Microsoft quietly extends consumer support for Windows 7, Vista

Microsoft quietly extends consumer support for Windows 7, Vista

Summary: This month, with almost no fanfare, Microsoft has revised its support policy for consumer versions of Windows. The two most recent releases, Vista and Windows 7, now qualify for a full 10 years of support. I've got the details.

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Feb-20, 8:30AM PST: Updated with Microsoft confirmation of policy change.

Microsoft’s support lifecycle for Windows is clearly spelled out. Consumer versions get five years of mainstream support, and business versions get an additional five years of extended support. That was true when I first wrote about this issue in 2008, and it was equally true in 2009 when I published an updated post covering Windows 7.

Under those guidelines, mainstream support for Windows Vista is set to end in less than two months, on April 10, 2012.

This month, with almost no fanfare, Microsoft has revised its support policy for consumer versions of Windows so that they qualify for extended support as well. If you go to the Support Lifecycle home page and search for a product family, you get new results for Windows Vista and Windows 7 that include Extended Support end dates for consumer versions of both products.

I can’t find an official announcement from Microsoft in the U.S., but Microsoft Japan has published an announcement confirming the change. This English-language translation (courtesy of Microsoft's own web service) captures the gist in only slightly fractured syntax:

It's about the product support life cycle policy changes of the Windows client OS (2/2012)

Changed the lifecycle policy for extended support, Microsoft provides a consistent customer use Windows client operating system (OS) services. Will be applied the extended support for Windows 7, Windows Vista consumer products.

Available service packs for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 product currently supported this change's customers are subject to up to 10 years of security update provides will regardless of the Edition.

Support end date for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 are as follows:

Windows XP   4/8/2014

Windows Vista   4/11/2017

Windows 7   1/14/2020

In practice, this change simply aligns Microsoft’s policy with how Windows works. As I noted two years ago:

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.

I’ve asked Microsoft in the U.S. to confirm this change and will update this post when I hear from them. [That was fast. See update at end of post.]

With this change, Microsoft has definitely signaled that it’s serious about its 10-year support commitment for Windows. When Windows 8 ships later this year, it will kick off a period of roughly 18 months, ending with the April 2014 sunset date for Windows XP, in which the company will be actively supporting four versions of Windows.

Oh, and a footnote. Don’t mistake the support lifecycle for the sales lifecycle, which is a completely separate issue. You cannot buy a retail copy of Windows XP or Vista today, nor can you get either OS installed on a new PC. The sales lifecycle is tied to the release date of a new versions of Windows. I explained how it’s likely to work for Windows 7 in a July 2010 post:

OEM sales stop two years after the release of the next version of Windows. (Sales of boxed retail copies stop one year earlier.) If you assume that Sinofsky’s team will deliver another on-time release, then Windows 8 will hit retail shelves exactly three years after Windows 7, in October 2012. And that’s when the clock starts ticking. Two years later, at the end of 2014, Microsoft will no longer permit OEMs to sell Windows 7. Customers can buy Windows 8, which will include downgrade rights to the previous two versions—Windows 7 and Windows Vista. It will not include downgrade rights to XP.

Bookmark this post. I predict in the next few months you’re going to see some otherwise knowledgeable Windows analysts get it wrong again.

A tip of the hat and thanks to eagle-eyed reader Robert Clayton for noting the change and alerting me.

A Microsoft spokesperson confirms the change via email:

Microsoft is updating the Support Lifecycle policy for Windows desktop operating systems, including Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

The update will provide a more consistent and predictable experience for customers using  Microsoft Windows operating systems across OEM, consumer and business editions.

Microsoft still requires that customers have the most current Service Pack installed in order to continue to receive updates.

Through this update, customers who remain on the most current supported service pack will be eligible to receive both Mainstream and Extended Support, for a total of 10 years. 

Related posts:

Topics: Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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37 comments
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  • A couple things:

    First, downgrade rights still only apply to business versions.

    Second, does this merging of support indicate anything about how Microsoft will SKU Windows 8? Is it possible that they will have a unified SKU for both business and personal use?
    Joe_Raby
    • RE: Microsoft quietly extends consumer support for Windows 7, Vista

      @Joe_Raby

      Not necessarily. They combined the server/client code bases for Vista/server08; but that didn't result in them combining client and server SKUs.
      DanNeely
  • RE: Microsoft quietly extends consumer support for Windows 7, Vista

    this is not new. All Windows version have extended support. I know since 207 that I get updates for my Vista Home Premium till 2017. MS only updated the wrong page with the correct dates.
    IDontWantAUserName81
    • RE: Microsoft quietly extends consumer support for Windows 7, Vista

      @IDontWantAUserName81 <br><br>Rubbish. I suppose Ed's original was all nonsense and Microsoft have announced nothing ?<br><br>"Extended supportMicrosoft will offer extended support for either a minimum of 5 years from the date of a product's general availability, or for 2 years after the second successor product (two versions later) is released, whichever is longer. Please note: Extended support is only available for commercial customers "<br><br>That was the position for Vista; extended support was "not applicable".<br><br>It (and 7) now have the same support cycle as business editions.
      Chipesh
  • Makes sense.

    I figured this was coming. 99% of the code is shared between all SKUs, so might as well release security updates for all SKUs.
    PB_z
  • I'm going to beat SJVN to the punch on his next blog

    This is clearly an indication that Microsoft already knows that Windows 8 will be a total failure. Clearly they think even Vista is a better OS than Windows 8 will be. This is the only reason MS would ever do something like this and it has absolutely nothing to do with Microsoft supporting their OS for far longer than any other OS on the market today.

    The writing is on the wall. Windows 8 will be a failure so large it will make the current US political system look like a stunning success.
    LiquidLearner
    • RE: Microsoft quietly extends consumer support for Windows 7, Vista

      @LiquidLearner That's what came to my mind while reading this article.
      statuskwo5
    • RE: Microsoft quietly extends consumer support for Windows 7, Vista

      @LiquidLearner
      That's a very accurate description of something he would write.
      Loverock Davidson-
    • Looks like he's already done it using the alias TsarNikky below.

      @LiquidLearner: :-)
      ye
    • I don't think so!

      @LiquidLearner - many people think of Vista as a disaster but that disaster holds a lot of marketshare. Obviously, there will be support.
      abiddine
    • RE: Microsoft quietly extends consumer support for Windows 7, Vista

      @LiquidLearner I think it is more likely an indication that they feel confident in the Vista/7 codebase. I see no real downside of this for anyone running Vista or Win 7.

      I don't see that this can be seen as negative for Windows 8.
      jeremychappell
    • RE: Microsoft quietly extends consumer support for Windows 7, Vista

      @LiquidLearner You actually believe that?
      CobraA1
    • RE: Microsoft quietly extends consumer support for Windows 7, Vista

      @LiquidLearner
      The sky is falling!

      Look in that crystal ball of yours and give me the winning lottery numbers for tomorrow.
      WozNotWoz
    • RE: Microsoft quietly extends consumer support for Windows 7, Vista

      [i]The writing is on the wall. Windows 8 will be a failure so large it will make the current US political system look like a stunning success.[/i]

      No doubt they're hedging their bets. What's pathetic is they're doing it far in advance of Windows 8's release when there's still time to fix it and give it what people want if they see where the objections fall ahead of time. Talk about pre-release inflexibility!
      ScorpioBlack
  • RE: Microsoft quietly extends consumer support for Windows 7, Vista

    When you purchase Microsoft Windows you can expect to be supported for a long time. Chances are your hardware will be gone before Windows support will be. No other software developers offer service like that.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • RE: Microsoft quietly extends consumer support for Windows 7, Vista

      @Loverock Davidson- Err, never heard of Red Hat then? While this is good news for users of these products, it isn't as unusual as you're suggesting.
      jeremychappell
    • A better committment than Linux

      @Loverock Davidson-
      Product defects requiring urgent repair apply to all OSs, so we have to accept "keep the door open so we can patch". What's interesting here, is how linux in general, and Ubuntu in particular, fail to measure up.

      In Linux's favor, the OS is free - so you can upgrade for free across versions, so it may matter less that old versions are not supported. Open source also means anyone can repair code defects after the vendor abandons the OS... or craft malware backdoors etc. posing as "fixes", unfortunately.

      Two things spoil the above advantages for Linux.

      Firstly, new versions can't be relied on to install cleanly over old, as Windows SP generally do (and new versions generally do not). The Linux advice is generally "just" wipe and re-install from scratch - which is unacceptably hi-impact IMO.

      Secondly, new motherboard chipsets typically require new Linux kernel version, rather than a smaller matter of installing new drivers. So often that forces you to use the latest Ubuntu for new hardware, and if that latest version is not "LTS", too bad.

      Then we come to duration of support (i.e. repairs of code defects). As Microsoft used to do, Ubuntu offered longer support for servers than the rest of us, and the support periods for LTS ("Long Term Support") are not generaous. Non-LTS versions are almost as ephemeral as modern versions of Firefox.
      cquirke
      • Good News from MS but nothing wrong with Linux Support!

        I realise this is an older thread now and some comments relating to Linux might be made in a different tone right now for lots of reasons. I make this post in respect of comparison and to update some information mentioned in cquirke's post.

        But firstly, this IS great news from MS about extended support. In fact, so much so that I've just purchased a copy of Windows 7 (as opposed to W8) to run on a machine alongside Linux Ubuntu 12.04LTS. MS really should get their act together though as at the time of writing this their support site STILL isn't completely clear on what support is offered with contradictory messages being listed on their support pages. But googling around along with more research has shown the extra support for consumer products to be correct. Great!

        Now about Linux...and in particular Ubuntu, and mentioned as a comparison with MS products. With the latest release of Ubuntu's LTS version 12.04 the support is now 5 years. That's up from 3 years on the previous versions and inline with all the server versions now. It's not as long as MS support, however, does that matter? Not in most peoples book! I run a network on Linux Ubuntu and we have never had any problems whatsoever at anytime with any issues for upgrading or hardware. Security is expotentially better too than any previous MS products we have run, and we have never had a malware or virus problem in the last 6 years since changing to it's use. That's in direct contrast to when we ran XP & some Vista based systems with what at the time was a very hardened set of security based support products along with the best security practices.

        Upgrading a server with just the touch of a single button for us has always worked well on our network and systems, which is a mix of older and newer machines. No buying of a new system and no big problems with Linux has always been our experience. I'm not saying we have never had a glitch but it's not the norm and is usually easily sorted. Linux is now very very useable and compatible with many systems and someone 'writing' a 'backdoor' security breach would find it extremely difficult at update level to infect any Linux machine. That's why it just doesn't happen as security is very very tight at repository level. You security is assured if you stick with official update sites.

        If you read the comparisons made by all the top reviews of MS & Linux the gap is very narrow between them now and many are leaving MS due to security and cost issues neither of which affects Linux Ubuntu. And no, it may sound as if I'm bashing MS...but I'm not anti MS, just wish they would get their act together more on security and cost issues.
        The ITguy
  • Thanks, Microsoft

    This will help many consumers and small businesses (those not running Vista Business) having a rough time in this economy.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • RE: Microsoft quietly extends consumer support for Windows 7, Vista

    Excellent move on Microsoft's part; especially with the potential "mess" they have made with Windows-8. This gives Microsoft up to eight years to give Windows-7 users a new Operating System that will be meaningful for mainstream laptop/desktop users in a corporate/business environment.
    TsarNikky