Perhaps bowing to popular demand, Microsoft this week backed off a previous announcement that it would end support for some machines running its Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 operating systems next year. On its blog, Microsoft said it will patch those two operating systems on PCs that run Intel’s Skylake chip until 2020 in the case of Windows 7 and 2023 in the case of Windows 8.1.
However, in January, Microsoft said it would end most support on the two operating systems next July if they were running on machines equipped with Intel's Skylake line of processors.
"We have extended the support period from July 17, 2018 to the end of support dates for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1; and we will provide all applicable security updates," wrote Shad Larsen, a director of Windows business planning, on a Microsoft blog. "We recognize that, in some instances, customers have a few systems that require longer deployment timeframes [to Windows 10]."
Microsoft referred to the deadline extension as a clarification of its previous announcement. Microsoft initially attributed the decision to end support to Windows 7 because of its age and the headaches that that Microsoft and original equipment manufacturers would face ensuring that Windows 7, which debuted in 2009, was running on Intel's latest architecture.
The company backed off that announcement in March, saying that it was extending the support exit date by a year, to July 18, 2018. After that date, the company and its computer-making partners would not guarantee that they would revise device drivers to support Windows 7 and 8.1 on newer hardware.
The end-of-support dates are now January 14, 2020 for Windows 7 and January 10, 2023 for Windows 8.1. After the new deadlines, Skylake-powered PCs on a list of exempt devices compiled by Microsoft will only get patches for the most serious flaws. Skylake devices not on that exempt list won’t receive those patches.
The initial end-of-support dates were decried by many computer users who felt Microsoft was using them to force customers into moving to the Windows 10 operating system.
The curtailing of support hasn't been popular with computer makers, either. Earlier this year, Lenovo suggested that it didn’t agree with the deadline, possibly sensing that customers would hesitate to buy new computers knowing that they would have to migrate to Windows 10 by mid-2017.
Microsoft still plans to support only Windows 10 on Intel's Skylake successor, an architecture called Kaby Lake, and on AMD's next-generation Bristol Ridge chip. Additionally, Microsoft said that it’s working with Intel to better optimize Windows 10 for the latest processors. That appears to mean that improving the hardware for older operating systems will eventually make less sense.
"This change is designed to help our customers purchase modern hardware with confidence, while continuing to manage their migrations to Windows 10," according to Larsen. "We recommend that customers upgrade these 6th Gen Intel Core systems on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 as soon as possible so that they can receive full support along with the great enhancements that come from running modern hardware with modern software."