Microsoft ended support for Windows Vista RTM, the original and patch-free version of its much-maligned operating system, on April 13. Those who want to continue using a supported version of Vista will need to update their copies with service packs.
"What does 'End of Support' mean?" Eric Ligman, global partner experience lead for Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group, wrote in an April 9 post on the Microsoft SMB Community Blog. "Once your version of Windows reaches the EOS date, it is classified as an 'unsupported version' of Windows. An unsupported version of Windows will no longer receive software updates from Windows Update."
In addition, Microsoft does not offer problem resolution services for unsupported products, Ligman said, meaning that, "in the event that you encounter an issue [or] outage in your environment on an unsupported product, our engineers may not be able to help resolve this until you have upgraded to a support level."
To check whether a copy of Vista has a service pack installed, and is thus covered by Microsoft's support policy, click on the Start button and type "winver" into the search box. The resulting window should display a service pack number (for example, "Service Pack 2"). Ligman recommended that Vista users upgrade to SP2 via Windows Update, which can again be accessed via the Start button, followed by All Programs.
Vista's SP1 is due for retirement July 12, 2011; SP2 will be retired either 24 months after another service pack release, or at the end of Vista's support life cycle. Mainstream support for Vista ends April 10, 2012, while extended support for Vista Business and Vista Enterprise will end April 11, 2017. A full product life-cycle schedule for Vista can be found here.
Microsoft is also adjusting its support policy. Whereas before the company no longer supplied products that had reached the end of their support cycle with any troubleshooting assistance from Microsoft Customer Service and Support, now "limited troubleshooting" will be available for "unsupported service pack versions."
By "limited," Microsoft apparently means that incidents of broken software will be handled by Microsoft Customer Service and Support, but there will be "no option to engage Microsoft's product development resources, and technical workarounds may be limited or not available." In addition, according to an April 13 post on the Microsoft Support Lifecycle Blog, "If the support incident requires escalation to development for further guidance, requires a hotfix or requires a security update, customers will be asked to upgrade to a supported service pack."
According to January numbers from statistics-tracking company Net Applications, Windows 7 averages a 7.57 share of the U.S. operating system market, trailing XP at 66.15 percent and Vista at 17.47 percent. However, Windows 7's market share has been steadily climbing since its October 2009 release, while that of the older operating systems has fallen accordingly.