In March 2017, TechRepublic and other information technology publications saw an uptick in questions regarding Windows security updates for Windows 7 and Windows 8. Specifically, users started seeing this peculiar error message:
Your PC uses a processor that isn't supported on this version of Windows and you won't receive updates.
Note that this is not a problem for PCs running Windows 10. Also note that this is by design—and you were warned several times that it was going to happen.
The latest generation CPUs, Intel "Kaby Lake," AMD "Bristol Ridge," and Qualcomm "8996," are among the fastest and most powerful chips ever produced, so it is no wonder that many enthusiasts would want to use them for their most recent builds. However, those chips are designed to support Windows 10 exclusively, not Windows 8 and especially not Windows 7.
To answer questions regarding the cryptic "Unsupported Hardware" error message, Microsoft provides an equally unsatisfying solution. In KB 4012982, the company notes that Windows 7 and Windows 8 are not supported by the latest generation of CPUs and suggests that users upgrade to Windows 10.
In other words, if you want to use the latest CPUs but stick with Windows 7 or 8, Microsoft is not going to make any special effort to keep your operating system up to date. Simply put: Upgrade or suffer the consequences.
So far, this situation applies mostly to enthusiasts building their own PCs. In 2017, a new PC with the latest generation of CPUs will ship with Windows 10 pre-installed, which eliminates the problem. And enterprises with legacy systems requiring Windows 7 or 8 are not likely to upgrade the CPU of existing PCs—it would be a waste of resources. But the error message, and Microsoft's mostly unsympathetic response, does indicate the company's thinking on this topic.
Starting in September 2016, Microsoft has made it extremely clear that the latest CPUs from Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm would support only Windows 10. The company issued press releases, published blog posts, and notified IT trade publications like TechRepublic in an effort to warn and inform the public of its intentions.
Like it or not, the day when Microsoft makes good on its promises has arrived. If you want to use the latest CPUs with Windows 7 or Windows 8, you should understand that future security updates are going to be problematic at best. In fact, the most likely scenario is that you will not be able to apply updates to your chosen operating system at all.
If your organization has not upgraded to Windows 10, you should look at this most recent development as the "writing on the wall." Microsoft is adamant that all users should migrate to Windows 10 as soon as possible, and if push comes to shove, the company is willing to force the issue. At this point, trying to indefinitely maintain Windows 8 or Windows 7 as your primary operating system is just a bad business decision.
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Should Microsoft support Windows 7 and 8 no matter what CPU is deployed in a system? Share your thoughts and opinions with your peers at TechRepublic in the discussion thread below.
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.