Windows 8.1 End of Life, What It Means

On January 10th 2023 all extended support for Windows 8.1 will end, but if you’re still using Windows 8.1 what does this mean for you and how important is it?  First let’s detail what I mean by “extended support”.  Windows versions have two support cycles, both of which typically last for five years from when the operating system version is first released.

Mainstream Support is the first five year cycle, and ran from when this version of the operating system was released in November 2013, until January 2018.  During Mainstream Support, the operating system received regular updates and new features, such as the annual service pack.

With Extended Support, which ran from January 2018 for another five years, only security and stability patches were distributed for the operating system, and no new features or improvements were made.  These security and stability updates are crucial to the smooth running of a PC, especially an internet-connected PC, as they keep us safe form hackers, malware, and all the criminals that want to steal everything from our online accounts and personal information, to our money.

Without further security patches, any additional vulnerabilities (which there definitely will be) will leave a PC running Windows 8.1 extremely vulnerable to attack, and your anti-virus software will definitely not protect you.  In fact, because the operating system itself will be vulnerable to attack, anything running on it, including your anti-virus software, will also be highly vulnerable.

Upgrading to Windows 10 or 11

So what can you do about it?  At this point the answer is, not much.  You may find that the PC can be upgraded to Windows 10, and that has extended support running until October 2025.  This can be a good option for many people whose PCs are still working fine.  Officially the free upgrade offer ended in 2016, but you can create a Windows 10 installation DVD or USB Flash Drive and many people are finding that it is activating fine on a pre-existing product key for Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.

CAUTION: You should make sure you have a full backup of all your files, documents and software installers before upgrading to Windows 10, as a precaution against something going wrong.

Your product key will likely have come as a sticker on the side of your PC, or the bottom of your laptop, but if you do not know the product key don’t worry.  There are third-party utilities such as PassFab that you can use to find your product key, and there is a free trial so you don’t need to worry about having to pay for the software.

Note that some PCs and laptops can be upgraded to Windows 11, but the upgrade requires much newer hardware.  Microsoft have a PC Health Check app you can download and run to see if Windows 11 is supported on your PC.

Getting Additional Support

If upgrading to Windows 10 or Windows 11 isn’t an option for you then you can find a lot of additional support on the Microsoft website.  This details the security and privacy implications of running Windows 8.1 on your PC past January 10th 2023.  Bear in mind though, that if you do not, or cannot upgrade your PC or laptop to Windows 10 or Windows 11 then there will be nothing you can do to ensure your PC is secure, and you should stop using it.  There really isn’t any other advice to give.

For people using Windows 8.1 in a business environment, Microsoft have said that the three additional years of paid support they offered for Windows 7 will not be available for Windows 8.1.  This means that extended support will end for everybody on January 10th 2023.

Again you should visit Microsoft’s official Windows 8.1 End of Support website for more information about what the end of Extended Support for Windows 8.1 means for you and your business or organisation.

Post expires at 1:00am on Saturday January 14th, 2023