Microsoft hardware support policy changes requires Windows 10 on new processors

Microsoft makes changes to its hardware support policy to require Windows 10 on new processors, and warns customers that older versions of Windows will only be supported on select hardware until mid-2018.

Surface Book left side ports

In the ongoing mission to expand Windows 10 on existing devices and modern hardware, Microsoft is also announcing some drastic policy changes for the future of Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 on new hardware.

Although, the software maker has been known to offer support for its operating system on different hardware for a long time, with Windows 10 things are changing rapidly. According to the company, beginning with Intel’s sixth-gen Skylake processors, new computers will require Windows 10. Microsoft says that select Skylake-based devices will be made compatible with Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, but they will only be supported until July 17, 2018.

While these are important changes in the hardware policy, this should not affect average consumers, as most of the time home users will simply buy a new computer and stay with the operating system that comes bundled with the system and they don’t downgrade.

However, businesses are known to take a very long time to upgrade to the latest version of the operating system – even on new computers –, because of compatibility reasons, budget, or company policies. Case and point, you can see what happened with Windows XP and Windows 7, and now it’s clear that Microsoft wants to avoid the same scenarios this time around.

At the Windows Blog, the company explains:

“Compared to Windows 7 PC’s, Skylake when combined with Windows 10, enables up to 30x better graphics and 3x the battery life – with the unmatched security of Credential Guard utilizing silicon supported virtualization.”

This is totally understandable as new software has to be better that its predecessor. Then the software giant continues explaining the implications on hardware support on Windows:

“Windows 7 was designed nearly 10 years ago before any x86/x64 SOCs existed. For Windows 7 to run on any modern silicon, device drivers and firmware need to emulate Windows 7’s expectations for interrupt processing, bus support, and power states- which is challenging for Wi-Fi, graphics, security, and more. As partners make customizations to legacy device drivers, services, and firmware settings, customers are likely to see regressions with Windows 7 ongoing servicing.”

As such, the company is announcing some changes in the hardware policy that primarily may affect businesses wanting to stay on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

Microsoft new hardware support policy

Moving forward, as new processors are introduced to the market, they will require the latest version of Windows “at that time for support” – at this time, it will be Windows 10 –. This will help the company and partners to focus on “deep integration” between Windows and the silicon to maintain “reliability and compatibility with previous generations of platform and silicon.”

As an example, the company notes that “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.”

However, Windows 7 will continue to receive security, reliability, and compatibility support until January 14, 2020 on previous generation processors. Also, Windows 8.1 will receive the same support through January 10, 2023. “This includes most of the devices available for purchase today by consumers or enterprises.”

Devices running Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 on supported Skylake processors will continue to receive support until July 17, 2018. Then these devices will have to upgrade to Windows 10 in order to receive support after the period ends. After July 2018, the most critical security updates for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 will be addressed, as long the fixes don’t “risk the reliability or compatibility of the Windows 7/8.1 platform on other devices.”

While the software maker may be trying to communicate customers of the implications to make an older operating system compatible with new hardware, it also seems that the company has found yet another tactic to lure customers — especially businesses and organizations — into upgrading to Windows 10, thus helping it to reach the 1 billion devices running the new operating system within the next two to three years.

Update, March 19, 2016: This article was updated to reflect that Microsoft is extending its original end of support of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 running on Skylake-based computers from July 17, 2017 to July 17, 2018, which will give customers more time to purchase modern hardware with confidence. For more information visit Windows for IT Pros TechNet site.

Source Windows Blog