What happens to your PC when Microsoft stops supporting a Windows version?

What happens when Microsoft stops supporting a Windows version

Windows is one of the most popular and most used computer operating system in the world. But for some reasons, Microsoft cannot support every version of its OS forever. In fact, the company has ended support for some of its OS in the past — Windows XP, for instance — and the end date for other versions are gradually drawing closer.

However, before we talk about what exactly would be the fate of your PC when Microsoft eventually cuts off support for the OS it’s running, there are some terms you need to understand first.

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Lifecycle

Lifecycle is a term used to refer to signify how long a Windows Operating System will live for i.e how long a Windows OS version would exist for.

Every product made by Microsoft has its individual lifecycle and it begins when the product is officially released and ends when Windows no longer supports the product. Basically, see lifecycle like an “Expiry date“. And just how important knowing the expiry dates of food items are, is the same way knowing the lifecycle of your Windows OS is.

Luckily, Windows also publicly states the lifecycle of Windows OS the same way food manufacturer clearly print out manufacturing and expiry dates on groceries. You can check out the official Windows Lifecycle Fact Sheet page to see how long Microsoft supports each version of its operating systems.

Windows 10 version History and Lifecycle
Windows 10 version History and Lifecycle

Now, let’s talk about support.

Mainstream vs Extended support

Unlike groceries, Windows operating systems come with two expiry dates after which Windows permanently ends support for a product. The first one is called the Mainstream Support End Dates while the second is known as the Extended Support End Date.

What happens when Microsoft stops supporting a Windows version

1. Mainstream Support End Date

 Picture this as a Pre-Expiry or Semi-Expiry Date. Mainstream support date is usually five years after Windows releases an OS. When your PC is within Mainstream support date, Windows will actively “take care” of your computer by releasing necessary bug fixes, pushing security patches, implementing/sending design (read: user interface {UI}) changes, attending to warranty claims and all sorts of issues.

However, when the Mainstream support ends, your PC’s OS moves into the Extended Support phase.

2. Extended Support End Date

The Extended Support phase also spans over five years. And within the period, Microsoft waters down the level of care, support and releases it sends to your PC. For starters, your PCs will no longer receive new complimentary features and updates like redesigned interface, service packs, warranty support etc. However, in the Extended support phase, Microsoft will continue releasing fixes and patches to bugs that could result in a security threat.

Is that the end (of your PC)?

As soon as the extended support period elapses, Windows totally abandons the concerned OS version. Meaning no support whatsoever: UI redesign, service packs, no bug fixes or security patches etc. As long as that Windows OS version is concerned, it no longer exists to Microsoft. However, Windows still keeps making security updates for ‘expired’ OS version but not for the average consumer.

Beyond the extended support date, only organizations that enter into a “Custom Support Contract” with Microsoft will get the updates for their computers — at a price of course. And as new Windows versions are being developed, Microsoft raises the price of these contracts in a bid to encourage the organizations to migrate their systems to newer versions.

Consequences of running an unsupported Windows OS

Now that the type of supports rendered by Microsoft to versions of its OS has been explained, let’s talk about the risk your PC is exposed to when Microsoft ends ‘extended support’.

1. No Security Updates

The consequence of not receiving security fixes and patches is pretty much obvious. Your PC and its contents become highly vulnerable to malware (read: viruses) and hackers, compared to OS versions that receive regular security updates from Microsoft.

Even if people discover huge security… Microsoft won’t issue you security updates. You’re on your own.

And yes, you can install Anti-virus or any other security software and tools but that only scratches the surface. Sadly, developers of the security programs will equally withdraw support for your OS at some point — which takes us to the second point.

2. Software/Hardware Companies Also End Support

As soon as Microsoft drops support for a version of an operating system, it is a signal to (software and hardware) companies to also stop supporting that same version. And whenever you try to install a program, an error message like the one below will appear on your screen.

Although these companies do not immediately withdraw support for such OS versions, they eventtually will after a couple of months or years, maybe.

3. Some (New) Hardware will not function

Gradually, new peripherals and hardware will also fail to work on yiur PC. This is because your PC manufacturer will also eventually stop creating drivers for whatever OS Windows stopped supporting. And because some hardware require you to have the latest drivers, an error message similar to the one below will pop-up on your screen whenever you try to use a them on your computer.

This also will not happen immediately but it eventually will at a later date — unless you upgrade your PC’s operating system. Alternatively, you can opt for the more expensive option: buy a new PC.

There you have it: stuff that happens to your PC when Microsoft stops supporting the Windows version it’s running. Of course, your PC will not blow up or something; you can still use it for your day-to-day activities. However, you’d have to learn how to ive with the above-mentioned consequences and vulnerabilities.