Microsoft releases new versions of Windows every few years. Microsoft also releases service packs and platform updates periodically. Following many questions Microsoft has now released a support matrix. This provides the exact dates for general availability and the last day of support (Windows updates).
Each version of Windows will have 5 years of mainstream support. This may include feature changes such when Vista was upgraded to DirectX 11 with a platform update to be on par with Windows 7 and Windows 8. We strongly recommend installing all updates and service packs. Extended support provides security updates for an additional 5 years. No additional feature changes are provided.
Previously Microsoft only provided 5 years of support and an additional 5 years for corporate uses who paid for the support. This changes mean everyone can now expect to see product updates for 10 years. Following that Windows will still run, but no further updates will be released.
We use Hyper-V and we have all consumer versions of desktop Windows installed. SSD prices have fallen rapidly and we are considering using a couple of them on the gaming rig and then using the BIOS to select the boot drive so that old games can be played. Adapters to put a pair of SSDs in a drive bay make them attractive for this use.
We also use Azure which simplifies team web development. Azure includes Active Directory is the cloud making field work safe and secure.
|WINDOWS VERSION||SERVICE PACK||GENERALLY AVAILABLE||END MAINSTREAM SUPPORT||END EXTENDED SUPPORT|
|Windows 95||August 24, 1995||December 31, 2000||December 31, 2001|
|Windows 98||June 25, 1998||June 30, 2002||July 11, 2006|
|Windows 98 SE||April 23, 1999||June 30, 2002||July 11, 2006|
|Windows 2000||SP4||February 17, 2000||June 30, 2005||July 13, 2010|
|Windows ME||September 14, 2000||December 31, 2003||July 11, 2006|
|Windows XP||SP3||October 25, 2001||April 14, 2009||April 8, 2014|
|Windows Vista||SP2||January 30, 2007||April 10, 2012||April 10, 2017|
|Windows 7||SP1||October 22, 2009||January 13, 2015||January 14, 2020|
|Windows 8||Windows 8.1||October 26, 2012||January 9, 2018||January 10, 2023|
|Windows 10||July 29, 2015||October 13, 2020||October 14, 2025|
Microsoft is updating the Support Lifecycle policy for Windows desktop operating systems, including Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.
The update will provide a more consistent and predictable experience for customers using Microsoft Windows operating systems across OEM, consumer and business editions.
Microsoft still requires that customers have the most current Service Pack installed in order to continue to receive updates.
Through this update, customers who remain on the most current supported service pack will be eligible to receive both Mainstream and Extended Support, for a total of 10 years.
Chipset and network drivers are usually on the Windows disk it can get online and grab what it needs. The 32-bit version will generally work with older machines with 1024MB or more main memory. The old socket 939 Athlon CPU with 4096MB of memory can easily run Windows 10 x64. The old Pentium IV with 1536MB of memory can run Windows 10 x86 fine. Machines with a PCI Express slot can upgrade graphics easily. Laptops are not able to generally change their graphics.
Installing Windows 8.1 on the newer Asus M5A99FX PRO R2.0 had drivers for all of the devices ready to go. Updates for some components were on windows update but the critical network and USB 3.0 drivers were present.
All video cards have to support a generic 2D video standard so Microsoft uses that to be able to draw a desktop. 3D capable drivers are on Windows update. Generally of PCI Express based machines are favored for Windows Vista and higher. Using 4 GB or more RAM improves Windows performance considerably especially with the 64-bit version.
The NVIDIA driver on Windows update includes their automatic update software which then downloads the latest WHQL driver for the machine.
AMD has basic drivers on the Windows DVD. The larger package from AMD provides their automatic updates along with other components.
Unless you buy games on release day its better to use WHQL drivers which tend to be more stable. We prefer to wait until problems are corrected.