We knew Microsoft was intended to prevent Windows 7 and 8.1 upgrades from being installed on PCs with Intel 7th Generation Core processors (also known as Kaby Lake) and AMD Ryzen processors; we didn’t know when. Now it looks that the answer is “this month.” Updates for new processors running old versions of Windows are being prevented, according to users. The block indicates that security updates are no longer available for these processors.
The new policy was announced in January of last year and somewhat altered a few months later: Kaby Lake and Ryzen processors and any new processors released in the future will be supported solely on Windows 10. Older processors would be kept in Windows 7 and 8.1. However, chip compatibility was frozen.
Intel’s 6th Generation Core processors, often known as Skylake, awkwardly straddle the two policies. Windows 7 and 8.1 will continue to support some Skylake systems. Others, though, will not. Certain Skylake machines sold by 16 different OEMs will continue to be supported with updates. Other Skylake PCs, on the other hand, will need to upgrade to Windows 10 to receive continued upgrades.
I don’t find Microsoft’s policy to be particularly bothersome. In practice, I believe Windows 7 and 8.1 would operate smoothly on Kaby Lake and Ryzen processors. However, Microsoft cannot simply shrug and assume that everything will run well on the outdated CPUs. I understand why the corporation would prefer not to test and validate the old operating systems on the new hardware. The 16 Skylake OEMs have agreed to execute some of this testing themselves for Skylake systems:
However, how the policy change is implemented leaves the sourest taste in my mouth.
Microsoft claims that the new processors come with new features and hardware, making compatibility with earlier operating systems difficult or impossible. There’s some truth; both Ryzen and Skylake introduced some significant new features, like processor power management. I agree that Microsoft may not fully support these capabilities on earlier operating systems. Windows 7 also lacks support for USB 3 and NVMe, making the process of installing it on a modern design a little more difficult.
Dropping support for Windows 7 is also in line with Microsoft’s support strategy, in my opinion. Since January 2015, Windows 7 has been in extended support. Extended-support products will receive security updates, but no new features or upgrades will be available. It does not appear that limiting support for processors introduced after this time is completely unfair.
Windows 8.1, on the other hand, is a different story. Windows 8.1 is still in mainstream support, which means it will continue to receive security updates and functional upgrades. Unlike Windows 7, Windows 8.1 has native support for USB 3 and NVMe, avoiding the previous operating system’s installation issues. It seems nasty to refuse to support the latest processors in an operating system that is still fully supported. It feels like a bait-and-switch—promise Microsoft’s of “mainstream support” appears to be meaningless.
Only roughly a year remains in widespread support for Windows 8.1. It doesn’t appear like the corporation was overburdened by extending new CPU support to Windows 8.1 until the mainstream support period ended. Users of Windows 8.1 had a reasonable expectation that their operating system would be fully supported for the remainder of the mainstream support period, which was five years. Microsoft fails to keep its half of the bargain by making this adjustment.
It won’t be long before Windows 10 is the only version of Windows with widespread support. Microsoft, in my opinion, should have waited until then to implement this new policy.