Windows 10 End-of-Life

Windows 10 will reach end of support in Fall 2025. What does that mean for you?

What is End of Support/End of Life?

We’ve covered this topic previously in an article about what end of life (EOL) means in general, but in short, it means the developer/manufacturer of software has decided that the support window for a given software product has ended.  Users should migrate to a newer product because the older one has become a hindrance in some way – whether in features, performance, security, or otherwise.  

It costs enormous sums of money for a company to continue tweaking, improving, and securing a software product, and when that product is the operating backbone for billions of computers worldwide, that cost balloons dramatically.  To be supporting two or more products in this way is even more expensive.  At some point, there has to be a cut-off.

When this happens, it means the product stops receiving service updates.  Features are not added, software is not tweaked to work with the newest hardware (and, subsequently, hardware manufacturers stop supporting older software), and most importantly, security patches stop happening.  This means the software – and in this case we’re talking about the operating system itself – becomes a gaping security hole, in spite of any “security software” or “antivirus” you may be running.  Not only are the tasks you do while connected to the internet at risk, but your unsupported device may become a sort of portal to the rest of the network(s) you’re connected to.  You can check out Eric Parker’s YouTube channel for examples of just how fast — literally within minutes — older out-of-support operating systems can get hijacked, even after a clean install!

Is the risk absolute?  No, of course not. Almost certainly, very few people will get “hacked” in the immediate weeks following end-of-life.  The problem is that the risk of a direct attack will go from incredibly small to quite substantial, almost immediately.  It is well known that vulnerability seekers may keep new “vulns” held secret as an EOL day approaches.  Once that date threshold has passed, you take your security into your own hands and anything you do online is considered at risk.

Eventually, as time passes, the risks will increase while the functionality of the device will worsen.  Security certificates will expire, software will stop running on the older OS, and you’ll be left far behind with a basically non-functional PC.

 

Why The Limitations on What Can Run Windows 11?

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably learned that many PCs that ran Windows 10 just fine aren’t compatible with Windows 11.  One of the key gatekeepers is the age of the CPU itself; Microsoft has published lists of compatible Intel and AMD processors (essentially 8th-gen or newer Intel, or 2000-series or later AMD Ryzen, with a few exceptions and outlier CPUs.)  Even if you have a compatible processor, though, your BIOS settings may not currently be compatible to run Windows 11.  If you aren’t sure what you have or whether your setup is compatible with Windows 11, you can use Microsoft’s PC Health Check app to find out.  (If you have supported hardware but an unsupported configuration, come see us – we may be able to resolve this for you so that you can upgrade!)

There’s a couple of reasons for this hard limitation.  The most commonly cited one is security.  Modern processors offer a set of features that Windows now mandates the use of, such as TPM 2.0 and Secure Boot.  These help protect you from malicious software and devices such as random USB keys with hacked-up live OSes, and do so much more effectively than what could be done on the older CPUs.  

The other is what I would call a “minimum guaranteed experience” (I’m sure the industry has another term for it, this is just what I came up with)  When you think about console video games these days, they all basically run on PC-style hardware that is far less powerful than an expensive desktop gaming PC, yet the overall experience can be quite comparable.  That’s because with a console, developers have a minimum hardware spec to target for that they know will be the same across all devices their game will be played on.  As such, they can maximize the experience that that minimum spec will deliver, even though they may offer enhanced versions to run on “Pro” or subsequent model consoles.

Likewise, Windows tries to strike a balance between functionality and form, between acting the way it must in order to deliver a performant user experience, and looking and behaving smoothly on the hardware that it is running on.

When there’s a massive array of hardware available, the lowest common denominator can be a difficult bar to pass for a minimum user experience, even if you strip features back on the slowest of CPUs.  By defining a specific period of CPUs they are willing to support, Microsoft can be sure that users of their OS can receive at least as good an experience as can be delivered on that lowest supported specification.

 

A side-by-side of the Windows 10 and 11 desktop and start menu.
"It's too different!" -- Most changes in Windows 11 are cosmetic and are very easy to get used to.
 
Why Does This Happen?

The relentless march of progress.  We know, throwaway culture sucks, change is bad, etc etc, but this is the world we live in now, and everything being internet-connected means security updates are vitally important.  Meanwhile, from a practical point of view, the lowest-supported spec of Intel processor will be eight years old by the time Windows 10’s EOL comes, and that’s a pretty decent run for any computer.  Could it last longer?  Almost certainly.  But the leaps and bounds of performance and efficiency over the last few years have made the idea of upgrading from a 7th-gen Core processor to 15th-gen more appealing than it might otherwise be.

There’s the added problem of software’s constant evolution, including the code – such as HTML and CSS – that act as the backbone of the internet itself.  You see, when you visit a website, you’re not just viewing a static asset that’s a tiny ball of code flung over a wire, the way it was back in the late 90s/early 00s.  You’re being delivered a huge avalanche of code, all of which must be received, sorted, decoded, and processed on your personal computer, then rendered out and displayed on the screen, 60 times per second or more.  This puts a somewhat substantial load on your processor and memory.

As modern CPUs have evolved to be more and more powerful and efficient, so too the code that makes up the average webpage has evolved to be more and more complex, to take advantage of that headroom.  As a result, even a basic web browsing experience on older hardware can become quite cumbersome and slow. The “boiling frog” effect comes into play here, as you may not have considered your device slow — until you experience using a much newer one!

Microsoft’s cutoff date lands in a period where, thankfully, almost every new PC that hit the market ran off an SSD, rather than hard disk drive.  The jump in performance than an SSD offers is an absolute game-changer for nearly everything you can do with a computer.  Even though Windows 11’s changes over Windows 10 are mostly on a cosmetic level as far as most users are concerned, this still offers an improved minimum guaranteed experience to each end user.

Finally, obviously Microsoft and Intel have been in cahoots for decades, and there may be some truth to the cynical thought that they’re doing this just to increase sales of new computers.

 

Didn’t This Just Happen Recently?

Windows 8.1 made a long-overdue trip down EOL lane in 2023,  and Windows 7 died back in 2020.  This whole mess definitely happens every few years.  In many cases, upgrading from an older OS these days is free (such as Windows 7/8 to Windows 10 and Windows 10 to Windows 11), and Microsoft works on the assumption that users will upgrade at every opportunity, even though many don’t.  Since most people will try to use their PC for about 5-8 years before upgrading, they don’t necessarily feel the impact of an EOL date every time it happens, and some not at all.  But the frugal and those satisfied with their status quo may feel like they hit these dates more frequently than is fair!

 

Can’t I Buy My Way Around This?

Well, sort of.  Windows 10 will have an extended security update (ESU) life of three years, into 2028.  But ya gotta pay for it – starting at $61 for the first year, and doubling each year after that.  In reality, this program is intended for businesses that aren’t quite ready to make the leap yet, for example if thousands of computers need to be upgraded in batches.  It won’t be a great experience for common consumers, especially as it is only security updates.  Most bugfixes and features won’t be addressed in these updates. Meanwhile, if you paid for all three years, you’ve just spent $427 on maintaining a “free” OS!

 

Can’t I Hack My Way Around This?

Well, sort of.  There’s ways to bypass the hardware minimums and install Windows 11 on unsupported devices.  We strongly discourage this, though (and we won’t do it for you), as Microsoft can, within their terms of service, stop your system from working at any time, or refuse to update it.  In general, these older machines lack proper driver support for Windows 11 as well, which can mean iffy stability and performance.  

We get it, the software companies are evil, but we still don’t think it’s a good idea to try to work around their hardware requirements on a device that gets regular use unless you’re ready for tons of unforeseen problems.

 

Can’t I Just Keep Using Windows 10?

For a while.  Like we said, stuff will eventually stop working.  Your assorted software will stop receiving updates and security patches as well.  At some point you won’t be able to open a webpage in Chrome anymore.  And as for security, while the risks are seemingly quite small, it only takes one identity theft event to ruin your life.

 

OK, Fine. How Should I Prepare?

Well, that depends on your situation.  You may have noticed, if bringing an older computer to us lately, that we’ve discouraged repairing it because of its age.  In some cases (and the frequency of this will increase as we get into 2025), we may outright decline to repair some things.  If your old computer is starting to deteriorate in performance or run into more issues, and it’s not compatible with Windows 11, it’s a very good time to start looking at replacements.

Aside from what we see as a looming catastrophic influx of e-waste as soon as the Windows 10 EOL hits (who knows, maybe Linux will take off as a result? Nah, probably not), we also anticipate a rush on supply of compatible devices.  Come next fall, there may actually be shortages, both of new consumer and business devices as late upgraders realize they need a last-minute laptop replacement and businesses need to outfit their offices, as well as on refurbished devices.

As sellers of refurbished business-grade computers, we’ve already seen the pricing of Windows 11-compatible laptops jump sharply in price over the past two years, while older devices have dwindled into the price range of toys.  Some of this is of course due to overall age, but the gap between pricing of compatible and incompatible laptops is impressive.

For some, it’s easy to brush it off as “well, it’s over a year away” [as of this writing], but it may not be quite as easy or affordable to find a replacement next year.  If you’re still coasting on older hardware, it’s a good time to start thinking about what’s next now, rather than getting into a last-minute mess. Why not visit or contact us for advice?

 

Windows 10 end-of-life arrives on October 14, 2025.

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