Soon, when you buy a new PC, it won't support Windows 7 or 8. Microsoft has announced a change to its support policy that lays out its plans for future updates to its older operating systems, and the new rules mean that future PC owners with next-generation Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm processors will need to use Windows 10.
It's not usual for old PCs to fall short of the minimum requirements of a brand new operating system, but in this case, the opposite is happening. Microsoft and its partners will not be putting in the significant work necessary to make new hardware work with older versions of Windows. The old operating systems, at best, will merely lack the latest updates. At worst, they might not function properly.
Policy starts with Intel's current processors, Skylake
"Going forward, as new silicon generations are introduced, they will require the latest Windows platform at that time for support," Microsoft notes in a blog post published on Friday. "Windows 10 will be the only supported Windows platform on Intel's upcoming 'Kaby Lake' silicon, Qualcomm's upcoming '8996' silicon, and AMD's upcoming 'Bristol Ridge' silicon."
This new policy doesn't mean that Windows 7 and 8.1 are no longer supported in general. The two operating systems will continue to get updates through January 14th, 2020 and January 10th, 2023, respectively. But that's only if you're using hardware that was contemporaneous with those operating systems.
For current PC owners, the detail to note is that Intel's current, sixth generation processors, known as Skylake, are the first that won't support either of the older versions of Windows. (Intel and Microsoft say that the platform and Windows 10 were designed for each other.) Microsoft is phasing in the policy now.
Microsoft offers 18-month grace period for enterprise customers
For the company's all-important enterprise customers, who often lag behind on hardware and software updates in order to guarantee stability, Microsoft says it will be maintaining a list of approved Skylake systems that are guaranteed to have Windows 7 and 8.1 support through July 17th, 2017. That gives companies an 18-month grace period to buy modern hardware for employees before committing and implementing upgrades to Windows 10.
After the grace period, only "the most critical Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 security updates will be addressed for these configurations, and will be released if the update does not risk the reliability or compatibility of the Windows 7/8.1 platform on other devices." Companies and consumers, of course, can still buy older PC hardware that doesn't utilize Intel's Skylake platform or other modern CPUs — the last generation of supported Intel processors are known as Broadwell, and those chips are still widely available.
The policy change not only makes Microsoft's hardware partners happy — they no longer are on the hook to develop as many costly software updates for past versions of Windows — but it also helps Microsoft push adoption of Windows 10. The company sees the operating system as the "final" version of Windows; it's now a service, not a product, and this change better reflects that. There's only one current version of Windows, and while Microsoft will fulfill its legacy hardware obligations, it won't be expending resources to help users steer clear of its latest and greatest.