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FAQ: Microsoft mandates new Windows support rules

Gregg Keizer | Jan. 21, 2016
New PCs must run -- with some exemptions -- Windows 10, company insists.

That won't be as easy under the new rules.

While older technology that allows for Windows 7 support until January 2020 will certainly be available in new PCs -- OEMs aren't stupid, they'll have systems to sell -- a latest-gen machine, the preferred purchase, may not be in support long enough for a firm to migrate to Windows 10.

That's the purpose of Microsoft's exempt list -- to act as a bridge -- but those PCs may not be the ones all enterprises want to purchase.

Companies will have to adapt to the new support rules, probably move faster to Windows 10 than they estimated earlier, and carefully choose which systems they buy.

It's another complication Microsoft's mandated, but in the face of no alternatives -- OS X and Linux are not going to suddenly replace Windows in the workplace -- enterprises will grumble and gripe, but eventually toe the Redmond line.

Has Microsoft done something like this before? Yes and no.

The company has extended support in the past -- in 2008, Microsoft announced an exception for Windows XP that let OEMs pre-load it on netbooks even though the successor, Vista, was already out -- but more recently it's trimmed the support lifecycle, previously set as 10 years, for several editions of Internet Explorer (IE), including the still-popular IE8.

(And to be clear, Microsoft is cutting Windows 7 support short by two and a half years on Skylake-and-later systems.)

But this is the first time Microsoft has demanded that newer PCs run a specific edition of Windows. Previously, Microsoft has commanded customers get new hardware, or perhaps components, in the system requirements for an edition, or added support for, say, a processor family in a recent version. For quite some time, though, Windows' system requirements have not changed, allowing newer OSes, including Windows 7, 8 and even 10, to run on aged hardware.

This reverses that trend.


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