10 Years of Support for Windows 10

Windows versions back to Vista are still being supported, too.

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"Every Windows product has a lifecycle," Microsoft says on a page titled "Windows lifecycle fact sheet." Then it defines that lifecycle: "The lifecycle begins when a product is released and ends when it's no longer supported." And now we know what the lifecycle of the about-to-be-released Windows 10 is: 10 years.

Lifecycles are important to makers of software. It's hard to support a product, like Windows XP, for example, that was released way, way back in October of 2001.

Some readers of this article, in fact, will still be using Windows XP. But it's now a 14-year-old operating system (OS). It's not reasonable to expect a company to still provide updates, including security updates, for a product that old. You may still be able to get junkyard parts for your 1978 Datsun B210, but you can be sure that Datsun (now Nissan) doesn't provide any new parts or upgrades for the car. (As an aside: for those of you still using Windows XP, you're working on a computer that's a ticking time bomb. Please, I beg you, upgrade to a newer OS.)

It's the same idea for software. Software vendors move on, and can't support the really old stuff forever; it's just not a practical way to run that kind of company. So Microsoft, just like every other software maker, has a support lifecycle for its products. And for Windows 10, the key dates are Oct. 13, 2020, when "mainstream support" ends, and Oct.

14, 2025, when "extended support" ends.

Mainstream vs. Extended Support

Here are the key differences between mainstream and extended support:

Mainstream support. During mainstream support (which you can see detailed on this Microsoft page), new features can be added, changed or even deleted. Security updates, like patches for new viruses and other malware, will be pushed out.

In addition, Microsoft will help you, via phone or online, with your product, and typically for free.

Extended support. In the extended support phase, which kicks in when mainstream support ends, Microsoft will still patch vulnerabilities in Windows 10. That's the most important thing to remember. What won't happen is the type of updates that add or change features; for instance, the Windows 8.1 upgrade from Windows 8 allowed users to have a wider range of Live Tile sizes. Those kinds of alterations won't occur once extended support starts.

Paid support will still be available; this means that if you have a Windows problem, Microsoft will still help, but it will cost you.

How Long Will Your Version Be Supported?

These support policies (mainstream and extended) also apply to previous versions of Windows. Here they are:

  • Windows XP: All support ended April 8, 2014.
  • Windows Vista: Mainstream support ended in 2012. Extended support ends April 11, 2017.
  • Windows 7: Mainstream support ended Jan. 13, 2015. Extended support ends Jan. 14, 2020.
  • Windows 8: Mainstream support ends Jan. 9, 2018. Extended support ends Jan. 10, 2023.
  • Windows 10: Mainstream support ends Oct. 13, 2020. Extended support ends Oct. 14, 2025. (Windows 10 will be released on July 29).

    What happens if Windows 10 isn't succeeded by another version of Windows (which seems likely, since Microsoft has said that Windows 10 will be the last "named" version)? As of right now, that's unclear. But if it just keeps on being updated, one would suspect that the support dates will just keep getting pushed back. It will depend on how Microsoft defines newer versions.

    ZDNet's Ed Bott, who's been following and writing about Microsoft for many years, had this to say: "My guess, based on that language, is that in the next two years or so we'll see an extension of the 10-year lifecycle based on a new baseline release date. But that's just speculation, and we'll have to wait for the actual answer."