Mainstream support for Windows 8.1 ended on January 9, 2018. Yesterday's Patch Day marked the end of mainstream support for the two operating systems and the beginning of extended support.
Microsoft distinguishes between two support phases for its Windows operating system: mainstream support and extended support.
Mainstream support is the first support phase. It includes security updates for supported products but also fixes and other improvements. It is not necessarily the case that Microsoft will release new features for operating systems that are in mainstream support, but the possibility is there.
The release of Windows 10 shifted Microsoft's attention solely on the operating system, and that meant that Windows 8.1 did not get some of the feature updates that Microsoft released for Windows 10. A prime example is support for next-generation silicon which Microsoft made Windows 10 exclusive.
Extended support is the second support phase and the last, of Windows operating systems. Microsoft will release security updates for operating systems that are in the phase but won't release feature updates or other improvements anymore, usually.
The end of extended support marks the end of support for the operating system. Organizations may pay Microsoft for prolonged support but home users don't have that option. Microsoft released security updates for unsupported versions of Windows in the past though, but those were exceptions to the rule.
The Windows Lifecycle fact sheet on Microsoft's websites confirms that Windows 8.1 entered extended support on January 9, 2017.
Extended support for Windows 8.1 is guaranteed for the coming five years. Support for the operating system ends on January 10, 2023.
Mainstream support for Windows 7 ended on January 13, 2015 already. The operating system will be supported with security updates until January 14, 2020.
Windows 8.1 users can still upgrade for free to Windows 10. There are plenty of reasons for not upgrading and for upgrading. Windows 8.1 users I talked to mentioned privacy as a motivator for not upgrading and also better tablet support.
Users and admins who run PCs with Windows 8.1 won't notice much of a difference. Yes, mainstream support ended and that means no feature updates or major improvements anymore but Windows 8.1 was not really blessed with many of those while the operating system was still in mainstream support anyway.
Now You: Which version of Windows do you run right now, and what are your plans when it is no longer supported? (via Born)
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