Saturday, 16 January 2016 14:05

New hardware must have the latest Windows Featured

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Simply put, older versions of Windows on new computers will soon not be supported by patches and updates.

Microsoft says the latest computer processors – like Intel’s Skylake and beyond - will require the latest iterations of its Windows operating system (OS) because of the tight integration required between hardware and the OS.

Legacy support for Windows 7 running on older hardware (Broadwell or earlier) will end 14 January, 2020. Legacy support for Windows 7 or 8.1 on new hardware (Skylake) will continue until 17 July, 2017.

While some – particularly enterprise users - may protest at being forced to upgrade their OS prematurely I simply say that we have all been blessed that Windows 10 runs practically on any old x86 iron – I have it on notebooks and desktops going back to the early 2000s. But that creates an incredible burden for hardware manufacturers having to provide legacy drivers and Microsoft having to write code to work on the lowest common denominator hardware – Windows is capable of so much more but its dumbed down to work on a huge array of OEM machines.

Microsoft cites an example of the difference between running Windows 7 and Windows 10 on a Skylake processor. ‘Compared to Windows 7, Windows 10 and Skylake enables up to 30x better graphics and 3x the battery life – with the unmatched security of Credential Guard utilizing silicon supported virtualization.’

This is about moving forward and the OEM hardware industry and Microsoft have rightfully drawn a line in the sand. Using the latest generation processors (SOC) will always require the latest generation OS – no more Windows fragmentation issues.

And there are other good reasons for this move – it is not just to get everyone on the same version of Windows.

To quote Microsoft’s Terry Myerson in his blog ‘Windows 7 was designed nearly 10 years ago before any x86/x64 SOCs existed. For it to run on any modern silicon, device drivers, and firmware need to emulate Windows 7’s expectations for interrupt processing, bus support, and power states - which is challenging for Wi-Fi, graphics, security, and more.’

Windows is an ongoing, constantly evolving product. It can, and will leverage a massive number of new hardware features in Intel’s 6th generation Skylake and then fully support upcoming SOCs including Intel’s Kaby Lake’, Qualcomm’s 8996, and AMD’s “Bristol Ridge”.

I am sure at some stage it will need to draw other lines in the sand and may have to stop supporting OS updates for Skylake and later – but in a practical sense that support will be linked to realistic hardware life.

Again to quote the blog. ‘Microsoft has been working closely with its silicon partners, including Intel, AMD, NVidia, and Qualcomm, on collaborative engineering to ensure Windows 10 takes full advantage of new silicon features. We continue to partner with these companies on their roadmaps, to achieve breakthroughs in performance, imaging, connectivity, power, graphics, and more as the Windows platform evolves with them. The modern computing world is being defined by this deep integration between silicon, platform, and hardware and we are excited by the joint innovations ahead with these partners. Always, we want Windows to lead in both adoption of new silicon innovation and also product quality. This is the dual goal that drives our investments and focus.’

Hardware OEMs are happy to – no more having to rewrite and maintain extensive libraries of drivers for operating systems sometimes dating back fifteen years or more! As Windows moves forward drivers will become more a part of Windows update as each device is registered with Microsoft.

Once hardware reaches its practical ‘use-by’ date Microsoft will be able to scale back Windows update as it will know what hardware will support what future versions of its operating system.

Conclusion

If you use Windows 7 on Intel’s 5th Intel generation or earlier (Broadwell or similar AMD) x86 processors then operating system support – patches and updates – will stop by 13 January, 2020. Windows 8.x will end 10 January 2023.

If you use Windows 7 or 8.1 on Intel’s 6th generation Skylake (or later) support will stop on 17 July 2017. In other words, ‘downgrade rights’ cease to exist at that time.

If you buy new hardware it will only run the latest Windows iteration – forget about legacy drivers.

In the future when your hardware no longer supports key operating system features it will cease to receive major OS updates. You will still be able to use it.

Microsoft’s message is clear Windows 10 can work on older, newer, and still-to-come PCs. Windows 7 or 8.x is not guaranteed to do so.


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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!

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