Microsoft Finally Opens Up on Surface Support Lifecycle

Posted on November 14, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 23 Comments

Microsoft this week quietly posted a new site that details the driver and firmware lifecycle for its Surface-branded PCs. It is the first time, to my knowledge, that the software giant has ever publicly discussed this crucial aspect of the Surface support lifecycle.

“In response to requests from customers for more detailed lifecycle information to help plan and manage hardware and software deployments, Surface is offering additional guidance on our driver and firmware updates,” the Microsoft Docs website explains. “This lifecycle policy covers drivers and firmware releases for Windows based Surface devices. The lifecycle begins when a device is first released and concludes when Surface ceases publication of drivers and firmware updates on the End of Servicing date.”

Looking over Microsoft’s Surface support lifecycle list, you can see that many older Surface PCs are already no longer supported, which makes sense. The Surface RT, Surface Pro, Surface 2, and Surface Pro 2 are no longer supported. And while this site says that Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3 are still supported, that’s incorrect. Both are out of support.

As for the supported Surface PCs, the support timetable varies from machine to machine.

Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, Surface Book with Performance Base, Surface Studio, Surface Laptop, and Surface Pro 5 are all supported until November 13, 2021. Surface Book 2 is supported until November 17, 2021. Surface Pro LTE is supported until December 1, 2021. Surface Go is supported until August 2, 2022. Surface Studio 2 is supported until October 2, 2022. Surface Laptop 2 and Surface Pro 6 are supported until October 16, 2022. And Surface Go with LTE Advanced is supported until November 20, 2022.

As for the most recent Surface PCs, Surface Laptop 3 and Surface Pro 7 are supported until October 22, 2023, Surface Pro X is supported until November 5, 2023. Surface Go 2 is supported until May 6, 2024. Surface Book 3 is supported until May 26, 2024. And Surface Pro X SQ2 and Surface Laptop Go are supported until October 13, 2024.

Windows 10 support varies from PC to PC as well, and Microsoft maintains a separate site that explains which Windows 10 versions are supported on each Surface PC. Businesses will also need to check out another site that describes Surface PC compatibility with Windows 10 Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC).

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Comments (23)

23 responses to “Microsoft Finally Opens Up on Surface Support Lifecycle”

  1. RobertJasiek

    There are different lifecycles of products:

    • end of new driver / firmware updates
    • end of download of already published drivers / firmwares
    • end of compatbility with new OS versions
    • end of hardware supply, in particular batteries

    Circa 4 years of the first lifecycle is not impressive but still fair, provided the other lifecycles are significantly longer. Probably the next threat to lifecycle of a product is end of supply with batteries.

    • sevenacids

      In reply to RobertJasiek:

      Regarding batteries, I suppose there is no support lifecycle at all except for the limited warranty of the device. So if the battery fails and you are out of warranty (or its simply worn out), and if you own a Surface device where you cannot change the battery without breaking/destroying it, you're out of luck with perfectly working hardware. Well done, Microsoft (and others).

      Don't get me wrong, I don't mind having hardware with built-in batteries - as long as you can still open it with ease for maintainance/replacement. AFAIK, Surface devices are glued and don't use screws. One big reason not to buy it. IMHO, it's something customers shouldn't accept. Especially for the premium prices they ask for.

      • Consumerjustice

        I just fell into this boat on Monday of this week, May 1, 2022. My battery port is corroded, I'm told, and it's possible the battery is dead too. Can you my shock when the computer repair told me it probably couldn't fix this without destroying the computer? Further, that shop can't get the data out without the laptop powering up. I'm waiting on an assessment from a professional data recovery service at this moment.

        I bought the Surface Laptop Pro 2 in March 2019 from a major non-Microsoft retailer (you know them). No one at the retail store told me the device was out of Microsoft Service. There was no sticker detailing such on the Microsoft box. The box itself stated on the back that after several cycles, the battery would need to be replaced, implying that it could be replaced. There was no warning on the Microsoft box that battery replacement or repairs may be impossible, such that the device would become useless and would have to be thrown away.

        From the link posted in the above article, it looks like service for this device ceased in October 2018, six months before I purchased it. There was no notice from Microsoft when I turned the device on about this issue (they certainly are capable of sending out other notices to you, and have done so, upgrading to MS 11 for example).

        If I can't my data back, I am ready to (a) file an action with the FTC against both the retailer and Microsoft, and (b) institute a class action against MS and the retailer. Too bad about the warranty. This was a material omission of a material fact that would have affected my purchase - I wouldn't have made it. I'm a professional that cannot ethically store confidential info on the cloud. I always expected I'd be able to retrieve my data, as well as make necessary repairs.

        Anyone else in this boat, please don't hesitate to reach out. Thank you.

      • benisaacs

        In reply to sevenacids:

        I think the vast majority of premium devices have gone down this route so Surface is no exception

      • RobertJasiek

        In reply to sevenacids:

        This, glare displays and (esp. Surface Go) short battery life are the reasons why I have not bought a Surface yet.

  2. JH_Radio

    I don't see MS removing the ability to run windows 10 on older devices any time soon. I mean not like you can get a mac from 2011 and run a current version of MacOS on it. But Windows 10 will run on these older Intel CPU's just fine.

    • wright_is

      In reply to JH_Radio:

      It will come down to whether there are features in the drivers or firmware that stop them going forward to newer versions of Windows.

      I upgraded my ThinkPad to 2009 on launch week, it upgraded fine, but gave an error at logon "powermgt.exe not found". The power management driver wasn't compatible, it didn't affect me using the ThinkPad (maybe reduced battery life, but I rarely take it off the mains), just a warning at logon. A week or so later, Lenovo released a patched driver.

      If Microsoft has stopped driver support, that means any such issues going forward will remain, which could range from annoying warnings through certain peripherals not working correctly or reduced battery life through to an inability to boot.

  3. jimchamplin

    Most of the original machines are so close to reference devices that there’s no real need for “support.”

    Unless Microsoft has some intention to remove Windows 10’s ability to run on Intel CPUs older than Skylake or make it so Intel HD Graphics drivers can’t be installed, the original Surface Pro 1 & 2 will still function perfectly.

    Considering that some of those things can be had in the $100 to $125 range now, even for the higher end configs, they’re a pretty decent deal if you don’t need a muscley GPU.

    Just don’t expect anyone to be pleased if you start jumping around and clicking the kickstand in some sort of bizarre choreographed dance number.

    • wright_is

      In reply to jimchamplin:

      The problem is if bugs in the firmware or drivers cause problems with future versions of Windows. Quite often, the installation of a new release of Windows 10 is held up until the new drivers become available. That won't happen going forward.

  4. jwpear

    Four years isn't bad, but it feels like it should be five for such premium devices. I admit that's arbitrary, but five years seems right.

    • wright_is

      In reply to jwpear:

      It depends, my 2007 iMac was still getting Windows 7 updates until last January. The same for my 2003 Acer laptop - although that was retired in 2018.

      There is a big difference between not getting driver or firmware updates and the OS not getting security patches going forward. The latter should be at least the 10 years that we have come to know over the last 3 decades.

  5. digiguy

    My guess is that end of support (also) means that they won't fix it if a Windows updates breaks something. So far hardly any device has been prevented from updating. The only devices are clover trail atom devices, that stopped a couple of years back but will receive security until January 2023, which is their original end of support for Windows 8. It will be interesting to see if more devices on Windows 10 will stop receiving updates, including security ones (I doubt this will happen before 2025, the orginal end of life of Windows 10)

  6. MikeCerm

    Drivers and firmware updates are great and all, but most important is how long you get OS updates. Like, when Microsoft ends support for a particular device, does the next version on Windows 10 refuse to install on that device? I doubt it.

    This is a particular concern that nobody is talking about with regard to the new Apple Silicon Macs. What is the support like? Apple supports phones for 5 years, and Macs for longer than that. When support for your Mac ends, you usually can get by for a few years because app makers don't target just the latest version. You can count on a Mac lasting 8-10 years. If you want to keep using it after that (and have a working web browser), you can install Linux. Most will probably upgrade before then, but still... the rate of hardware/software improvements has slowed to the point where I could totally use a Core 2 Quad from 2008 as a daily driver if I'm just surfing the web and checking email, as long as it's got an SSD. I'm lucky that I don't have to, but I could if that's all that were available to me.

    With AS Macs, what's the EOL going to look like? After 7 years, will you have to trash it because Apple stops supporting it and you literally can't an alternative OS because of the proprietary hardware? Making computers more like phones has some real downsides.

    • nbplopes

      In reply to MikeCerm:

      On comments about the Mac. That is what happens in a successful technical transition. Don’t think this is an issue for customers in general. It’s very difficult to do, because not only you need to show that one is actually transitioning to something much better for customers, but also have their customer invest in the transition for their sake.

      I for one have just bought an iMac 2020 fully fledged to leap over this transition. I expect it to be very effective for 4 years, having its effectiveness degrade up to 9 years until RIP. I believe Apple will back this up very well considering the Mac Pro and the iMac Pro.

      Now the core question is if the benefits that the transition brings for customers are actually relevant considering the drawbacks. If not, its just a self serving transition and will flop apart from the die hard Mac users. I too have that concern, if there is some kind of uncommon PC obsolescence side effect behind that is converted into more Apple $$$.

      We have wait and see.

      PS: But hey, My SP3 in my hands was only very effective for 2 years and that is excusing experience impairing our of band issues that I had to deal with every day. After that, the touch screen decide to work only on half the screen ... a 2K investiment (core i7, dock, ...) I did not bother to fixe it and moved on.

    • waethorn

      In reply to MikeCerm:

      On the ARM chipset ones, which are pretty much a deadweight project for Microsoft, once firmware updates end, expect no new OS updates.

    • longhorn

      In reply to MikeCerm:

      If Apple is a responsible company they will let you trade your MacBook paperweight for a supported MacBook. Apple could themselves assign a $100 value to an unsupported Apple device that is traded for a newer device.

      Overall, I think tech companies need to recycle their products. Now that everything is soldered and glued, the recycling can't be done by local repair shops.

      There could be a $25 fee attached to a smartphone, a $50 fee attached to a laptop. You pay this when you buy a device and get it back when you return it. E-waste would stop and manufacturers would be responsible for recycling (not allowed to ship to Africa).

      It's pretty weird you can buy electronics and batteries, but then there isn't really an incentive to recycle. Already at the design stage products should be designed in a way that they can easily be recycled and the material used in new products.

      Right now we live in a bizarre world.

      Climate alarmists: We must shut down all production based on non-renewable resources.

      Tech sector: OK, just buy our latest and greatest version first.

      I think Apple due to volume is in a perfect position to set up recycling.

      I remember HP had a recycle program for ink cartridges.

      • MikeCerm

        In reply to longhorn:

        Apple already accepts old devices for recycling, but that's not what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is having no pathway forward for (let's just assume) 7 year old devices that are still totally usable, except you won't be able to safely surf the web on them because Apple has discontinued support and (let's assume) all 3rd-party browser makes have also discontinued supporting whatever version of MacOS you're stuck on. Chomebooks have an "expiration date" too, but you can "unlock" Chromebooks and install Linux, so you don't have to throw out a 5-year old Chromebook if you don't want to. Linux will run on virtually any computer that will POST. Windows 10 will install on virtually any PC made in the last 15 years. If Apple's firmware is totally locked down, how long before you MUST stop using it? Apple hasn't said, but it's important to have that answered.

        • waethorn

          In reply to MikeCerm:

          Clover Trail systems didn't last 3 years. They came out for Windows 8, and Windows 10 wasn't supported on them.

          Also, ARM Chromebooks are just like ARM Windows and Mac computers - they are locked down with no driver support for any other operating system because the chips are usually heavily controlled by the OEM to only work with the OS that comes with it.

          • MikeCerm

            In reply to Waethorn:

            ARM Chromebooks have unlockable bootloaders, just the Windows ones do. It's not as easy to find distros that run on the ARM Chromebooks, but popular ones like Asus Flip C100P there are distros that will work. Because Chromebooks use many of the same chipsets you find in single-board computers, and because all Chromebooks run Linux by default, drivers aren't really a problem.

    • christophercollins

      In reply to MikeCerm:

      I would expect AS Mac's to get the same OS support the Intel machines have gotten. I'd imagine a minimum of 5 years, though.

      iOS 14 runs all the way back to the iPhone 6S, which came out in 2015, so if they do that with iOS, I expect at least that or more with Macs.

  7. michael_babiuk

    Surface Pro 3 was introduced in June of 2014. Surface Pro 6 was introduced in October of 2018.

    Doing the math, Microsoft will offer support for the Surface Pro 3 for a little over 6 yrs - a very good run, IMO. However, support for the Surface Pro 6 will only be about 4 years! - not so impressive, IMO,

    Contrast that with Apple's support for their macs. Essentially, every mac since 2013 (for example, the 2013 MacBook Air) will be supported by the latest macOS - Big Sur.

    IMO, Apple provides greater support for their Mac lineup of computers than Microsoft has traditionally provided for their Surface products.

  8. Belralph

    When Surface devices first came out didn't Microsoft make some kind of promise to support them and not change the form factor etc for something like five years? Trying to reassure the enterprise customers it was going to be around. I thought this might of had something to do with it taking so long for USB C to show up.

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