What does the end of Vista mainstream support mean? Not much

Today marks the official end of mainstream support and the beginning of extended support for Windows Vista. If you’re still using Vista, for whatever reason, feel free to continue for as long as you want. You won't even notice the change.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor

Today marks the official end of mainstream support for Windows Vista.

I haven’t  seen any Save Vista petitions yet, but neither have I seen any panic from consumers or businesses still using it.

What I did see was one provocative post, published under the title Windows Vista RIP. I might have expected this sort of trolling from some random web site, but this little piece was published at SANS Technology Institute, which is normally an authoritative and neutral source of information about computer security issues.

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I’m tempted to ignore it (the author did, after all, add a disclaimer at the end noting that it was intended to be satirical). But there were enough factual mistakes in the post that it’s worth going through them one by one.

The style of the post is a letter to Vista:

The market has rejected you and killed you off. Your last copies went over the counter in October 2011 according to your maker. And finally, today your maker buries you too: Microsoft is stopping support for Windows Vista today.

The market has indeed moved on from Vista. Over the past year, according to NetMarketShare, Vista’s share of online usage has declined from 11% to 7.65%. (Although I guess everything’s relative, because even lowly, rejected Windows Vista still has more users worldwide than all versions of OS X combined, according to that same data source.)

But the end of retail sales? That’s standard policy at Microsoft, as I’ve explained before. When a new Windows version comes out, PC makers are allowed to sell the previous version for a year, and Microsoft sells shrink-wrapped copies into the retail channel for one additional year. Windows 7 came out in October 2009, so Vista’s sales lifecycle ended in October 2011.

And "stopping support"? Not so. Let's keep reading.

There is some hope that consumer rights groups will fight such a short lifespan of support and patches (e.g. in Europe there 's a mandatory 2 year warranty requirement for products sold to consumers), but overall and for all practical purposes, you're about to be forgotten …

I don’t get this one at all. In Europe, there’s a mandatory two-year warranty requirement. Microsoft has supported Vista in its mainstream phase for five years, five months, and 16 days. I suppose technically, anyone who bought a boxed retail copy of Windows Vista between April and October 2011 might be able to grumble. But I’d want to ask them why they were buying that out-of-date revision when Windows 7 was available.

And then this:

[T]hose that have you will now have to decide to bury you in the trashcan or pay for extended support.

No burial or payment necessary. Back in February, Microsoft formally changed its published support policy for Windows Vista and Windows 7 to match with the way it worked in practice. All consumer and business editions qualify for no-charge, security-related updates throughout the extended support phase, which ends in five years, on April 11, 2017.

It’s true that new, non-security-related hotfixes will no longer be available for Vista. Again, that’s pretty much standard operating procedure. It’s been a long time since Microsoft released a significant non-security update for Vista, and those that mattered were rolled up into service packs.

You can see a full list of all 996 updates delivered during Windows Vista’s life by searching in the Microsoft Update Catalog. The only non-security-related updates I can find in the past year are language packs for Internet Explorer 9, updates for the Microsoft .NET Framework 4, and occasionally obscure fixes like 2563227 (“An SVG graphic that has attributes that use large values may not be parsed correctly”) and 2632503 (“FIX: Array elements in very large loops may be returned as undefined in JScript 5.8”).

And even then, you might find that non-security-related fixes are actually delivered for Vista. All of the updates I listed in the paragraph above were made available for Windows Server 2003, which ended mainstream support in July 2010.

If you’re still using Vista, for whatever reason, feel free to continue for as long as you want. Today might technically be a milestone, but it’s no big deal.

The really big date, of course, is April 8, 2014. That's when all support for Windows XP, including security-related updates, ends for good. If you're still using XP, you have a transition plan, right?

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