Microsoft extends support deadline for Windows … But it’s not XP

In the wake of the XP deadline, IT might have thought it had heard the last of Microsoft urging users to update their operating systems immediately. But now one of the newest versions of Windows needs to updated ASAP – or it’ll be left just as vulnerable as XP.

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Windows 8.1 isn’t going to receive security updates in a few short months. Only the slightly modified Windows 8.1 Update version will.

Already confused? We’ll walk you through it.

What is Windows 8.1 Update?

Microsoft released Windows 8.1 Update in early April with the surprise warning that 8.1 users had to get on the new system by May 12 to receive any future security updates for their operating systems. That left plenty of users scrambling to download the update – or at least the ones who were aware that it had been released.

For most people, though, the news was lost in the shuffle of XP’s slow, agonizing death.

True to its recent form, Microsoft backed off its hard-line stance … but only a little.

Now, the new deadlines for getting the 8.1 update are:

  • June 10 for consumers, and
  • August 12 for enterprise

Why is it important?

In many ways, this is just as big a deal as XP’s end of support. Microsoft has indicated that all future security and non-security patches it releases depend on being on 8.1 Update. So in a few short months, Windows 8.1 would be no better than running XP for security purposes.

You’ll want to be sure that you get your users on the latest version sooner than later. But of course that’s not as easy as flipping a switch.

Determining how your legacy and proprietary apps will work with this update can be a major testing headache. And without any clear explanation of why you need to update in the first place, IT isn’t likely very happy with Microsoft right now.

What about other versions?

If you’re on Windows 8.1, you’ll want to update. But what about everyone else?

Curiously, Windows 8 is immune from this new deadline. So if you’re still on the first release of the Windows 8 OS, you’re fine for the time being. Updates will continue to come in uninterrupted.

If you’re using Windows 7, take a second to pat yourself on the back, sit back and enjoy the show knowing that so far you’ve been spared all these annoying deadlines and headaches. (A recent study did show Windows 7 was more vulnerable than XP, but that’s with a lot of asterisks and caveats.)

If you’re on XP … well, you know. Don’t be on XP.

What to do now

Helping users who do work from home computers would be a good first security step to take.

Advise them of:

  • where various versions of Windows stand
  • how to update to a newer version
  • how to receive automatic updates, and
  • what potential dangers they’re opening themselves (and your data) up to if they don’t.

Of course, you’ll also want to make sure all your company’s machines are running with updates, too. August 12 might seem a ways off, but by the time you test applications for compatibility, troubleshoot and install the updates, it’s practically right around the corner. Microsoft certainly isn’t making this easy on IT.

Subject to change?

One of the most frustrating things about Microsoft’s deadlines is that they’re often subject to change – but they usually change with little fanfare and well after IT has already started making plans as if the original deadline will stand.

Your best bet if you’re going to be facing a tight deadline is to proceed as if it’s real, then hope for a last minute reprieve. But don’t count on that.

Have you been put in a bind with Microsoft’s flurry of OS deadlines? Do you feel like this update is even needed? Are you used to the demands by now?

Leave your answer in the comments section below.