How long will Microsoft support XP, Vista, and Windows 7?

How long will Microsoft support XP, Vista, and Windows 7?

Summary: How long is your favorite version of Windows going to be supported? Maybe longer than you think. One current version, in fact, will still be supported in 2020. And no, it's not Windows XP. I've summarized the official dates in one easy-to-read table.

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In an ideal world, old versions of Windows would roll off Microsoft's list of supported products and be replaced by new ones at regular, predicable intervals. That upgrade cycle has been anything but smooth and predictable in recent years, however. Microsoft's support policy is still returning to normal after XP was allowed to live well past its normal retirement date and then got multiple extensions to placate customers who just said no to Vista.

I was reminded of this confusion earlier today when Matt Gardenghi asked a great question via Twitter:

Where would I find a list of supported MS OS versions? Trying to determine what's in support and what's out of support.

Microsoft product lifecycle policy is actually quite coherent and easy to understand, at least on paper. I wrote this two years ago in How long will Microsoft support XP and Vista?:

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.

Now that Windows 7 is firmly entrenched in the marketplace, I'm starting to get questions about its life span (and it doesn't help when high-profile web sites and bloggers get the facts dead wrong, as they did last month with the bogus "XP in 2020" story). To help clear the air, I've put together a chart listing all of Microsoft's supported operating systems. The calculations start with the general availability (GA) date for each product. Consumer operating systems are supported for five years after their GA date, and business OSes are supported for 10 years (with the last five years classed as "extended support"). The official date of retirement for support is the second Tuesday in the first month of the quarter following that anniversary (which also happens to be Patch Tuesday), which means each support cycle typically gets a few weeks or months of extra support tacked on at the end.

For Windows 7, you can do the math yourself. The GA date for all Windows 7 editions was October 22, 2009. Five years after that date is October 22, 2014. The next calendar quarter begins in January, 2015, and the second Tuesday of that month is January 13. So, that's when mainstream support is scheduled to end. Extended support for business all editions goes an extra five years, until January 14, 2020 (the second Tuesday of the month).

For Windows XP, however, those calculations don't work, because Microsoft has extended XP's life artificially. To find XP's end-of-support date, you should use the Microsoft Product Lifecycle Search page to get the official answer. Enter the name of the OS and click Search, and you get back a table that shows the general availability date, the retirement dates for mainstream and extended support, and retirement dates for service packs, which are governed by a separate set of rules.

Here's the set of search results for Windows XP:

The one date that matters most on this chart is the one I've circled in red—April 8, 2014.

Service Packs 1 and 1a were retired back in 2006. Service Pack 2 rode off into the sunset last month, on July 13. And Service Pack 3 will be retired along with all editions of Windows XP on Patch Tuesday, April 8, 2014.

By that time, Windows 8 will probably be well past its first birthday, and Microsoft will (at least for a short time) be supporting four separate Windows versions. Here's a table that summarizes the support policy for all of the current Windows desktop versions.

Update: As of February 2012, Microsoft has changed its support lifecycle so that consumer and business versions have the same extended support options. SO ignore the "Not applicable" text in this table. The dates for business editions are the same as for consumer editions.

The point of having a predictable release cycle—a new Windows version every three years—is to encourage upgrades. That's especially true for consumers, who can skip one version but not two. Even so, full support will be available until the beginning of 2015. For businesses, anyone considering a Windows 7 migration can take comfort in knowing it will be supported for nearly another decade more—until January 14, 2020.

Update: My Windows 7 Inside Out co-author, Carl Siechert, asks another good question: "What, exactly, is 'support'?"

For the answer, I defer to the Microsoft Support Lifecycle blog:

Generally, the minimum bar for something to be considered supported is that we provide at least one type of assisted support option and no-charge security updates. This means that, at a minimum, the customer will have some avenue to contact Microsoft for assistance and Microsoft will continue to provide security updates through channels like Windows Update and the Download Center.

The rest of their FAQ is worth reading as well.

Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Software, Windows

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  • RE: How long will Microsoft support XP, Vista, and Windows 7?

    Predictable is good, but it's a bad thing that they extended the XP extended period for so long. The sooner users are off XP the better.
    larry@...
    • RE: How long will Microsoft support XP, Vista, and Windows 7?

      @larry@... The sooner Windows 7 can actually support all that expensive custom in-house software that XP supports (no, XP Mode doesn't come close to cutting it in many cases), the sooner you'll see businesses abandon XP en masse.

      Microsoft extended that extended support out of self-preservation... and it's very likely they'll be forced to extend it even further, or face losing market share.
      Random_Walk
      • Never happen

        @Random_Walk

        Windows 7 (or 8 or 9 for that matter) will never be able to run those archaic in-house applications that you refer to, so it is past time to virtualize them and move on. Publish them on a Citrix server and be done with it already.
        itpro_z
      • Wait

        @Random_Walk

        You mention other OS's not being able to run those archaic in house software, yet somehow MS will loose marketshare if it abandons XP (which it should).

        But I agree. Microsoft should put the foot down with XP. People just aren't safe using it.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • Legacy lifelines

        @NStalnecker <br><i>But I agree. Microsoft should put the foot down with XP. </i><br><br>Put their foot down with their currently most popular and utilized OS? You sure you don't wanna rethink that one step forward, two steps back imploration? lol<br><br>Unlike Google's penchant for chasing rainbows and tilting at windmills, stodgy MS realizes it is generally best to deal in the real as opposed to ideal world. ;)
        Maintaining legacy lifelines has always been part of its stock and trade, and to date this approach and methodology has worked quite well for the behemoth, er, if market share remains any proof.
        klumper
      • RE: How long will Microsoft support XP, Vista, and Windows 7?

        @Random_Walk : Ivery doubt that Microsoft will further extend XP's life. It's already in extended support. As well, they want people off it and onto Windows 7 [or 8]. Some people are in "love" with XP. Don't know why. Yes, it is not as a resource hog but it's time to kill it off like "Old Yeller". :-)

        Why lose market share? Majority of XP users will eventually jump to Win 7 or 8. Most of those who jump to [for example] Macs have given the lamest excuse to do so. Once couldn't install XP SP3 and said would get a Mac [errr? there is something on that machine that's preventing it]
        Gis Bun
      • Ummm i see a flaw...

        @Random_Walk ...in your logic.

        Businesses are even less likely to switch en masse to Linux or Macs - the one because they'd have to re-write their apps to use it, too, and support is Byzantine (my wife is a county database manager, and they use Red Hat for some things, and its support drives her crazy) and the other because not only would they have to rewrite all those apps, but they'd have to buy new hardware, too. (And more expensive hardware, at that.)

        So they'll either stay with XP even after it's no longer supported - at least until we have one or two well-publicised security disasters involving Fortune 500 companies (or the equivalent) - or, eventually, they'll bite the bullet and upgrade Windows.

        As your mechanic probably doesn't say (but probably thinks): "Pay me now or pay me later." - and it applies here, too.
        fairportfan
      • RE: How long will Microsoft support XP, Vista, and Windows 7?

        @Random_Walk
        I think MS will solve this problem of supporting in-house software in its first batch for Windows 7. I think Windows 7 is more secure because it does not support in-house applications. But enough noise has been raised by the customers and so they will be working on this I guess. I am quite satisfied with Windows 7.

        with regards
        <a href="http://touchscreenlaptophq.com/">Touch Screen Laptop</a>
        ryanmahesh
      • RE: How long will Microsoft support XP, Vista, and Windows 7?

        @Random_Walk
        I see a lot of comments like this - but what exactly is it that Windows 7 can do, which XP cannot? Yes, I know about branch cache, updated policies, WDDM and so on. At the core though, don't they all run the same programs, frameworks and does not XP do all this while using approximately 1 quarter of the system resources that are used by Windows 7? Don't get me wrong, I do quite like Windows 7, but insinuating that it is some sort of 'massive leap for mankind' to which all must stream is a little bit over the top....
        12312332123
      • unfortunately, both business and home user alike will have legacy hardware

        ...that still works, and is unsupported in Vista / Win7. Printers and scanners are the most common. Can't really blame MS here but can you blame people who have working hardware to actually work - and not force a hardware upgrade to accommodate a software upgrade.
        ~doolittle~
    • So maybe you can explain to me why

      @larry@...

      MS tried so hard (and largely succeeded) to push Linux off netbooks by basically giving XP away, and now everybody should get off XP?

      Pushing XP hard and then cutting off support after 3-4 years does not make a lot of sense to me. But that is OK. If I still have my XP netbook when support ends, MS can rest assured I will not pay for W7 or 8 or whatever, just to get updates. I will switch to Linux and MS will lose a customer, maybe forever. Isn't competition great?
      Economister
      • RE: I will switch to Linux and MS will lose a customer, maybe forever.

        @Economister

        Do you honestly think M$ cares. When you bought that netbook, you paid for Windows, if you nuke it and replace it with Linux, M$ will not give you a refund.

        Let's face it, whether implicitly or explicitly, the hardware manufacturers and M$ have decided it is best to force people to replace perfectly working machines in order to get the `best and latest`. That, IMHO is completely anti consumer behavior. Why reward them with your hard earned $$$$. My current machine would never run Vista(ster); let alone 7. So, in order to make it more usable for me, and allow me to get more out of my investment, I nuked Windoze XP with Linux. That is how you get their attention, deny them the $$$$.
        fatman65535
      • No profit

        @Economister

        Microsoft will not lose a customer. They were losing money by putting Windows XP on netbook. They only did it to make sure that everyone stay on Windows platform. Microsoft make money from developpers forced to make programs for Windows platform. And for people, the vast majority doesn't like to change, the majority only used a Windows PC and when you put them on Linux or Mac OS X they can't do anything. Even just switching Internet Explorer for Firefox can cause troubles. Microsoft will stay on Desktop and Laptop, only mobile and tablet can displace them.
        nelsoon
      • RE: How long will Microsoft support XP, Vista, and Windows 7?

        @Economister
        You said it better than I could.
        rroberto18
      • RE: How long will Microsoft support XP, Vista, and Windows 7?

        @nelsoon
        "They were losing money by putting Windows XP on netbook..."

        Really? Consider the fact that they considered XP to be basically "wrapped up" by the time the netbook craze set in, and consider the fact that they'd already basically settled on their phase-out plan for ending XP support in 2014. That being the case, the vast majority of their planned expenses related to XP had already been sunk before the netbook craze took hold.

        Therefore, the only major expense they were incurring by shipping XP on netbooks was the expense of allocating license keys for each unit, and shipping license stickers and master copies of the OEM install discs to the manufacturers. Do you honestly believe that they couldn't cover those expenses out of the $50 (or so) that they were receiving for those licenses?
        lfmorrison
      • I wonder sometimes

        @Economister ...If MS doesn't think that *one* victim is all they will lose. I'm already dual-booting w/Linux, and I like it! It's like two-timing and not getting caught!
        Papa_Bill
      • RE: "I will switch to Linux and MS will lose a customer, maybe forever"

        @Economister

        Go for it, switch to the less compatible and "more secure" (for now; it was made for the noobs) world; or simply ask my best friend "GOOGLE" for windows Se7en and upgrade your flexible and "user sensitive" (it's not made for noobs) world.

        Now u ask, why Linux is for Noobs and Windows isn't? Simple, majority of Linux users (which is obviously behind the number of Windows users) are those who are afraid they will get a virus on Windows; they just don't have the sense of managing their own security. Simple but mighty example is they download an estimated 1hr long movie with a size of 2KB, then they cry out loud pointing fingers at Windows. PERIOD.
        MrElectrifyer
      • RE: How long will Microsoft support XP, Vista, and Windows 7?

        @fatman65535

        I'm running Windows 7 on three single core processors. One machine is an AMD Athlon (just plain Athlon)1.3GHZ 32-bit with 768MB of memory. Two others with Intel P4's 1.5 GHZ, one with 1 Gig of RAM and another with 512MB of RAM.

        Trust me....Windows 7 WILL run on things Vista would never touch...and it will do it at a wee bit slower speed than XP...but still be usable.

        That alone is what sold me on Win 7 because I know that a dual or quad-core system isn't going to run like a 80386 system like they do with Vista.
        VRSpock
      • Go ahead, *do* install linux.

        @MrElectrifyer
        People dont switch to linux after downloading 1 hour movie of size 4kb and being infected with xxxwindozewarm.
        They do so when the os freezes for xth time, pops up that idotic message box or you loose that one too many hour of work time waiting for your shell to be responsive again on your work computer or you just get tired of all those idotic design faults made by system makers. All that without a singe virus or worm on their systems.
        After you switch you discover the wonderful tools and freedom of action the system gives you and there simply is no going back.
        As to compatibility - both linux and mac are less compatible windows applications than windows - that's understandable - they are *not* windows. Considering that one must admire that the compatibility it as high as to enable peaceful cooperation.
        misiu_mp
      • RE: How long will Microsoft support XP, Vista, and Windows 7?

        @MrElectrifyer Does that rant actually make sense in your universe?

        'Cos it sure doesn't in the Real World.

        That is - if it means what i think it means after digging through all the "cute" verbiage (which sounds like an attempt to prove that you aren't a "noob"; and you may not be - what you are, however, is a complete and total jerk) and simple poor writing.
        fairportfan