One of the aspects of buying a specific product online or offline is that product's support lifecycle. The support lifecycle in plain terms refers to the time the developer or manufacturer of the product supports it with updates and staff to help users in support related tasks. It is on the other hand not as if the product will stop working from one day to the other. The core issue here is that updates, and most importantly security updates, will no longer be produced for that product version.
While that's a big issue for Microsoft operating systems, it often does not really affect other Microsoft products such as Office. I know a few people who are still running Microsoft Office 2000 because that's all they need, and support for that product ended in 2009.
With Microsoft, it is more complicated than just looking up your product's lifecycle on the official website. The core reason here is that Microsoft makes distinctions not only depending on the country your purchased your product in but also on the edition of the product that you bought.
A basic example: Windows 7 Enterprise mainstream support ends on 13.1.2015, the operating system's extended support on 14.1.2020. Windows 7 Home Premium support on the other hand ends on 13.1.2015 with no extended support provided. This basically means that Enterprise users can work with the operating system til 2020 while Home users will have to install a different operating system in 2015 if they want to receive security updates for it.
You probably want to know about the differences between mainstream and extended support phases?
Mainstream Support is the first phase of the product support lifecycle.
Mainstream support: Security updates, other non-security updates, complimentary support included with license, paid support
The Extended Support phase follows Mainstream Support for Business and Developer products
Extended Support: Security updates, paid support.
A third phase is often mentioned by Microsoft, the "Self-Help Online Support phase which allows free access to Knowledge Base articles, online product information and online support webcasts.
When it comes to service packs Microsoft usually offers a 24 month support lifecycle. End of general product support will always end support for all the product's service packs.
The product’s support lifecycle supersedes the service pack support policy
Now that you know about the support lifecycles, it is time to show you how to find the information for products that you have already purchased or plan to purchase.
Visit the Microsoft Support Lifecycle Index (warning it is a huge list) and either click on a letter at the top to be taken to that letter, scroll down manually or use the browser's search functionality to find the product you are looking for. Please note that you may need to select your country or region first before you get to the list.
Each product is then listed on individual pages on the support website. Information include the products mainstream and extended support end dates (if applicable) and the latest service pack support end date.
With extended support only available in business and professional products, users have one more argument for purchasing those products instead of home or consumer versions. It should not be a big issue on the other hand for users who switch to the latest operating system whenever a new version comes out. Users who purchase products to keep using them for the longest time possible on the other hand might want to consider selecting the more expensive business and professional products instead.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.