Think Windows XP is going away? Think again. Microsoft has announced that it will be extending the life of Windows XP yet again, offering “downgrade rights” to companies who buy copies of Windows 7 for another 10 years.
Downgrade rights allow a user who has bought a later version of the Windows operating system to remove it and install the older version in its stead without paying for a second license. And, as Computerworld notes, with 74 percent of businesses still running Windows XP, the OS isn’t going away anytime soon.
It’s not really Microsoft’s fault: While Windows 7 has been generally well received, large enterprises like to standardize computers on a single operating system to make maintenance and training easier, and if a business still has older hardware installed, that usually means an older OS is required. When those businesses do get upgraded, it will likely be all at once.
Downgrade rights let them bide their time until they’re ready to do that.
Microsoft has extended downgrade rights for XP repeatedly since Windows Vista was released years ago, usually for a few months at a time, but the latest move — offering multiple years of downgrade rights all at once — is unprecedented.
Details can be found on Microsoft’s official Windows blog, though unless you speak corporatese, you’re unlikely to really understand the details. In a nutshell, Windows XP downgrade rights will be extended through the full life cycle of Windows 7, which means you’ll be able to downgrade to XP for as long as Windows 7 is supported by Microsoft. For now, that means January 2020 for Windows 7 Professional, January 2015 for Windows 7 Ultimate.
A variety of other rules, namely those involving Windows XP Home and Windows Vista, aren’t being altered, and Windows XP support is being phased out altogether as we speak. In fact, the last updates for Windows XP Service Pack 2 are being delivered today. (You’ll need Service Pack 3 if you want any support at all going forward.)
Also of note, these downgrade rights are intended only for enterprise customers: Theoretically you won’t be able to buy a computer at retail with Windows XP installed on it after October 22 of this year, and realistically, with few companies creating XP drivers for new hardware anymore, even trying to run XP on a modern system is becoming increasingly problematic.
— Christopher Null is a technology writer for Yahoo! News.
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