Microsoft Ends Windows 8 Support—What This Means and How to Keep Your PC Secure

Microsoft ended support for Windows® 8 on January 13, 2016. This means that Microsoft will no longer provide new security patches, hotfixes, software updates or online technical assistance for this operating system (OS). While Windows 8 PCs may be safe for a while—particularly if you follow these steps recommended at the end of XP support—in the long run an upgrade to a newer OS is strongly recommended.

Users who choose to remain with Windows 8 will eventually be placing their PCs at risk for viruses and other malware, even if they have installed the latest available Windows 8 update or service pack. (Service packs combine the latest security or performance updates and fixes into one package or download. To install the latest service pack or update for your Windows OS, visit the Service Pack Center.)

An upgrade to Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 will put you back in supported territory, as will remaining with Windows 7 (Service Pack 1*) if you prefer that OS. It’s confusing to many consumers that Microsoft in fact announced an end to support for Windows 7 in January 2015, but this is not an end of the same severity that support for 8 now is.

To understand the distinction, it’s important to know the difference between Windows mainstream support and extended support.

Mainstream vs. extended support
When an OS loses mainstream support it simply means that it will no longer receive new product features or software tweaks. You also won’t be able to call Microsoft for free help.

The OS enters the extended support phase at this point. For example, during the “XPocalypse” of 2014, Windows XP moved out of the extended support phase it had been in since 2009. Windows XP still received security patches and critical hotfixes until April 2014; the software just wasn’t in active development after 2009.

Mainstream support lasts five years from the date of each operating system’s general availability. Though they do not guarantee it, usually Microsoft will provide extended support for a decade past the general availability date. For example, extended support for Windows 7 lasts until January 14, 2020. This support phase began in January 2015, when Windows 7 mainstream support ended.

End of OS support—key dates
The following table shows when the different types of support end for each Windows OS, as well as the latest service pack or update you should have to maximize PC stability and security.

Windows OS Latest Update Mainstream
Support End
Extended
Support End
Windows XP SP3 4/14/09 4/08/14
Windows Vista SP2 4/10/12 4/11/17
Windows 7 SP1 1/13/15 1/14/20
Windows 8 Windows 8.1 1/09/18 1/10/23
Windows 10 - 10/13/20 10/14/25

End of OS retail sales—key dates
After October 2016 Microsoft stops shipping Windows 7 (Professional) and Windows 8.1 software to OEMs (e.g., Dell and Toshiba) so it will be increasingly difficult to buy machines in retail stores with Windows 7 or 8.1 pre-installed. Microsoft has already stopped shipping boxed versions of Windows 7 and 8.1 to retail stores. The following table shows in more detail the ending dates of retail sales for each Windows version.

Windows OS End of
Software Sales
End of
Sales on PCs
Windows 7 Home Basic,
Premium & Ultimate
10/31/13 10/31/14
Windows 7 Professional 10/31/13 10/31/16
Windows 8 10/31/13 10/31/16
Windows 8.1 9/01/15 10/31/16
Windows 10 - -

Internet Explorer support
In addition to Windows 8, older versions of Internet Explorer have lost extended support—these include IE 8, 9 and 10. To avoid exposure to malicious security threats over the Internet, make sure you are running at least IE version 11; an even better choice is the Edge web browser that is the default in Windows 10.

Windows 10, which is free for Windows users through July 2016, marks the true end of the service pack era. According to Microsoft, Windows updates are now cumulative, meaning each incorporates all the changes of the update that preceded it. These updates can also be quite large—it’s not uncommon for Windows 10 updates, which tend to arrive at least once a month, to be 3GB in size.

By ending extended support for Windows 8, Microsoft continues to see that the new era of Windows 10 gets ushered in fully. To upgrade to Windows 10, click here.

*Support for Windows 7 without service packs (“Windows 7 RTM”) ended on April 9, 2013.

Windows is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and other countries.

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UpToSpeed™ is iolo's ongoing article series written by PC experts for everyday computer users. Each article is packed with easy tips and practical advice on the latest issues affecting computers to help you get the most out of your PC.






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Microsoft Ends Windows 8 Support—What This Means and How to Keep Your PC Secure