Death is a fact of life. This is not only true for flora and fauna but also for software and operating systems. Even the almighty Windows is not immune to this immutable end. Over the decades we have seen many variants of Windows come and go. From the humble beginnings of Windows 1.0 to the 40+ million lines of code that make up the current Windows 10. Microsoft says Windows 10 is the last version we will see. Only feature updates will change its build numbers ad infinitum.
Here is a list of recent version changes and their respective life spans:
|Windows 10 version history||Date of availability||End of service for Home, Pro, Pro Education, and Pro for Workstations editions||End of service for Enterprise and Education editions|
|Windows 10, version 2004||May 27, 2020||December 14, 2021||December 14, 2021|
|Windows 10, version 1909||November 12, 2019||May 11, 2021||May 10, 2022**|
|Windows 10, version 1903||May 21, 2019||December 8, 2020||December 8, 2020|
|Windows 10, version 1809||November 13, 2018||November 10, 2020***||May 11, 2021**|
|Windows 10, version 1803||April 30, 2018||November 12, 2019||May 11, 2021***|
|Windows 10, version 1709||October 17, 2017||April 9, 2019||October 13, 2020***|
|Windows 10, version 1703||April 5, 2017*||October 9, 2018||October 8, 2019|
|Windows 10, version 1607||August 2, 2016||April 10, 2018||April 9, 2019|
|Windows 10, version 1511||November 10, 2015||October 10, 2017||October 10, 2017|
|Windows 10, released July 2015 (version 1507)||July 29, 2015||May 9, 2017||May 9, 2017|
* Windows 10, version 1703 for Enterprise, Education, and IOT Enterprise editions were released on April 11, 2017.
** Serviced for 30 months from release date per policy updated on September 6, 2018.
*** Delay to the scheduled end of support and servicing dates due to a public health situation. For more details visit here.
This list and others are available in full on the Windows Lifecycle Fact Sheet page.
Old Age And Afterlife
Once a Windows version has reached the end of its lifecycle from Microsoft, they offer Extended Support. (This is something I wish Mother Nature would offer me.) Windows 7 is a good example of this. For a hefty fee, Microsoft will continue to support your installed Windows 7 system by continuing to offer you security updates. Don’t quote me on this but I think the price is $100 (US) for the first year. The second year will cost you double that, and so on.
An aside: Ed Bott (ZDNet) ran a poll to find out why some people are sticking with this outdated operating system. To see the results, check out his Poll Results page.
Once a Windows version reaches the end of its support cycle, Microsoft no longer supports it with updates– not even security updates. This leads to huge problems if people continue to use outdated systems.
For one thing, newer software might refuse to work on older systems. And your favorite old-timey program might stop working and a newer operating system might refuse to run it. You will probably have to bite the bullet and learn how to use a new program that does the same thing. Sorry…
Then, there are the ever-present security issues. The bad guys are always looking for ways to sneak into your computer and do nasty things. If a new exploit rears its head, it might still be used in older systems that haven’t been updated. This is not only a problem for the people who are still using their old computer but makes it much easier to spread to thousands of other computer systems around the world.
Before Windows 10 existed, users would be cycled through several iterations of Service Packs. When those expired, you were required to purchase a new version of Windows. Windows 10 is an entirely different beast (which some might say is an appropriate term). As most of you know, Windows 10 rolls out Feature Updates instead. These updates also have a lifecycle which is typically 18 months or so from the time of release. You can delay these updates using various means and I strongly suggest that you do so. Don’t be one of the free beta-testers that Microsoft now uses in place of a bona fide de-bug team (they fired those people long ago). But that’s another story.
What Version Am I running?
It’s easy to find out which version and build of Windows 10 you are running:
Hit the Start button (or Windows key), type winver, and click the first option that shows up at the top of the list (or just hit ENTER). That should bring you here:
The “20H2” part means the year 2020, and H2 is the second half of the year. 21H1 would be the first half of 2021. This is the current naming convention Microsoft has chosen after a long list of other typically silly, convoluted names. Creators Update, anyone?
The build number simply tells you which compilation this is. Read about programming and compiling builds if you’re not sure what this means. It is beyond the scope of this article to delve into the mind-numbing compilation process.
I think it is important to stay on top of these Windows updates. At the same time, due to the buggy updates that Microsoft has been prone to publishing, it is also a good idea to wait a few weeks (at least) before jumping on the bandwagon. As you can see in the above image, I did not follow my own advice and now regret that impulsive decision. It’s like a guy I met once who flew in a helicopter into Las Vegas and was hitchhiking out. And Microsoft isn’t going to buy me a sandwich.
The bottom line here is to stay informed about the reported bugs in a given update before becoming one of Microsoft’s cannon fodder.
As always, if you have any helpful suggestions, comments or questions, please share them with us,