Why Windows 8's Lifecycle and Update Support is Confusing

Why Windows 8's Lifecycle and Update Support is Confusing

When discussing about how Update 1 is required for Windows 8.1 to continue to receive future updates, one question that always comes up in the communities is around if Windows 8 (non-8.1) is still supported and if so, when it will exit support and stop receiving updates.

Since I hear this quite a bit, and I know it's confusing to a lot of people, I thought it best to get it written down for clarification, as a placeholder where folks can search to find the answer, and for discussion.

As you should know by now, Update 1 is a mandatory installation for Windows 8.1 users. By mandatory, I mean that if Update 1 is not installed (for 8.1), future updates, both security and non-security related, will not be delivered. Microsoft has logic built into its updates to check before installing and if Update 1 is not found, new updates will just not be available to install.

However, there are some (actually a bigger number than I expected) who have not chosen to install Windows 8.1 over their original Windows 8 installation. Windows 8.1 is a great upgrade, but a lot of people has issues due to how Microsoft decided to deliver it using the Windows Store. Some tried multiple times to get it to work and just gave up, others, for whatever reason, just didn't even attempt it. Fortunately, the 8.1 upgrade is not required for those continuing to use the first Windows 8 release. Original Windows 8 users can continue to rest assured that they will continue to be supported and continue to receive monthly updates to secure the operating system. Windows 8 is safe.

At least for the moment. And, here's where this gets extra confusing, thanks in no small part to Microsoft.

According to the Microsoft Product Lifecycle information, mainstream support for Windows 8 (not 8.1) ends in January 2018, with extended support lasting until January 2023. HOWEVER – according to the Microsoft Windows 8.1 FAQ, customers have a period of 24 months after Windows 8.1 released to upgrade.

In essence, Microsoft is stating that Windows 8.1 was actually a service pack and applying its longstanding policies for service pack. This is the first time Microsoft has suggested that Update 1 was actually a service pack.

Per the FAQ, tell me if you think this is confusing:

Windows 8.1 falls under the same lifecycle policy as Windows 8, and will reach end of Mainstream Support on January 9, 2018, and end of Extended Support on January 10, 2023. With the General Availability of Windows 8.1, customers on Windows 8 have 2 years, until January 12, 2016, to move to Windows 8.1 in order to remain supported.

So, applying the age-old service pack policy and some logic, it's apparent that while the Product Lifecycle seems to suggest hard dates for Windows 8's mainstream and extended support deadlines, it is either incorrect, Microsoft has yet to figure it out themselves and update the page, or Windows 8 support does, in fact, end in 2015. I'm not sure what the difference is between the life of a product and the support of a product. To me, those are essentially the same.

Let's just hope Microsoft doesn't decide to label Windows 9 as a service pack after the fact. From one source, I'm told, that Microsoft does understand the confusion around this issue. The desire, of course, is to get customers ot Windows 8.1, and once there to keep them current, but the company will be making new announcements to make this clearer and well-defined for the next Windows release.

To be safe, I'd just upgrade to Windows 8.1. For the most part, Microsoft has the upgrade bugs worked out. Windows 8.1 is a much better Windows 8, providing much improved non-touch capabilities – which is what most wanted in the first place.

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