Why Microsoft Is Dumping Support For Windows 8.1

Why Microsoft Is Dumping Support For Windows 8.1

In a move certain to raise the ire of users of Microsoft’s Windows operating system the software giant has announced that next month it will cease support for Windows 8.1. But that operating system is barely eight months old and already an upgraded version of the Windows 8 system that failed to impress many users since its release in 2012. Microsoft has this month already killed off support for the long-lasting Windows XP system, so why is it ending support for Windows 8.1?

Picture: Jake Rains

The aim is to force users to install Windows 8.1 Update, thus establishing it as the new service and support baseline for users. The Update is actually a cumulative collection of all that has already been released for the Windows 8 operating system plus some new improvements for desktop users.

Microsoft traditionally releases any security patches to its operating system and software on the first Tuesday of the month — known as Patch Tuesday.

The software giant is urging all Windows 8 and 8.1 users to upgrade now as any patches released in next month’s Patch Tuesday on May 13 “will be dependent on Windows 8.1 Update“. No Update means no further security patches will be installed.

That means people who stay with standard Windows 8.1 will find themselves in the same position as Windows XP users after Microsoft ceased support earlier this month after 13 years.

Why not just upgrade?

Getting users to upgrade to newer, more secure versions of Windows has always been a problem for Microsoft. Today, more people are still using the older Windows 8 than 8.1, even though the later version is free and is an improvement on the old.

Why are people slow to install upgrades? Probably because they are busy and the update process is a disruption to their work-flow, taking time and enforcing a re-boot. The user then has to re-open their applications and re-load their work-in-progress. People probably think, “I’ll do that later” but they seldom do.

But for 8.1 users, the longer they leave it to upgrade, the more they risk being hacked.

Windows 8.1 Update is an improvement

The irony is that regardless of how authoritarian Microsoft’s efforts have been to get people to upgrade, this new release is an improvement worth having.

It is one that most users are likely to appreciate once they have installed and got used to the changed setup.

New features of Update include the default booting of users without touchscreens to the desktop and the default use of desktop applications.

The sensitivity of those pop-up “hot corners” has been reduced, recently installed apps are highlighted and generally a much improved user interface for keyboard and mouse users.

On the technical side, the size of the installation package has been halved from 32GB to 16GB. Being leaner, Update also performs faster on older hardware while reducing the minimum RAM from 2GB to 1GB.

Windows 8.1 Update is probably the version that Microsoft should have released from the beginning. If it had, then Windows 8 may not have received so much harsh criticism and disappointing user uptake, being variously described as an unfinished touchscreen operating system aimed at tablet users.

What’s that!? Windows 8.0 supported until January 2016?

One of the most baffling aspects of the Windows 8.1 Update story is that users of the original, much-maligned Windows 8 will continue to be supported by Microsoft until January 2016.

If Microsoft’s intention is to establish 8.1 Update as the “service and support baseline” why would they not insist that Windows 8 users also upgrade. Why take a hard line with 8.1 and not 8.0? It doesn’t make sense.

Unforeseen complications

Compounding the difficulties for users wanting to upgrade, it was announced earlier this month that the Windows 8.1 Update was having SSL problems that held up deployment of the upgrade for a few days.

This issue has since been resolved, but it could not have come at a worse time with the Heartbleed security bug creating alarm around the world with its exploitation of an OpenSSL library vulnerability.

The best advice is for all users to do a manual check to make sure they have access to the latest software upgrade and get it installed as soon as possible, ahead of the deadline. Simply relying on automatic updates is not enough.

A race against time

So the clock is ticking. With support for Windows 8.1 ending on May 13, and various problems rendering their 8.1 Update package problematic, time is running out fast for both Microsoft and those people who are trying to comply with the strong-arm directive to upgrade there computers before support ends.

But Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella has only been on the job since February 2014 and already we are seeing much activity at the US headquarters these days;

There will be plenty more too in the run-up to the release of Windows 9 sometime in 2015.

With Microsoft’s market share still under threat from Apple, the Windows 8.1 Update mandate is a high-stakes gamble that may yet pay off for the company — as the old saying goes “you have to risk going too far to discover just how far you can really go.”The ConversationDavid Tuffley is Lecturer in Applied Ethics and Socio-Technical Studies at Griffith University. He does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


  • The two most baffling points for me are:
    1. Calling an update “8.1 Update? rather than 8.1.x, 8.2, or 8.1 SPx
    2. “What’s that!? Windows 8.0 supported until January 2016?”

    Talk about inconstant.

    • If I had to guess, I’d say they’ve already signed contracts in places and are obliged to support 8.0 for at least that long, but didn’t sign those same contracts for 8.1.

  • Well, I’ve tried multiple times to update and it keeps failing, even though everything is up to date and I don’t have any other issues, only the 8.1 update fails. Go figure. 🙁

  • When it comes to updating from 8 to 8.1, a lot of people including myself are having to rearm the store just to get it to show up… So those people who haven’t updated to 8.1 from 8 are probably just having problems with that. Now that they want to force us to update to the 8.1 update (ridiculous name for an OS update) I can tell you now this is a problem for some PC builds, as I had trouble getting my wife’s PC updated. It simply would not find the new update no matter what I tried, so I called MS support, and they kept asking me why I wanted to update to 8.1 when the computer was obviously already running 8.1…? I seriously asked if I was being helped by a bot, the answer being a succinct no..! I finally gave up and found the updates on the net and installed manually. So if they are seriously wondering why people have not updated yet….!

  • Don’t forget Windows 8.1 isn’t a Windows Update. It’s a store download. People have to physically go to the store and download it. That’s why most people I talk to haven’t downloaded it, they didn’t know it existed, and wouldn’t know where to find it.

  • So this is quite simple really.

    1. Think of Windows 8.1 Update as Windows 7 Service Pack 1. Microsoft isn’t dumping support for Windows 8.1, that’s a misleading headline. They’re dumping support for ‘Windows 8.1 without the April Update’. Microsoft did the same for Windows 7. If you want all the latest patches for Windows 7 today, you MUST install Windows 7 Service Pack 1. There was never headlines screaming ‘Microsoft Dumps Support for Windows 7″, this is the same thing. The gap between Microsoft releasing Service Pack 1 and Microsoft requiring Service Pack 1 for future updates was 18 months I believe. The gap is much shorter this time because Microsoft is on a much faster release cycle, so they’re adjusting that gap accordingly.

    2. Microsoft is keeping support for Windows 8.0 until 2016, because it is a different version to Windows 8.1. It’s the same as Microsoft still supporting Windows Vista today even though Windows 7 was released. The only differences between Vista/7 and 8.0/8.1 are the similar names and the fact that 8.1 was a free upgrade from 8.0. That’s why it is offered via the Store, it’s not a simple update, it’s a completely new version, despite the name.

  • My biggest issue is the fact that windows updates aren’t “obnoxious” enough. With win xp, vista and 7, there was an icon in the taskbar that showed up when you needed to update, and I think it had a notification the first time it showed up. With windows 8, the only place it shows that you need to update is on the login screen, and I almost never see that. I hardly ever restart my computer, and when I do I am to preoccupied to take any notice of the little message, so I just forget to check later.

  • There’s a much less wowser-ish writeup of this situation on Ars Technica:

    The big deal is that Microsoft now intends to push updates quicker and more frequently, instead of in huge Service Packs like before. Not having to commit to extensive support means that they are free to do this, which can only be a good thing for security, etc. and brings them in line with some other operating systems, particularly iOS, and closes the gap a little teeny weeny bit with Linux.

    It does make life more difficult for IT Admins, even though they did get an olive branch of extension from 30 to 120 days support.

  • How does the author claim “next month it will cease support for Windows 8.1” yet the MS website reads: “Windows 8.1 falls under the same lifecycle policy as Windows 8, and will reach end of Mainstream Support on January 9, 2018, and end of Extended Support on January 10, 2023. With the General Availability of Windows 8.1, customers on Windows 8 have 2 years, until January 12, 2016, to move to Windows 8.1 in order to remain supported.”

    Makes no sense.

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