If you’re still running the original version of Windows 8—that is, Windows 8.0, not 8.1—it’s time to upgrade to at least Windows 8.1: Support for this version of the OS is expiring on Tuesday.
Note: As you may recall, Microsoft is ending support for Internet Explorer 8 and 9, and 10 next Tuesday as well.
“Windows 8.1 falls under the same lifecycle policy as Windows 8, and will reach end of Mainstream Support on January 9, 2018, and end of Extended Support on January 10, 2023,” a Microsoft support noteexplains. “With the General Availability of Windows 8.1, customers on Windows 8 have 2 years, until January 12, 2016, to move to Windows 8.1 in order to remain supported.”
It’s unlikely this change will impact readers of this site, yes. Indeed, I have a hard time imagining anyone still using Windows 8.0, given the many necessary improvements Microsoft added to the OS over the intervening years, especially with Windows 8.1 and 8.1.1. But … it bears a heads-up.
And to fair, there are in fact still over 41 million people still using Windows 8.0 for some reason, as its installed on about 2.75 percent of all PCs currently in use. (Source: [NetMarketShare](https://netmarketshare.com/)) That’s a bigger audience than Mac OS X 10.10 and about the same as Mac OS X 10.11.
For the historically minded, it’s worth nothing too that Windows 8 was in many ways a trial run for what Microsoft is now doing with Windows 10. More specifically, with Windows 10, Microsoft is requiring users to update the OS regularly, and the most recent supported version will never be more than half a year old. With Windows 8, Microsoft did the same thing, just not as often. And the most recent supported version is Windows 8.1, not 8.0.
Here’s how Microsoft explains it.
Historically, we’ve had a similar support approach related to Windows service packs; when a Windows service pack is released, Microsoft provides customers 24 months of support for the prior service pack or original RTM version. [But] unlike service packs that are typically just a collection of fixes, Windows 8.1 has new features and enhancements. We designed Windows 8.1 to give customers an ability to deploy this update in a manner that is similar to how customers deploy service packs, therefore we are applying the existing service pack support policy to Windows 8.1.
Windows 8.1 does not change any hardware requirements compared with Windows 8 or Windows 7 and existing Windows Store apps will work with Windows 8.1. The update has little to no impact on existing desktop apps and there is no direct software cost because enterprise customers with Software Assurance licensing will receive Windows 8.1 as a free update. For organizations running legacy applications that need to be upgraded, there are tools to manage deployment in order to help mitigate cost and impact.
Microsoft may have a “similar support approach” for Windows 8.1 in that it treats it like a service pack. But Windows 8.1 comes with a silly added wrinkle: It alone of all Windows updates is for some reason still deployed through Windows Store, not through Windows Update. So it’s not deployed like a service pack at all. And the Windows Store-based update routine in notoriously buggy, still.
The good news? As noted, once you do get to Windows 8.1, future updates are delivered more normally, and much more reliably, through Windows Update. So Microsoft also addresses Windows 8.1.1, which it (stupidly) calls the Windows 8.1 Update, a fairly major update despite its version number.
Windows 8.1 Update is a cumulative update for Windows 8.1. In addition to previous Windows 8.1 updates, it includes enhancements such as improved IE 11 compatibility for enterprise applications, usability improvements, extended mobile device management and improved hardware support.
In other words, Windows 8.1.1, unlike Windows 8.1, does not impact the Windows 8 support life cycle. And it is delivered through Windows Update, not Windows Store.
As with the expiring versions of Internet Explorer—IE 8, 9, and 10—I would expect Microsoft is issue a ton of “final” updates to Windows 8.0 on Tuesday, which is of course Patch Tuesday.
And as for those on Windows 8.1, you’re welcome to stick with that OS version for years to come. As Microsoft notes, mainstream support (a time during which new features could conceivably be introduced, but won’t be) for that OS does not expire until January 9, 2018, and extended support (during which only bug and security fixes are issues) ends January 10, 2023. That’s 7 long years from now.