended Support phase runs for an additional five years, so you can count on security updates for Vista until at least November 30, 2016.
  • For Consumer products (which includes Vista Home Basic and Home Premium), Microsoft provides Mainstream Support only. Because the launch of the consumer version of Vista was two months later than the business launch, the support lifecycle provides for full support until at least January 30, 2012, or two years after the release of Windows 7, whichever is later.

Good news for consumers is that security updates apply to all Windows versions, so any Vista security updates made available via Windows Update should be delivered to consumers and businesses alike, even during the Extended Support phase. So your copy of Vista Home Premium will continue to receive security updates for at least eight more years.

And what about XP? When Vista came out, conspiracy theorists were quick to predict that Microsoft would abandon it and force customers to switch to Vista. I debunked that notion shortly before Vista shipped. A few months later, in January 2007, Microsoft officially expanded its support terms for XP, covering home editions under the Extended Support phase (see “XP gets a new lease on life”  for details). So, if you use any XP edition, you’re covered through April 2014.

By that time, of course, Windows 8 will probably have been released, which means that Microsoft will be actively supporting four separate desktop editions of Windows.

Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Software, Windows

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  • Long Live Windows Support

    Not only is the lifecycle well-documented, but nobody supports their products for as long a lifecycle as Microsoft. Microsoft is still supporting Windows 2000, released 8.5 years ago, and Internet Explorer 5.5 on it.

    Apple supports only the last two OS versions. 10.4 was released 4/29/2005. If you bought a new Mac the day before your OS is no longer supported.

    When a new version of Firefox comes out, you have at most 6 months to upgrade before Mozilla abandons all support, including security updates.

    Red Hat is better than it used to be. They how have a 7 year lifecycle on RHEL ( Long, but not as long as Windows.

    Sun stops issuing patches for Solaris after 2 years (
    • Sun

      Sun supports a major milestone for at least a 9.6 year lifecycle.

      Not 2 years.
      • misreading

        We both misread the pages we linked to. Re-reading both it looks to me as if they have security updates for a total of 6 years from initial ship date.
    • Re: Long Live Windows Support

      Apples and oranges, so to speak. OS X v10.5 is OS X.
      is OS X. 10.0.00 is OS X.

      It's all "supported" through complete backward
      Unlike Windows, where something written for yesterday's
      version often doesn't work on today's, OS X rarely has
      anything like that issue.

      Oh, and that's Apple the OS X vendor and OS X the
      computer vendor. As for the vendor of your windows box-
      -that can be an entirely separate issue.
      • Good distinction there...

        ...on the Apple hardware vs. Apple software. However, 10.5 is not 10.4 is not 10.3 etc. etc.

        Each one is touted as a fairly major release, software y will only run from version x onwards etc. It is the same as Windows in that regard - cut off pre-SP1 support, then pre-SP2 support etc.

        I write this as a massive fan of both Vista and OS X (though not necessarily the July 08 MacBook Pro it runs on - it has too many minor niggles and one major niggle in the appalling wi-fi connectivity for me to truly recommend it, given its price point) and I use both for different things. One thing I will say is that if you are feeling financially flush enough to get a Mac, go the whole hog and get the AppleCare support - they do a great job of help with the systems!
  • It's why they are really still in business

    Microsoft does several things to stay in the game:

    1. Create infrastructure that others can play with. They do not always make the best, but it is usually fairly open so the developers have a large play area. For example, VB was limited at the start, but now has the largest number of programmers.

    2. Don't give up on customers, by providing loooooong-term support. This is where other companies, including IBM and Apple have dropped the ball (examples below). Many get bored and think it is OK to ditch loyal customers and leave them in the lurch. Others just don't have the financials to backup their visions.

    Apple has a couple of notable examples of abandoment:

    a. They had a PDA called the Newton. One day it was just dropped. Software companies that had built products around it were abandoned without notice. One Melbourne mapping software company, decided to go with MS CE, its PDA OS, citing it couldn't trust Apple any more. MS evolved CE in Windows Mobile, but it what is important is that it was a continuous line of develpoment.

    b. A music software company called eMagic has a product called Logic, an audio sequencer for recording music available for both Windows PCs and Apples. We were just about to buy it so that we could work with the two musicians helping us with our CD. One had just recently bought the program. Apple bough eMagic and immediately announced that the PC version would be discontinued in two months. Basically they cast it away as dead in the water, with the ultimatum for its users to buy an Apple or get lost. 10,000s went elsewhere as they didn't want to HAVE to have an Apple. From then on, I decided that Apple couldn't be trusted for anything that I would consider mission-critical.

    Can you trust a company that lets ideology trample its owns customers? A single source that has ideological blinkers is not what I would call a reliable business partner! MS sometimes gets confused about which way to go, makes wrong calls, but at least it stays in the game. Unfortunately some things don't get the takeup that MS expected, start falling by the wayside. But declaring a product non grata from one day to the next is not their game.

    What I don't understand is why Apple engenders such loyalty when they treat their customers so badly. But some people seem to like being abused, like those who worked for a computer manufacturer where I was a Tech Manager. The boss was not adverse to verbally abusing them, even to the point of daily abusing one guy. The guy used to winge about the boss, but continued to work there. Some people have low self-esteem and allow other people and companies to walk all over them. Hard spell to break.

    In all this I am not saying MS is perfect. I use MS Office app to create utilities to support enterprise micro-management. It is such usage that will make it very difficult for alternate products to get in. I still do not know why we still have separate formats for Word, Excel, PowerPoint files, when a single format encompasing all of the structures would really allow some creative solutions. OLE is faulty. Word's numbering resets itself too often (suddenly all TOC entries point to page 0 - numbering has been broken is this way since Word 6). The interaction between Word's styles and the numbering is too complex so that indents will suddenly go completely askew.
    Why can't Tables in Word have the full functionality of Excel, but allowing formula anywhere that can reference any named field in the text or cell range? And the competition thinks emulating the separate apps will break MSs hold in the enterprise. Only a real quantum leap in functionality of real value to a company will have any chance of that.
  • Well, Ed

    The support thing of MS is always in the news. I think it's a way to getting folks scared and run out and get a newer windows version that they don't even want.

    I would rather be using 98SE for my games so i would see a huge performance gain. Yet, i can't, cause the gaming industry is supporting XP and Vista only.

    But i don't think Vista lovers will have to worry. I think MS kept supporting ME for quite a while too, after being a total marketing failure too.
    • It's amazingly naive... assume that todays complex and memory hungry games would even theoretcally be able to run on the Windows 16 platform.
      • Today's

        games would easily run on a DOS/4GW, provided the correct drivers where available.

        Somewhere along the road, memory management stranded in Win32s and PC gaming suffered serious performance hits because of it and every more bloated edition of the OS hasn't helped it neither.
        • Not for long

          Not for long - the high resolution textures of today's games are starting to hit the limits of 32 bit computing, and game developers are starting to get vocal about wanting 64 bit support. If 64 bit computing continues to gain popularity, they'll become too large even when using 32 bit extenders.

          And drivers can be a major problem, considering that most games are using DirectX 9 and 10, which are totally unsupported in DOS.
          • You are totally right.. on all accounts there

            You would need a 64 bits extender ofcourse.

            And DirectX is indeed how you put far too dominant even to be able to judge it's true performance. (e.g. no reference in High End PC gaming)
        • win 98 max addressable mem - 512mb

        • It's not memory alone...

          ...that would pose a problem here. Most games today are massively multi-threaded, and Windows 16 does not even have decent preemptive multitasking.

          Besides, i consider the claim that game performance has take a considerable hit by the OS and it's needs just another urban myth. Seems to me more like my grandpa used to say: Everything was better in the old days... even the future...
          • Exactly!

            [i]Seems to me more like my grandpa used to say: Everything was better in the old days... even the future... [/i]

            You are right there! or your grandpa is.. what if he had kissed that girl? what if that other guy hadn't come in to take over the position he could fill as well?
            What if that manager hadn't made that silly decision and the company had survived?

            Sometimes we look back on things and see how it could have been.
        • Dos allowed drivers to have direct access to hardware.

          Which is why it was faster. In the move to more
          stable and secure operating environments that had to
          be changed and the drivers moved out. That means the
          drivers have to interact with Windows as it's the only
          thing allowed direct access to the hardware. This is
          what prevents a display driver crash from BSOD'ing a
          PC these days. Often times, short of hardware
          failure, it's able to be restarted without rebooting
          the OS. Certainly a fair trade off.

          As for why DX is dominant, it's simple. There hasn't
          been any competition for a long time. OpenGL has it's
          head pretty far up it's own arse.
          • Huh?

            [i]This is what prevents a display driver crash from BSOD'ing a PC these days. Often times, short of hardware failure, it's able to be restarted without rebooting the OS. Certainly a fair trade off. [/i]

          • re: huh?

            Ted, Might want to do a little research on this before you look silly.

            XP video driver crash = BSOD
            Vista video driver crash = screen flash and a notification that your driver had to be restarted.
          • Read it again

            [i]This is what prevents a display driver crash from BSOD'ing a PC these days.[/i]

            Maybe i'm making too much of what this statement implies semanticly.
        • Try again

          That's bs and you know it. There's no way crysis would run in DOS, and your bloat argument is tired and false.
          • who said DOS?

            Besides PS3 runs on DOS too..

            /me tries to feed some more ......

            Dos4/gw was just an ill example really. Back in the DOS days we had one game that made a custom bootdisk and started from that special boot disk. It had a customised optimised environment.