Every Windows product has a lifecycle, which begins when the product is released and ends when it is no longer supported. Along the way, the most critical dates are:
· End of sales for PCs with Windows preinstalled: this is the date after which one can no longer purchase a PC with that version of Windows preinstalled.
· End of Mainstream Support: this is the date after which Microsoft will no longer develop the operating system by either changing the design or adding new features. This is also the date after which free support from Microsoft will no longer be available.
· End of Extended Support: this is the date after which Microsoft will no longer provide security updates and support. This is the most critical date to be aware of because after this date, the operating system becomes a more significant target for malware and third party vendors will begin to no longer support the platform.
As an operating system matures, Microsoft typically releases Service Packs in which they bundle up many security fixes, bug fixes, and enhancements. It is always important to install the latest Service Pack and it is the Service Pack version that Microsoft refers to when they publish support lifecycle dates.
Here is the current chart from Microsoft documenting the End of Sales dates: