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Microsoft locks out Skylake from Windows 7 & 8.1 support

Seth Barton
25 Jan 2016
Intel Skylake processor die diagram
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We explain what that means for Windows 7 and 8.1 users, how to check if you have a Skylake chip, and why Microsoft is doing this

Microsoft recently put out a statement concerning Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 support. It’s not easy to digest but the long-and-short of it is that new generations of processors, starting with Intel’s latest Skylake processors aren’t going to be fully supported on the old operating systems. Microsoft is urging the owners of such chips to instead upgrade to Windows 10 to ensure full support.

The issue doesn’t just affect Skylake chips, all future processors from Intel and AMD will have the same support ruling, so if you want to use the latest hardware you’ll have to move over to Windows 10 sooner rather than later.

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Now don’t panic, support isn’t ending anytime soon for pre-Skylake systems (which is anything bought before late last year). For those Windows 7 has extended support (patching critical problems and security issues) until 2020, while Windows 8.1 has support until 2023 - see the Windows lifecycle fact sheet for more details. 

Why is Microsoft doing this?

Microsoft claims that it cannot make the most of the latest hardware while still providing the best possible compatibility and stability for older systems. This means it won’t be rolling out updates to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 for PCs and laptops built around the newest tech. This is because such updates could produce compatibility issues with older hardware that simply aren’t worth the trouble. Or as Microsoft puts it:

‘... we are focused on our commitment to deliver security, reliability, and compatibility to our installed base on their current systems. Redesigning Windows 7 subsystems to embrace new generations of silicon would introduce churn into the Windows 7 code base, and would break this commitment.’

Who is going to be affected?

If you’ve bought a new Intel Skylake processor for your PC then you will be affected if you continue to use an older version of Windows. You may also be affected if you bought a laptop or desktop PC using a Skylake processor, that came with Windows 7 or 8.1 and which you didn’t upgrade to Windows 10.

Now some laptops and desktops from some major manufacturers have been tested and will be compliant with updates until July 2017, giving you a fairly large windows to get round to upgrading to Windows 10. However this is far from exhaustive with only Dell, HP, Lenovo (and NEC) listed at present. Here’s the full list of supported systems

Either way, you are looking at upgrading to Windows 10 at some point in the not too distant future. Presumably, you have a reason not to upgrade yet, such as software compatibility issues and you should look to getting these sorted by moving to new software. If you’re just resistant to change then best get over it before it becomes a serious annoyance or even a security problem - Windows 10 is great anyway, so you’ve little to worry about.

How do I know if my new PC has an Intel Skylake chip?

If you bought your new PC, laptop or processor late last year or early this year then it’s worth checking. In Windows 7 click on the Start Button, select Control Panel and then choose System, or simply hit the Start button on your keyboard and type ‘System’ and select the option that appears.

The window that appears will list your processor. If it’s Intel then find the name of the processor, which will be something like i5-4430 or i7-6700K. Take the name and enter it into the product search box at the top of the Intel Ark page. If your processor is described as being ‘6th Generation’ then it’s a Skylake chip and subject to the new support rules.

What kind of updates will I miss out on?

We’re still waiting for Microsoft to answer our queries about exactly how this withholding of updates and support will work and will update this article as soon as we know more. It looks as though you’ll stop receiving updates for your operating system, effective immediately. Some updates for critical security problems will be released past this date, but only for the limited number of systems tested and listed above.

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