Microsoft Windows support life chart

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OS EvolutionMany people want to get a computer and hope it will last forever.  The truth is the maximum support life you can get out of any computer, assuming you purchased it from the initial release date, is 10 years.  That’s 5 years mainstream support plus an additional 5 years extended support.  After that, your computer becomes a security risk for all your data stored not only on your computer but your entire network.  Don’t be confused with 10 years from when you purchase the computer.  Many refurbished computers are sold as well as new custom built computers with Windows 7 still, simply because Windows 8 is unacceptable and the next Windows isn’t estimated to be out until this fall.

Below is a list of the currently supported and most recently expired operating systems.

Operating System Latest Update / Service Pack End of Mainstream Support End of Extended Support
 Windows XP  Service Pack 3  April 14, 2009  April 8, 2014
Windows Vista Service Pack 2 April 10, 2012 April 11, 2017
Windows 7 Service Pack 1 Jan 1, 2015 Jan 14, 2020
Windows 8 8.1 Jan 9, 2018 Jan 10, 2023
Windows 10 N A Oct 13, 2020 Oct 14, 2025
Windows Server 2003 Standard *See various OS* July 13, 2010 July 14, 2015
Windows Server 2008 Standard  *See various OS* Jan 13, 2015 Jan 14, 2020
Windows Server 2011 Standard  *See various OS* July 12, 2016? July 13, 2021?
Windows Server 2012 Standard *See various OS* Jan 9, 2018 Jan 10, 2023

As you can tell, you need to plan to replace all your computers every ten years.  Including Servers.  So to make things a little easier to understand, you must plan for upgrades/replacements based on the number of computers you have in your home/office.  This way it’s better on your cash flow and you are guaranteed to keep everything up to date with no surprise over hauls on your entire network all at once.

For example, if you have 10 computers, you would need to replace at least one per year, assuming you start with the oldest computer which assuming was purchased on the initial release date, and each computer thereafter was purchased with the latest operating system.  Using this method after 10 years all computers are replaced but they may not all be replaced in time before support ends.  So this method is still pushing it and not very realistic.

So you would need to ideally look at every 5 years since the typical life expectancy of any computer is 3-5 years with how hardware charges as well as operating systems, wear and tear, and maximum warranties.  So with the same example you would replace 2 computers per year, or 1 every 6 months.  This way you are guaranteed to always have your computers supported.

As of today (March 29, 2015), you should not have any Windows XP computers.  They should all be replaced immediately.  If you have Windows Vista, you have until April 11, 2017 to replace them.  Windows 7 you have until Jan 14, 2020 to replace.  So if you are still purchasing Windows 7 computers, you will barely get 5 years out of them and you’ll be in the same boat as Windows XP is now. If you purchase Windows 8 you will have until January 10, 2023 which gives you an extra 3 years which is nice, but I don’t know anyone who likes Windows 8 and the new Windows 10 (There is no 9) is not planned to be out until fall of 2015.

References below

Desktop operating systems: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/lifecycle

Server operating systems: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/lifecycle/search?