Why Microsoft Is Already Dropping Support for Some Windows 8.1 Users

It took Microsoft  (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) 12 years to end support for Windows XP, but some users of the company's current operating system, Windows 8.1, could find themselves in the same boat as XP users a mere eight months after the update to the original Windows 8 was released.

The company is not abandoning its Windows 8.1 platform; it is instead pushing customers to install the latest version of it. If users fail to add the update, their computers won't lock up or shut down, but they will become vulnerable.

"All future security and non-security updates will be built on these latest product updates, so existing Windows 8.1 customers will need to be running these latest product updates in order to continue to receive future product improvements and security updates," the company wrote on a Microsoft blog.

You don't have to install the update, but failing to do so will leave your computer open to viruses and to various apps and software not working. Hackers are also likely to target machines with a known vulnerability, so the risks in not updating are high.

This seems a bit aggressive from Microsoft

The move to force users into an update to a product that hasn't been very well received in the first place seems a bit like Microsoft slapping its best customers in the face. There is more sense behind the decision, however, as Microsoft is attempting to shift its update model away from big releases into a more rapid cadence of feature improvements. To accomplish that the company has to figure out how to change consumers' attitudes toward installing Windows updates.

Microsoft traditionally releases any security patches to its operating system and software on the first Tuesday of the month and many Windows users have the automatic updates feature turned on so the install just happens in the background or when they restart their computer. For users who have not selected automatic updates, however, Microsoft has had a hard time getting some to install the time-consuming updates.

Why are people slow or unwilling to install upgrades? "Probably because they are busy and the update process is a disruption to their work-flow, taking time and enforcing a reboot," David Tuffley wrote on LifeHacker. "The user then has to reopen their applications and reload their work in progress. People probably think, 'I'll do that later,' but they seldom do."

Microsoft has moved back an April deadline for people to install the upgrade to May 13, but for anyone who chooses not to install it (or just doesn't), no new updates or security patches will be visible to them until they install the Windows 8.1 update. 

Microsoft is taking a strong-arm tactic here that may not sit well with some users -- especially given the short time the current install of Windows 8.1 has been the main supported version of the OS.

Windows 8 is gaining share

Microsoft has had some success in slowly getting its own audience to switch to Windows 8, which had about an 11.3% share of the PC market in March, according to Wall Street Journal, behind leader Windows 7 at 48.8%. The company is in the midst of a potentially huge growth period for Windows 8 -- PC sales have spiked since the company dropped support for Windows XP (which still was on around one in every three PCs, in March according to the Journal) and many of those customers are likely to buy Windows 8 machines.

Many of those new Windows 8 machines will have the non-updated version of the OS installed, requiring customers to perform the update, though updating a just-out-of-the-box machine is more expected and might not seem like a large imposition. Still in creating an added roadblock for customers to use its computers, tablets, and other devices, Microsoft makes itself even more vulnerable to the growing threat of Google's  (NASDAQ: GOOG  ) OS, which has been rapidly building market share. Making the Windows 8 experience more of a hassle even in a small way seems like a huge risk, especially when many customers are more willing to consider non-PC and laptop devices -- categories in which Microsoft is trying to gain a foothold that have so far been dominated by Android and Apple's  (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) iOS.

Windows business is still key for Microsoft

Windows is no longer the main revenue driver for Microsoft but it's still very important to the company's overall financial health. The Office division is the company's most profitable and the Server/Tools division brought in more revenue (but made less money), according to Microsoft's 2013 financial reports, which showed an overall $26 billion profit. But while the numbers may not be as big as they once were, the Windows division still brought in over $19 billion in 2013, producing a profit of over $9 billion. 

Microsoft has already angered Windows XP users (however unfair their criticism may be) and Windows 8 has generally been met with a less-than-enthusiastic reaction, so resorting to threatening vulnerability to viruses to the user base of the beleaguered operating system is not a great idea. The strategy to fix Windows 8 by returning the much-missed Start Menu is sound as is the idea of rolling out updates faster, but Microsoft is making a mistake using strong-arm tactics to reach an admirable goal.

The Windows revenue stream is already threatened and its users (especially those nice enough to buy Windows 8) need to be treated with kid gloves by Microsoft in order to keep them from defecting to Android or iOS. If that means supporting Windows 8.1 for a longer period until the vast majority of users have upgraded on their own, then Microsoft should do that. There are ways to incentivize people to upgrade and Microsoft would do well here to offer a carrot instead of resorting to the stick.

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 8:39 AM, Localyokul wrote:

    Is Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 the Same software? The article leaves me a bit confused about where I stand.If my Windows 8 needs updates , I thought Microsoft notified of these updates.

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 9:03 AM, taloft wrote:

    8.1 is just the latest version of Win 8. It makes some major changes to the OS but, it is just another update. It costs nothing to upgrade and can be done via MS update.

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 9:17 AM, sypoth wrote:

    It's because Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 are massive flops that are costing the company millions. Ending support for XP hasn't helped it either. Nobody likes it because of it's interface, bringing back the actual start menu will help, but not by much. The only way to really help it is to get rid of everything that even remotely smells of Metro in the OS.

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 9:18 AM, GeorgeSalt wrote:

    I really hate all of the reboots that are required when installing an update.

    I run Windows 7 on my laptop and Linux Mint on my desktop. Linux regularly installs updates, but the only time a reboot is required is when the Linux kernel is updated, and that is not very often.

    You'd think that MS would have solved that problem long ago.

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 9:44 AM, kwright62 wrote:

    Not sure about the source for this article but: Microsoft is moving toward a subscription model for all software similar to Office 365. The "updates" are "free" while you keep you subscription paid and the software becomes static if you don't.

    The update cycles are going to become much shorter and the version of the OS installed on your computer will be less important.

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 9:48 AM, JJ82 wrote:

    It seems MSs vision of the future is of one without them in it.

    They are doing everything possible to turn consumers against them due to their massive incompetence and horrible ideas all while having the air of someone that believes that are at the head of a total dictatorship and people must do what they say.

    No respect at all for their customers.

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 9:56 AM, HardDriver wrote:

    Article is outright wrong.

    Windows XP support has ended, there will be no new patches, etc.

    But Windows 8, has a free patch to windows 8.1, which has a free patch to Windows 8.1 update 1. Microsoft is saying you have to apply update 1 as part of the continued patching process. That is all.

    Your article would be like saying back in the Windows XP days, that if you did not apply Service Pack 1, that Microsoft stopped support of windows XP without SP1...

    There is no end of support for Windows 8.1. There is only update 1 needs to be applied as part of the ongoing support process. Not sure why the author of the piece wants to mislead with such an innacurate title, and why fool would publish such a misleading article.

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 10:17 AM, hawkhell wrote:

    What is with the trend of attacking the biggest companies? Microsoft, GM, Samsung. The largest producers of their market and oddly they are the ones targeted out consistently.

    I do not understand the point of this article and why is has such a misleading title. Windows 8.1 is not losing support update 1 is part of its "support" and just like any platform you have to upgrade chronologically.

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 10:35 AM, motleyLiam wrote:

    Too funny, this article's title is misleading. Cleverly designed to get us to click (panic!). Heck, I clicked on it.

    What Microsoft really means: If you are running Win8, you should update to 8.1. Once you have 8.1 installed, proceed to get patches. If you do not have 8.1 installed, you cannot get patches for it - which is obvious.

    Similarly, back to XP for a moment - there were 3 Service Packs available. If you only had (as an example) Service Pack 2 installed, you could not get updates for Service Pack 3 - makes sense/obvious, right?

    Same for 8.1. There is nothing new, here.

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 10:36 AM, VegasSmitty wrote:

    Seems like every day the MF has to reprove why their called "fools".

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 10:40 AM, ChrisRey3156 wrote:

    No wonder people are so misled, because they read BS like this.

    Every Windows has had service packs that update the current OS with better security and optimizations. Windows 8 is being updated just like anything else.

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 10:42 AM, hump8389 wrote:

    Another company in the busness of gaining clicks. The new-aged bait and switch is getting out of hand. This what almost every software company in the world does. You must follow the trail of updates to continue to receive updates. I would say these Fools need to stop with their writing, since in no way shape or form can it be considered journalism, but I am assuming that are doing what they are being told to do. Do whatever you have to in order to get the all mighty click. I belive in a few years web sited the this one will just totally make up stories. There is no reason not to. There is no one governing them or holding them to any standards. Why wouldn't they just lie about everything to get that oh so important click?

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 12:06 PM, stevegates wrote:

    i recently updated from 8 to 8.1 and got a black screen of death. this is why nobody updates . because 9/10 times they mess things up. they are a horrible horrible cmpany, unfortunately because of office and msproject i am forced to own a pc as well instead of just a mac. the momment they release a good version of office /access and msproject for mac its bye bye for them

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 12:44 PM, JoeLemon wrote:

    So you are saying that people don't do the updates, but if they don't do this update they can't get future updates. If people aren't doing the updates anyway it won't make a difference. If they are it won't make a difference.

    People don't do the updates because they are lazy. It takes 2 mins to reopen programs. The downloads happen in the background, and can be auto done.

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 12:53 PM, dalgray wrote:

    Somewhat reminiscent of the demise of IBM as a market top dog? Screw the pooch!

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 1:28 PM, jbl618 wrote:

    As a ditto to the above comments, the title of this article is frustratingly misleading. I really dislike when a title of an article exists only to get enough shock value to appease the author by us clicking through and reading nonsense. How can you say Microsoft is dropping support for Windows 8.1 when the update that was just released is literally called Windows 8.1 UPDATE 1... meaning support for Windows 8.1. If the update was called Windows 9 and was a separate and new Operating System like Windows Vista was from Windows XP or Windows 7 from Windows Vista, then that would be a different story.

    Microsoft isn't "forcing" us to do anything. Its simple, if I want to have the best security for a particular piece of software, be it a browser like Firefox, or an OS like Windows 8.1 or Mac OSX, I simply keep it up to date. Realllly simple.

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 1:41 PM, tekwyzrd wrote:

    This requirement is no different than past requirements for specific service packs released for winnt and win2k.

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 1:55 PM, Begotnot wrote:

    Bill Gates thinks he is so clever, he creates something broken then sells it to you and then keeps selling you little fixes over and over again.

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 2:32 PM, TMFDankline wrote:

    Headline has been modified.

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 3:01 PM, JoeLemon wrote:

    <<Bill Gates thinks he is so clever, he creates something broken then sells it to you and then keeps selling you little fixes over and over again.>>

    How are free updates selling you something? This isn't apple which was doing that until recently.

    How is adding features selling you something broken? I guess when you don't understand what free update means you aren't going to get that either.

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 3:10 PM, shibadude wrote:

    I wish Microcrap would just go away. Their windows 7 is still buggy as hell. I like it when you're copying files and it says 5 seconds remaining but it takes 5 minutes to finish. There is no way I will even go to windows 8. Still have my PC but hardly use it. Have moved to iMac and Macbooks.

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 3:46 PM, mnflwr2 wrote:

    who announced that Microsoft is doing this, and when? Where is a link to the announcement?

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 4:08 PM, toph36 wrote:

    More MS bashing. If you decide not to install the 8.1 Update, then why would you care to install any other update? As for Android, you are lucky to get an updates for Android, if ever. So users don't even need to worry about updating their Android devices. Microsoft has made doing updates fairly easy and doing the 8.1 update addresses many of users complaints, so I don't see why you wouldn't want to do the update? They can't continue to support multiple instances of the same version. When they released XP SP3, they dropped support for XP SP2. So the 8.1 update is no different then what they have done before. Go over it.

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 4:38 PM, judy2547 wrote:

    I too am confused I went and tried to update 8.1 and was told there were updates but they would not be installed until later

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 5:14 PM, Eileeno wrote:

    I just bought a new computer with windows 8 installed, what a mess. Another case of it really wasn't broken but apparently someone(s) out there needed sales. Can't have something like XP that worked fine, easy to use, continue. my mistake.

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 7:35 PM, stacye4818 wrote:

    I am NOT happy with this news at all. I bought a laptop last summer and "upgraded" to 8.1 around November(ish) and the problems started. Apps quit working, sticky and toggle keys turned themselves on, mouse pad went crazy. The fight with Toshiba was on. My husband finally got ahold of someone willing to dump 8.1 and take it back to 8. And now this? Not crazy about Windows 8. 8.1 really messed things up. Looks like I may go with Android. Way to go Microsoft :(

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 7:45 PM, JoeLemon wrote:

    Android is not related to Windows 8 it is the same as RT.

    That sounds like a Toshiba issue. Toshiba like most PC makers loads up a bunch of crap on your computer. Toshiba loaded XP drivers and utilities on my Win 7 laptop. If you uninstall all the crappy Toshiba stuff it would work fine. Or you could have just did a restore and went back to what you had before.

    The best place to buy laptops/PCs is the microsoft store. They will put a clean install on everything. But they have limited selection, and usually higher prices.

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2014, at 9:41 PM, redmanrt wrote:

    I started out with 98, moved up to XP, skipped ME, 2000 and Vista, moved up to 7, and will skip 8. If Microsoft gets any more aggressive, I also have Linux Ubuntu to fall back on. It reminds me of Apple. Its only problem are a few programs (Finale, Yankee clipper, and Keytweak) which aren't available for Ubuntu, at least not yet.

  • Report this Comment On April 26, 2014, at 11:24 AM, hollywoodlafl wrote:

    I wonder when microshet is going to ABANDON, then FORCE Windows 7 users to upgrade?

    MicroJUNK, has bilked consumers for TRILLIONS of dollars over the years.

  • Report this Comment On April 26, 2014, at 12:02 PM, luckyagain wrote:

    I worked in the software industry. The main reason that MS wants to apply updates only to 8.1 instead of 8.0, is because it lessens the work load on their staff. Applying updates to 8.0 and 8.1, requires a lot of extra work. I used to do it to multiple level of software and it doing it to lower levels of software sometimes would reveal a bug that was already fixed in a higher level

    There is nothing sinister about it. The reason for only applying fixes to the newest level make sense to me. As for the contention that it takes a shutdown and restart, It is not much of a problem if you do a shutdown every night. Shutting down when you are not going to use a computer, should be done to save electricity anyway.

  • Report this Comment On April 26, 2014, at 3:09 PM, rbmight wrote:

    I'm with you lucky. I power m y computer off when not in use - sometimes for days. I have automatic updates turned on for some early morning hour. But I am unclear what happens when my computer is off at my scheduled update time. Anybody know what happens? I don't mind it updating while I'm on it. I'm really a lightweight user.

  • Report this Comment On April 26, 2014, at 3:15 PM, Drichter wrote:

    I updated from 8 to 8.1 on two custom desktops, two laptops and a surface pro in my household, with zero issues.

    I then did the recent 8.1 update on those devices plus a surface pro 2. No issues, and a quick, painless process.

    You can literally type 'update' on the start screen, click 'check for updates', and just follow the prompts. It does everything for you. There isn't even anything to mess up.

    Let's be honest, if this update causes you issues you probably deserve them.

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2014, at 12:21 AM, spikey27 wrote:

    This is hilarious.

    MS tells us they dropped XP because it couldn't be made secure. Boo hoo.

    They tell us to switch to a later OS, whether it be Vista, 7, 8, 8-1/2 or whatever, for the same worn-out excuse - to get users into a secure OS and browser.

    Now they are playing the same broken record: We can't make it secure, so you'll have to update.

    Everyone should switch to Linux. The last figures I heard were that Windows had at least a million viruses, while Linux had less than 50, and hardly any of those were in the wild.

    FO, MS.

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2014, at 6:36 AM, mpm1701 wrote:

    personally i don't understand what all of the panic is about over a computer update for windows 8.1 because these updates are their to protect computer users not to hurt them besides that most of these other operating systems are pretty much out of date anyway and all updates should be for windows 7 and above and anything before then should no longer be in circulation since the computer hackers know how to breach all of those and even windows 7 isn't too safe either from being breached into as well. i have windows 7 on my laptop and i still get hacked into from time to time and sometimes my files are stolen by whoever is responsible for this which goes to show you that the problem isn't in the design the problem is the bad guys always find some way around it no matter what improvements are made. even upgrading to windows 8.1 won't keep the hackers out for long and if the computer companies want to stop it the only thing they can do is to notify the fbi every time something unexplained happens or someone gets hacked by these criminals which goes to show you no defense is 100% guaranteed against attack!

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2014, at 11:49 AM, AudieMurphy wrote:

    Microsoft, due to their size and success, has always been a target for criticism and now that these so called "news" sites are nothing but click counters to drive advertising costs it's only getting worse. Has MS made mistakes? More recently than ever, as the competition has grown their attempts at "innovation" have fallen flat. Their defining products have been mishandled and it's given them a black eye, they responded with what they thought was positive spins and have only made it worse. They've dug the hole deep and now anything that can be used against them, especially at sites like this one, will.

  • Report this Comment On May 21, 2014, at 3:25 PM, shanigami wrote:

    Refusing to follow the MS upgrade path != "dropping support". This article is trash.

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Daniel B. Kline

Daniel B. Kline is an accomplished writer and editor who has worked for the Microsoft's Finance app and The Boston Globe, where he wrote for the paper and ran the business desk. His latest book "Worst Ideas Ever" (Skyhorse) can be purchased at bookstores everywhere.

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