No piece of software can last forever. Sooner or later, every program has to go; this often thanks to an outdated core or changed priorities from the developers. The Windows operating system itself is no exception to this.
So, when does Windows 10 support end? What happens when Windows reaches the end of its support? We’ll answer these questions and more as we look at how the Windows lifecycle works.
What Is the Windows Lifecycle?
When Microsoft releases a new version of Windows, it already has a set end of support date. You can find these dates on Microsoft’s Windows lifecycle fact sheet page.
There is no final Windows 10 end of life, as there was with previous versions. Since Microsoft regularly updates Windows 10, it supports each major version (called a feature update) for 18 months after its release.
That page features a chart of versions with their release date and end of service dates so you know what to expect. We’ll cover more on specific Windows 10 versions in a bit.
For Windows 8.1, Windows 7, and older, you’ll notice two end-of-life dates: mainstream support and extended support. These are pretty straightforward:
- During mainstream support, a version of Windows receives security updates as well as possible feature updates. This lasts for at least five years after a version launches.
- Afterward, Windows enters extended support. During this period, Microsoft continues to issue security patches, but you won’t see new features. This begins at the end of mainstream support and lasts until at least 10 years after the OS’s initial release—meaning that extended support usually lasts for five years after mainstream support ends.
What Will Happen When Windows 10 Support Ends?
Once extended support ends (or support ends for a particular version of Windows 10), that version of Windows is effectively dead. Microsoft won’t offer any updates—even for security issues—except in rare circumstances.
While your computer will continue to work fine, as it gets older, it becomes increasingly insecure. If attackers find a vulnerability in the OS, Microsoft won’t patch it. And over time, popular software will stop supporting legacy versions of Windows.
Which Windows Versions Are No Longer Supported?
As of 2020, Microsoft only supports Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. Windows 7 left extended support in January of 2020, with Vista and XP expiring years prior. If you’re still using any of those versions, you need to upgrade, which we cover below.
Windows 8.1 left mainstream support in January 2018; it’s in extended support until January 2023. Note that the original version of Windows 8 is no longer supported, so you should update to Windows 8.1 to stay safe.
When Will Windows 10 Support End?
As mentioned, Microsoft uses a different approach with Windows 10 support. Before Windows 10, the end of life for your Windows version meant that you had to upgrade your computer or pay for a new copy of Windows.
Since Microsoft offers Windows 10 as a service, the company regularly updates Windows 10 to make it even better. These updates are free for home users.
This means instead of releasing a brand-new Windows version every few years, Microsoft launches feature updates roughly twice a year. They’re targeted for March and November, but the actual launch date can vary.
If you’re on Windows 10, it’s a good idea to know the Windows 10 end of support date for your current version. That way, you can make sure you don’t use it past its expiration date.
Check Your Current Windows 10 Version
It’s easy to see what version of Windows 10 you have. Press Win + R to open the Run dialog, then enter winver and press Enter. You’ll see a simple dialog box with Version XXYY near the top.
These numbers show the (intended) release year and date. For example, Windows 10 version 2004 corresponds to April 2020, even though the update didn’t launch exactly in that month. You can use this to get an idea of how close to the end of the 18-month support period your version is.
Aside from the number, each version also has a “friendly name” that Microsoft uses to identify them. These once used unique names like the Creators Update or Anniversary Update, but now follow a simple month/year scheme, such as May 2020 Update (which is version 2004).
On the Windows lifecycle page mentioned earlier, you’ll see a list of every Windows 10 version and its end of service date. If the end of support date is close for your version, it’s a good time to update.
How to Upgrade Windows 10 Before End of Support
Because Windows 10 updates automatically, you don’t usually need to worry about manually updating your copy of Windows before support ends. Unless you’ve delayed Windows 10 updates, Windows will install the latest version soon after it launches.
A few months before the end of support for your version, you’ll see a message on the Windows Update page with a message like “You’re currently running a version of Windows 10 that’s nearing the end of support.” As it gets closer, you might also see a popup warning you about this.
At that time, you should walk through the steps to get the latest update. If you see a “Your version of Windows has reached end of service” message, then it’s time to update right away.
Head to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and click Check for updates to get the latest version. Depending on your version of Windows 10, you might see a separate section for the feature update.
If you can’t download the update using this method, head to the Windows 10 download page and click Update now to use the update assistant instead.
Upgrading Windows 8.1 and Older at End of Service
If you’re not on Windows 10 yet, you should still plan for the end of service date of your OS.
Those running Windows 8.1 don’t have to worry yet but should make a plan to upgrade to Windows 10 before 2023. As of this writing, as long as you have a genuine copy of Windows 8.1, you can upgrade to Windows 10 for free using the same installer mentioned above. This may not be around in 2022, though, so it’s smart to do it sooner.
While many PCs that can run Windows 8.1 will work with Windows 10, you may want to make sure your computer can run Windows 10 anyway. If you can’t, you’ll need to buy a new system or install Linux on your computer when support ends.
Windows 7 is now out of support; see our guide to your Windows 7 upgrade options for more info. And if you’re still using Windows Vista or XP, it’s time to buy a new computer with Windows 10.
Fixing Windows 10 Upgrade Problems
If you have problems installing the latest feature update for Windows 10, try using the Windows 10 download page instead of Windows Update. If that doesn’t work, you can try installing Windows 10 via USB.
Another common issue is not having enough space to run the update. Follow our guide to cleaning up your Windows PC to make some space, then try again.
Finally, make sure your computer meets the requirements for Windows 10, as discussed above. There’s a chance that your computer was compatible with an earlier version of Windows 10 but doesn’t make the cut for the latest offering.
What Happens When Windows 10 Support Ends? Now You Know
Keeping track of Windows lifecycles can be a little frustrating, but Windows 10 makes this a lot easier. Simply check your version every once in a while to make sure updates are installing automatically, and you shouldn’t have to do much else. If you’re on an older version, it’s wise to upgrade as soon as you can.
If you’re new to Windows 10, have a look at essential tasks to complete after installing Windows 10 for best results.
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