When will Microsoft pull the plug on your version of Windows or Office?

When will Microsoft pull the plug on your version of Windows or Office?

Summary: Windows XP is only months from its end-of-support date. What happens when the clock runs out? And how long until current versions of Windows, Windows Server, and Office suffer the same fate?

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[This post was originally published April 2013. It was completely updated and republished in October 2013. Most recent update: October 11, 2013.]

The impending retirement of Windows XP and Office 2003 shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. As I’ve noted before, Microsoft has a well-established support lifecycle for its software products. It’s basically an agreement that the company makes with everyone who commits to Windows. The terms of that agreement don’t change often, which is an important assurance for business customers who tend to be conservative in their approach to upgrades.

For the next six months and counting, Microsoft will officially offer support for five versions of Windows for desktop and notebook PCs. Here’s the rundown, starting with the newest member of the family:

Windows 8.1

Microsoft’s official Windows 8.1 Support Lifecycle Policy treats this update as if it were a service pack for Windows 8. That means the lifecycle calculations start when Windows 8 shipped, in 2012.

This version is currently available only for Microsoft’s volume licensing customers, MSDN and TechNet subscribers, and hardware OEM partners. It will be available to the public as a free update and in retail packages on October 18, 2013.

Mainstream support ends: January 9, 2018

Extended support ends: January 10, 2023

Windows 8

Windows 8 is fully supported today, but you need to update to Windows 8.1 to remain supported under the Windows 8 lifecycle. The deadline is “two years after the General Availability of the Windows 8.1 update,” or October 18, 2015.

The same policy applies to Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2 (equivalent to Windows 8.1).

Mainstream support ends: see Windows 8.1

Extended support ends: see Windows 8.1

Windows 7 Service Pack 1

This is currently the most popular release of Windows, and promises to hold that top spot for a long, long time. The following support dates require that you install Service Pack 1 (Windows 7 RTM support ended in April 2009).

Note that these dates are identical for Windows Server 2008 R2.

Mainstream support ends: January 13, 2015

Extended support ends: January 14, 2020

Windows Vista Service Pack 2

Fun fact: As of October 2013 the much-reviled Windows Vista was still in use on more computers than any version of OS X. The mainstream support phase ended in 2012, but extended support will continue for a few more years.

Mainstream support ends: No longer supported

Extended support ends: April 11, 2017

Windows XP Service Pack 3

Windows XP is more than 12 years old. It’s midway through a year-long farewell tour , counting down to April 8, 2014, when Microsoft officially ends its support. XP lived longer than any version of Windows ever, getting multiple extensions on its retirement date to placate customers who said no to Vista. But April 2014 is the end of the road. XP will not get a last-minute reprieve.

Mainstream support ends: No longer supported

Extended support ends: April 8, 2014

Let me say that again: Microsoft will not extend the support deadline for XP. If you're still relying on XP, you should have a plan to switch to a supported platform, whether it's from Microsoft or someone else.

April 8, 2014 is a deadline. It's not a death sentence. PCs running XP will not stop working when the clock runs out. In fact, XP diehards won’t notice anything different except an eerie quiet on the second Tuesday of each month. Newer versions, including Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8, will continue to get security patches and bug fixes via Windows Update, but not XP. When the extended support period ends, so do those updates. (Large enterprise customers who have custom support agreements with Microsoft and who are willing to pay a very steep price for the privilege might be able to get custom updates after the official end of support. But consumers and small businesses will not have that option.)

Meanwhile, it’s become obvious that Windows 7 is the new Long Term Support version. If you’re concerned that Microsoft is going to try to kill off Windows 7, you can relax. It’s not time to start a “Save Windows 7” movement yet. You’ve got many years to ponder what comes next.

A couple of footnotes:

Windows RT doesn't exactly fit in the support policy, because it's sold only in combination with ARM-based hardware. Updates to both the operating system and the included Office 2013 programs are delivered through Windows Update. It cannot be upgraded to a different operating system. After a full year on the market, Microsoft's official Windows RT Product Support Lifecycle Policy FAQ still doesn't list any support lifecycle dates. Instead, it simply says:

Microsoft will make software updates, including security updates, available for Windows RT. Additional information regarding the Windows RT lifecycle policy will be communicated as available.  

Microsoft has committed to a four-year support lifecycle for Surface RT, which is currently the only Windows RT device on the market.

And if you're curious about Server versions, the clock isn't ticking yet, but it's time to get just a little bit nervous. Extended support for Windows Server 2003 ends on July 14, 2015. That's less than two years away.

Next page: Office support dates and how the Support Lifecycle works 

Topics: Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Software, Windows

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228 comments
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  • Too bad they can't swap versions to expire

    Swap Win8 for XP and Office 2010 for 2003, for starters.
    JustCallMeBC
    • Why would they do that?

      XP is, architecture-wise, ancient. There have been so many improvements in the years, and you think they should just go backwards?
      Michael Alan Goff
      • One person's improvements

        Is another's forever buggy pile of bloated rubbish.
        JustCallMeBC
        • ... not to fix bugs

          Because going back to a codebase from 12 years ago will totally fix bugs.
          NeoBoot
          • Actually, Microsoft did something like that before

            When deciding what to do about the next OS after Windows NT 4.0, Microsoft decided to go back to the more stable 3.x version of NT and build Windows 2000 and later XP from that rather than the 4.0 version, which had moved to many things to kernel mode to speed things up at the expense of security and stability. (Before some of you whine-object about how stable your NT 4.0 servers were, you are remembering patched versions running only a few server apps on a given server.)

            Microsoft could easily go back to Win2k or XP and build an updated, compact kernel from either, and then give users a couple of GUI interfaces. (The best version of XP has long been the hacked, nLited version of it called TinyXP There is also TinyVista and Tiny7, but not nearly as impressive.)
            JustCallMeBC
          • Not true

            Windows 2000 was built on top of NT 4, not 3.x. The movement of User and GDI to kernel mode is still there today (win32k.sys).

            The only time anything remotely similar happened was the Longhorn reset, where they threw out the 2003-era PDC preview versions (which had been built on top of XP in parallel with Server 2003), and started over on top of Server 2003.
            PB_z
          • No

            I actually heard it from someone who was in know on this -- Win2K was derived mostly from NT 3.x and *not* 4.0. This basically explains the differences between NT 3.51 and 4.0, and why the 4.0 path was ended:
            http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc750820.aspx
            JustCallMeBC
          • Yuhong Bao

            Look for win32k.sys in your system32 directory.
            yuhong2
          • Right. Heard it from someone who was "in the know on this"

            Same person "in the know" who told me that Linus Trovalds told them in confidence that Windows is better then Linux?
            William.Farrel
          • Reply to "William.Farrel"

            That is one of the most stupid this comment that I've ever heard. Anyway the ISS dropped Windows in favour of Linux because I needed something that was "reliable"
            Mercia Dragon
          • (Sure, ignore the clarification.)

            Not accurate.

            ..."[Update 5/10/13 9 p.m. EST: We heard from Kieth Chuvala below who said his comments with the Linux Foundation have been misconstrued. The ISS does use Linux as well as Windows, and has no plans to ditch Windows any time soon. This story has been updated to reflect Chuvala's correction.]"...
            freakneck
          • Longhorn was OK

            It was built on the same platform as XP. Vista was horrible, something NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME and NOT built on something stable. 7 is vista revisited. 8 is vista enhanced (Like ME was an enhanced version of 98.. awful.)
            BRING BACK LONGHORN!
            "PCs running XP will not stop working when the clock runs out." Good point. People who don't NEED new computers will KEEP THEIR XP and be damn glad there are no more updates to screw them up. I forsee using XP even five to seven years from now, no problem.
            janitorman
          • Only

            they had best keep their XP computers offline lest some new exploits specific to XP get discovered but not patched. I imagine that if Windows continues becoming nothing more than a smartphone / pad emulator instead of a decent desktop / laptop OS, that people will just eventually be driven towards alternatives. I myself would be, although I've been "loyal" to MS operating systems (albeit picking and choosing which versions of Windows to update to) since my first IBM.
            hmmm,
          • X2

            X 2 here.
            charlieg1
          • pull the plug

            I plan to run with XP for quite a while longer. While some people "love" WIN8, they don't realize the amount of "bloatware" that is pulling down their system. ...you need a much larger hard drive and many more gigabytes of memory....
            davekingsb@...
          • Win7 used less resources than Vista

            And I'm pretty sure that Win8 uses less resources than Win7 (particularly if you stay off the desktop). Vista was a *big* change from XP. Win7 was a refinement (with lots of optimizations) from Vista. Win8 continues that trend, though it adds the "modern UI" stuff.

            You're right that Win8 likely has a larger footprint than XP (it's been 12 years after all, and memory is probably more than an order of magnitude cheaper, and disk space has decreased in price by much more than that).

            However, if your box supports Win8, you will likely find that it runs Win8 faster than it ran XP.
            Flydog57
          • Um, Longhorn was never going to work

            That's why the reset happened. Someday someone will write a book about everything that went into the Longhorn debacle. I was working there at the time (though not in Windows), and I'm still covered by an NDA, so it can't talk about it. But believe me, Longhorn will never be coming back (which isn't to say that features based on what Longhorn had promised will not make it into Windows).

            People who keep using XP and keep their computers connected to the internet will likely find that their computers will eventually get overwhelmed with malware.
            Flydog57
          • Old versus new

            Yeah buddy, they got to the Moon with 8mHz of processing power! Everything since has been anticlimactic. Bells and whistles, sound and fury signifying nothing! Newer most definitely does not mean better. The code bloat of the Windows Gui is legendary. The basic GUI does nothing that we couldn't do in DOS 6.2 with a little clever programming.
            David Beachler
          • what?

            Moronic
            QuantaII
          • we could do a lot

            I have to agree with you there, we did do a lot with dos and a few hundred kb's of ram with maybe a 5?? mb hard drive. wouldn't be nice if windows didn't have the bloat.

            I have a old customer who runs a hot rod shop with a old hunter wheel alignment machine that works off a old 386 based computer with windows 3.11 for work groups, no problems getting his emails or doing the work he needs to do. ie search the internet for parts or grab his emails.
            charlieg1