The Clock Is Ticking on Windows 7, Microsoft Warns

Mainstream support for Windows 7 ends early next year, but there's no need to panic. Patches will continue for years to come.

Windows 7 end of life

Microsoft may be preparing for the end of Windows 7, but the popular desktop operating system still has plenty of years ahead of it.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company published an online support document that details which of its software products are closing in on their end of support dates. Among them is Windows 7.

Mainstream support for all editions of the best-selling OS, from the Home Basic to Enterprise, will end Jan. 13, 2015, the company announced. While dire-sounding, the reality is that Windows 7 users have several more years of patches to look forward to.

Microsoft's Support Lifecycle Policy FAQ explains that Microsoft's mainstream support phase includes paid support, security updates, design changes and non-security hotfixes. On Jan. 13, Windows 7 will move into the extended support phase.

Software that has moved into the extended support phase is essentially feature-locked. In addition, Microsoft no longer honors warranty claims for products that have slipped into extended support, nor does the company provide no-charge incident support.

"Extended Support lasts for 5 years and includes security updates at no cost, and paid hotfix support," stated Microsoft. "Additionally, Microsoft will not accept requests for design changes or new features during the Extended Support phase."

In effect, Windows 7 users can expect security patches up until Jan. 13, 2020 and little else.

A host of Microsoft business software offerings are also facing their twilight years on Jan. 13, 2015. In addition to Windows 7, mainstream support is ending for Windows Server 2008, Windows Storage Server 2008, Dynamics C5 2010 and Dynamics NAV 2009. Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 also exits the mainstream support phase on that date. Windows Phone 7.8 faces a similar fate, albeit earlier (Sept. 9, 2014).

Several other Microsoft products are set to soon take Windows XP's lead into obsolescence. The long-lived OS reached the end of support phase on April 8, spelling the end of security patches for the popular target of hackers and malware coders.

Despite grave warnings, Windows XP's share of the desktop OS market remains practically unchanged since Microsoft retired the OS. XP accounted for more than 25 percent of the desktop OS market in June 2014, second only to Windows 7 (50.55 percent), according to Net Applications' latest survey. By comparison, XP made up 26.29 percent of the market in April.

On Oct. 14, Windows CE 5.0 and Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2004 Standard Edition will move from extended support to end of support. On Jan. 13, 2015, Host Integration Server 2004, Systems Management Server 2003, Virtual Server 2005 and Visual FoxPro 9.0 Professional Edition will be put out to pasture by Microsoft.

"There will be no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates," cautioned Microsoft.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...