and its upcoming Summit Ridge platform earlier this month. Such
announcements typically come with their own laundry lists of new
features and capabilities, but it’s worth remembering one feature that
prominently won’t be on any CPU or APU products from either company: Windows 7 / 8 support.
As we’ve discussed before, Kaby Lake, Apollo
Lake, Bristol Ridge (Excavator APUs) and Summit Ridge (Zen CPUs) are all
Windows 10-only. PC World reached out to both companies and both
confirmed that their upcoming products would be tied to the Windows 10
product cycle. Microsoft initially intended to speed Skylake away from
Windows 7/8 as well, but later backpedaled on this approach and noted it
would support these chips throughout their lifespans until Windows 7
exits support in 2020.
This transition has happened before — all
hardware typically reaches a point where previous operating systems
aren’t supported — but I can’t remember it happening this quickly.
That’s partly because Windows 7, like Windows XP before it, became a
long-lived OS. While it didn’t ship as Microsoft’s primary operating
system for nearly as long as Windows XP, it was still more popular than
Windows 8 until months after Windows 10’s debut. Pushing Windows 7 off
the support tree, seven years after it was released, may make sense.
Windows 8.1, on the other hand, is less than three years’ old.
In this case, Microsoft is killing support for
future products under both operating systems as a way to streamline its
own support and push more consumers towards using Windows 10. While the
build-it-yourself DIY market for desktops has always been small
compared to the entire PC market, these changes will inevitably impact
users who bought older retail copies of Windows they intended to keep
using. The question is, what does it mean to run unsupported hardware
under Windows 7/8?
There’s no way to say for sure,
but we can hazard a guess based on how previous hardware has handled
the transition. Installing these operating systems on newer hardware
should work for a long time, but certain capabilities won’t function.
Things might be slightly easier on AMD’s side of the fence, since GPU
drivers are typically a major component that quits working between
operating systems, and AMD will continue to provide discrete graphics
drivers for Windows 7 and 8. A little INF editing and some third-party
downloads should keep these segments functional for at least a little
while down the line.
As time passes, new features build on old
features, and support for those features becomes expected at both the
hardware and software levels. There’s a huge gap between “Can I
literally boot the operating system” and “Would I want to use this
system for daily production?” This page on installing Windows XP on an
unsupported Haswell laptop highlights a number of the issues the author
encountered, including reformatting the installed hard drive from GPT to
MBR, slipstreaming AHCI drivers into the Windows XP install CD, giving
up on the installed wireless card, USB3, and most video acceleration.
Features like HDMI ports don’t work either.
At some point, trying to shoe-horn an older OS
on to newer hardware becomes more trouble than its reasonably worth for
the majority of people. It’s actually easier to build classic machines
on old second-hand hardware and
use those than to try and keep newer systems functional. We’re going to
hit that point more quickly than usual with Zen and Kaby Lake and I
expect there’ll be some frustration along the way — Microsoft may be
pushing Intel and AMD to phase out support for older hardware but the
company isn’t likely to win any converts for its strategy in the