New to Windows 10? Here's how long Microsoft will support it

Whether you've made the upgrade to Windows 10 or are holding out, you need to know how long Microsoft will provide updates and patches.

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Managing Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome joined CNET in 2019, and is a member of the Home team. She is a co-lead of the CNET Tips and We Do the Math series, and manages the Home Tips series, testing out new hacks for cooking, cleaning and tinkering with all of the gadgets and appliances in your house. Alison was previously an editor at TechRepublic.
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Alison DeNisco Rayome
3 min read

Windows 10 will last you a good, long time, but you need to know some facts.

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Windows 10 has been around for five years, but it's only now that Microsoft's support for Windows 7 is dead and gone that the question arises: How long will Windows 10 last before Microsoft replaces it? Will we see a Windows 11 at some point? 

Luckily, we know the answer. Microsoft has a long-established Fixed Lifecycle Policy for many of its products, which begins when a product is released and ends when it's no longer supported. Knowing these dates can help you decide when you want to update, upgrade to a new device, or make other changes to your software or machine. 

Watch this: Windows 10: Try these hidden features right now

Windows support lasts 10 years, but...

For each version of its OS, Microsoft offers a minimum of 10 years of support (at least five years of Mainstream Support, followed by five years of Extended Support). Both types include security and program updates, self-help online topics and extra help you can pay for. 

Windows 10 was released in July 2015, and extended support is slated to end in 2025. Major feature updates are released twice a year, typically in March and in September, and Microsoft recommends installing each update as it is available. 

The situation is a bit more complicated than that, however. When Windows 10 first came out, a Microsoft employee called it "the last version of Windows." This doesn't mean that Microsoft will be getting rid of the OS, but that Windows will operate more as a service, with continuous updates instead of a brand new version. But as hardware ages, some devices might not be able to receive updates anymore. 

Read more at TechRepublic: Windows 10: A cheat sheet

"A device might not be able to receive updates if the device hardware is incompatible, lacking current drivers, or otherwise outside of the Original Equipment Manufacturers' ("OEM") support period. Not all features in an update will work on all devices," according to Microsoft's Lifecycle FAQ.

The latest Windows 10 version to come out was the November 2019 update, which added some new productivity features, like the ability to create events directly from the Calendar flyout on the Taskbar, without having to open the Calendar app. 

Here's how Microsoft breaks down its updates:

Windows end-of-service dates, by edition

Windows 10 version historyDate of availabilityEnd of service for Home, Pro, Pro Education, and Pro for Workstations editionsEnd of service for Enterprise and Education editions
Windows 10, version 1909 Nov. 12, 2019May 11, 2021May 10, 2022**
Windows 10, version 1903 May 21, 2019Dec. 8, 2020Dec. 8, 2020
Windows 10, version 1809 Nov. 13, 2018May 12, 2020May 11, 2021**
Windows 10, version 1803 April 30, 2018Nov. 12, 2019Nov. 10, 2020
Windows 10, version 1709 Oct. 17, 2017April 9, 2019April 14, 2020
Windows 10, version 1703 April 5, 2017*Oct. 9, 2018Oct. 8, 2019
Windows 10, version 1607 Aug. 2, 2016April 10, 2018April 9, 2019
Windows 10, version 1511 Nov. 10, 2015Oct. 10, 2017Oct. 10, 2017
Windows 10, released July 2015 (version 1507) July 29, 2015May 9, 2017May 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 in September 2018.

Should I upgrade to Windows 10 now, or wait?

Some people have hesitated to make the Windows 10 upgrade, as several bugs were reported in earlier versions. But Microsoft has slowed down its update schedule, giving the company more time to test, pause updates, and disclose problems. 

Your experience updating to Windows 10 should be fairly smooth at this point, and will let you take advantage of Microsoft support. This is particularly important for the security of your device -- without Microsoft's security upgrades and patches, your computer is at greater risk of malware taking hold through a loophole. 

We recommend upgrading to Windows 10 as soon as possible. However, if you're still running Windows 7 and don't want to upgrade, these 7 Windows 7 security tips will help protect your laptop until you make the switch. 

To start your upgrade, you could buy and download Windows 10 through Microsoft's website for $139. But you can try this free method, too. While Microsoft technically ended its free Windows 10 upgrade program in July 2016, CNET has confirmed as of January that the free update is still available for Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 users. 

Check out our step-by-step guide on how to upgrade to Windows 10 free. Once you've upgraded, you can also check out 11 easy Windows 10 tricks you didn't know about

Watch this: How to take Windows 10 screenshots

When will Windows 8.1 support end?

If you're a Windows 8.1 user, extended support for that OS will end in January 2023.

For more Windows 10 help, we show you how to customize 13 Windows 10 settings to your liking, and six simple security changes that all Windows 10 users need to make.

Originally published: Jan. 29. Update, Feb. 1: Adds additional context about Windows as a service.