The release of Windows 10 in 2015 marked the new era of Microsoft's operating system. It introduced a large number of new features from the interface to security. Its inception started Microsoft's efforts in creating one operating system for all of its devices.
Windows 10 also adapted the "universal apps" concept which in the past was on mobile phones. These apps are created to run on any device running Windows 10.
The operating system is currently the second most used in the world. Runner-up to its predecessor Windows 7, almost 27% of computers worldwide are using Windows 10. Its steady rise also signifies Microsoft's strategy to phase out older systems.
Updates are also different in Windows 10. All updates are downloaded and installed automatically regardless of the operating system's version. Users will get to enjoy the latest in both features and security.
As the users of Windows 7 are concerned with the upcoming end of support for the operating system on January 14, 2020, the same issue will eventually affect Windows 10. What exactly happens when support ends for a Windows operating system?
The Lifecycle of Windows OS
Software, in general, goes through different lifecycle stages in the market. Windows 10 is no different. Which means, it also has limited time for updates and eventually supports.
The beta release is the very first time a Windows operating system reaches to the public. Typically, the unstable version is made available to an insufficient number of people. It is made possible through Windows Insider Program.
While using the beta version of Windows OS, data from the users are collected to be analyzed and used for further improvement. It is essential especially in determining the OS compatibility with different hardware. At this point, support is pretty much available to the users as the software can exhibit issues and quirks.
The data collected during beta release are then used to create a stable version which is later public gets officially. Microsoft releases the Windows 10 formally in 2015 which is officially the start of the mainstream support for the operating system.
Microsoft is still collecting data from selected users. It is used to further provide updates and patches throughout the life of the software. This process will continue until the development stops and the software is "decommissioned." At this point, a new version should already be replacing the old one.
Types of Support
Throughout the lifecycle of an operating system, Microsoft provides support to the users through different channels. Some support services are available directly from the Microsoft website. Some are offered through the machine's Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) as they also consider hardware compatibility.
While dealing with support is the last thing that you want to think about, it is important to note the dates and types of supports you can avail.
Microsoft released the date of the of the mainstream support for Windows 10 on October 13, 2020. It is a typical 5-year mainstream support for Windows operating systems. During this period, Windows 10 gets new features and substantial, significant updates. That means the development of the OS is ongoing until mainstream support ends.
Updates and Service Packs
Aside from support, Windows 10 will be automatically updated and receive service packs during the mainstream support duration. But, what exactly are updates and service packs?
There are several forms of updates, but in its primary way, it is a widely released fix for general OS problems. This process may include bug fixes or patches, feature updates, security updates, and other critical updates. As hardware and needs evolve, Microsoft ensures that Windows 10 can catch up and provide seamless service.
Service packs are all updates bundled into one build. It contains tested updates, hotfixes, security and critical updates. It may also include new features and user-requested changes.
Unlike its older versions, Windows 10 will get the updates automatically. The only control the users have is when they install the update, and the system restarts.
After the standard mainstream support window, the operating system enters another 5-year extended support period.
At this point, there will be no new features and fixes to Windows 10. It is now happening with Windows 7 after the mainstream support ended in 2015. The operating system will still receive security updates and patches. But, no features, including applications and under-the-hood programs, will be introduced.
After this, the operating system will be officially unsupported. No new updates, including security, will ever be released. Exceptions are for those unique circumstances such as the WannaCry crisis early this year. You can still purchase the updates, similar to the million dollar contract with the US Navy for Windows XP. But, unless it is significant to your usage, it's cheaper to upgrade to the newer version.
There is a significant difference between the past versions of Windows operating system and Window 10 support. Windows 10 was designed differently compared to the previous versions. As Microsoft notes:
What does this mean for you? It is still unclear whether Microsoft is developing another version which would become Windows 11 (or Windows 12?). They seem to imply that they will keep on improving Windows 10 for the next few years so that updates will be fairly regular.
As of date, Microsoft is still rolling out its major annual updates such as the new Window 10 Fall Creators Update. As mentioned above, this will come to your machine automatically.
For those out of support, such as Windows XP and eventually Windows 7, it is essential to upgrade to the next version. Aside from features, security patches are required to be regularly updated. Viruses and malware are evolving rapidly, and your computer should not only be protected by security applications but by the operating system itself.
Having an updated operating system is one of the essentials in making sure that your machine runs perfectly. Only time will tell if there will be new versions of Windows operating system coming out. As of now, enjoy the latest updates and upgrades offered for Windows 10. Additionally, mark your calendars for the upcoming end of support and extended support and look out for new versions of the operating system.