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Microsoft Updates Consumer Vista and Windows 7 Lifecycle Policies

Microsoft this month clarified its lifecycle support for Windows Vista and Windows 7 consumer products, indicating five-year "extended support" dates.

The date clarifications were first cited by Ed Bott in a blog post. He offered a machine-translated Japanese blog as his source of information. However, not much really changed in terms of policy, except possibly for Microsoft filling in some dates. Here are the dates to keep in mind, per Microsoft's lifecycle fact sheet page:

Desktop operating systems

Latest service pack

End of mainstream support

End of extended support

Windows XP

Service Pack 3

April 14, 2009

April 8, 2014

Windows Vista

Service Pack 2

April 10, 2012

April 11, 2017

Windows 7

Service Pack 1

January 12, 2015

January 14, 2020

Microsoft's lifecycle support policy is described as providing five years of "mainstream support" for consumers products, but business products get another five years of "extended support" beyond that time, according to Microsoft's lifecycle policy FAQ. That definition for consumer and business products makes the policy a bit confusing. Windows can be considered both a consumer and a business product, so it likely comes with a total 10 years of lifecycle support from the very start for purchasers of both the consumer and business Windows editions.

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed by e-mail that there wasn't any change in policy.

"The general support lifecycle for Windows is ten years total, with the first five years customers are eligible to receive Mainstream support and extended support the following five years (so long as the latest service pack is installed)," the spokesperson wrote.

Consequently, the Windows 7 Home Premium consumer version will lose support on Jan. 14, 2020. Vista Home Premium consumer version will lose support on April 11, 2017. And those dates correspond with Microsoft's schedule generally.

Support, in this case, means the automatic delivery of security updates for those who have turned on Windows Update on their computers. Microsoft also offers paid support services through its Microsoft Support unit. Essentially, when extended support ends, those who need specific help can still get it, but only by purchasing "custom support" from Microsoft Support. The automatic security patching, however, comes to an end. When extended support has concluded, Microsoft considers the OS to be "unsupported."

A statement from a Microsoft spokesperson emphasized that the five-year "extension" depends on having the latest service pack installed:

"Microsoft is updating the Support Lifecycle Policy description to clarify that all consumer editions of our desktop operating systems are eligible to receive five years of Mainstream Support and five years of Extended Support," the statement explains. "In the past, commercial customers who updated to the most current supported Security Packs (SPs) could receive security updates, even when Mainstream Support for a product ended. This update formalizes that all editions of our operating systems will receive security updates as long as they are using the most current SP."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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