Windows 7 users have had a lot of fun recently. Poking fun at Windows 8 is a popular pastime as is teasing those too stubborn to abandon the Windows XP sinking ship, but now comes their own wake up call. Microsoft has formally announced that mainstream support for Windows 7 will end on 13 January 2015 – just 5 months away.
“Every Windows product has a lifecycle. The lifecycle begins when a product is released and ends when it’s no longer supported,” the company explained. “Knowing key dates in this lifecycle helps you make informed decisions about when to upgrade or make other changes to your software.”
Of course January 2015 will be much sooner than many people will have expected, especially the high profile attention given to the end of Windows XP support 13 years after release. By comparison Windows 7 is less than five years old.
That said there is good reason for Microsoft’s apparent lack of warning in this case: it is talking about two different kinds of support.
Mainstream Support Vs. Extended Support
On 13 January 2015 Windows 7’s ‘Mainstream Support’ will come to an end. That means no new Service Packs or features will be released. This is wholly different from the end of ‘Extended Support’ which is what happened to Windows XP on 8 April 2014.
Extended Support is the big one: no more security patches when hackers find holes, no performance improvements, nothing – the OS is effectively dead. Windows 7 Extended Support will not end until 11 April 2017. For comparison Windows XP Mainstream Support ended back on 8 April 2009.
Consequently most can breathe a sigh of relief, especially with Windows 7 currently running onover 50% of PCs around the world. If Windows XP was hard to kill, Windows 7 is likely to be even harder.
What Windows 7 users must know, however, is that they have to be running Windows 7 Service Pack 1 for these days to apply. Support for Windows 7 RTM (Released to Manufacturing – the original release software) was stopped back on 9 April 2013 – so if for some reason you aren’t keeping Windows 7 up to date do so immediately.
A similar issue appeared when Microsoft ditched Windows 8 support with just a month’s notice in April forcing everyone to immediately upgrade to Windows 8.1. After a hostile reception (includingfrom me) it increased the support period to 4 months.
Sales End Soon
For the record those who still want to buy Windows 7 instead of Windows 8 will also need to be snappy. Sales of Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium and Ultimate will formally end on 31 October 2014, though a date to end sales of Windows 7 Professional has yet to be established.
Interestingly Microsoft has also revealed end of Mainstream Support for a number of its other platforms including Windows Server 2008, Windows Storage Server 2008, Exchange Server 2010, Windows CE 5.0 and Windows Phone 7.8. The last of these is most interesting with Mainstream Support ending on 9 September 2014. Extended Support will then continue for another 18 months.