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Windows 10 Creators Update fails with some older 32-bit Atom processors

Owners of older Intel Atom 32-bit processors — Z2520/2560/2580 and 2760 circa 2012/2013 — cannot install Windows 10 Creators Update.

Acer provided the following guidance: “Microsoft is working with us to help provide compatible drivers to address this incompatibility. If you install the Windows 10 creators update, icons and text may not appear at all or may show up as solid colour blocks or bars. If you have already installed Creators Update and are experiencing problems, you can use Windows 10 recovery options to restore your system to the previous build.”

The systems in question are all 32-bit, have 2GB of RAM and use the Clover Trail version of the Atom chip that uses a non-Intel graphics processor designed by Imagination. Atoms with Intel‘s GPUs are fine. The chips sold for less than $20 at the time and were used for very low-performance tablets and notebooks.

The issue affects very few users as it appears the default storage memory configuration at that time was 16GB and Windows 10 required all of that to install – it is likely that if these devices are still in use they will be using Windows 7 or 8.x.

But that raises the issue of support timeframes as Windows 10 is now software as a service.

If Windows 10 (not Creators Update) is installed the machines will receive security updates, but no feature updates past early 2018.

This raises the issue of how long Microsoft can support certain legacy hardware as it develops more capabilities for Windows that require more hardware support. In this case, the GPU lacked full compliance with the Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) 1.0 – it is really Intel’s fault, not Microsoft.

Microsoft Windows 10 Creators Update is based on WDDM 2.0 and a brief read of the changes means moving forward it will need for example IoMmu memory management to do advanced graphics. The older WDDM 1.0 GpuMmU model is still supported but for how long and at what cost to video performance?

Similarly, the surge in VR/AR/MR was never anticipated in WDDM 1.0 and it won’t be long before Windows needs to fork versions (not in a physical sense) to provide more support for these.

As a former developer, I know how much of a pain, cost, and often thousands of lines of code are needed to cripple advanced software and new features to run on legacy hardware.

There are huge technical issues with supporting all these old, cheap, legacy CPUs. Those issues will only get worse over time. Again I remember the pain of trying to get older network cards, video cards, printers — peripherals — working with new versions of Windows.

It is time Microsoft stopped trying and published a support schedule based on chip hardware generations rather than trying to do it all. Microsoft simply needs to define what the “lifetime of a device” really is.

Bottom line. Don’t be too quick to shout, "evil Micro$oft wants you to buy a new computer". 

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!