Windows 8, older Internet Explorer versions face end-of-life deadline this week

No more fixes for the old browsers or the original OS after this week, though Windows 8.1 has a few years left.

Microsoft end support Windows 8 Internet Explorer 8 9 10
ITworld/Stephen Sauer

This week's Patch Tuesday will be the final time the Windows 8 OS and Internet Explorer versions 8, 9, and 10 see any more fixes. Microsoft is again making the necessary decision to cut the cord and let the aging browsers go, and it has begun urging users to upgrade.

As always, the products will continue to work, they just won't be patched if a flaw or exploit is found. With this end-of-life patch, IE users will be given an upgrade notification informing them that the browser will no longer be supported and encouraging them to use the latest version. It's a similar ritual Microsoft had to go through with Windows XP two years ago.

And, as it turns out, there are still a fair number of users of the old IE versions – around 19.8%, according to NetMarketShare analytics. So why are the old browser versions hanging on? Two reasons, I suspect.

The first is global use. NetMarketShare measures worldwide use, and the fact is people in poorer and emerging countries aren't running Skylake-based systems with an SSD and Windows 10 like people in the U.S. and other mature economies. A lot of folks in these countries can't afford to upgrade and will use what they have until it dies.

The other reason is that many companies in the U.S. and elsewhere are simply slow to migrate. A Microsoft MVP told me of one major corporation that is targeting web apps for IE5. No, that's not a typo. Internet Explorer 5. And this isn't a company that's struggling for survival. It's a Fortune 50 company.

That's probably why Windows 8 continues to hang on when there is no good reason to stick with it. The change between Windows 8 and 8.1 was significant. Microsoft attempted to undo many of the features and changes in Windows 8 over previous versions that made consumers reject it. Ultimately, though, the damage was done and Microsoft gave up trying to put more lipstick on the pig.

NetMarketShare puts the Windows 8 global share at around 2.76%, vs. 10.3% for Windows 8.1. Steam Analytics, which covers U.S. consumers, puts the share at 2.03% and Windows 8.1 at 15.9%. I suspect that small percentage are business users who can't move due to app dependency.

And if you can upgrade but haven't, you really have no excuse. Windows 8.1 wasn't a fix for everything that ailed the disaster that was Windows 8, but it sure helped a lot. The update is done through the Windows Store in the operating system, not Windows Update. Microsoft provides in-depth instructions on how to make the migration.

Of course, you could always just upgrade to Windows 10. Microsoft sure wants you to. But if there is a reason you need to stick with the Windows 8 codebase, then 8.1 is a safer move.

What's kind of funny in all of this is that Microsoft still supports Vista, which is nearly 10 years old. It doesn't reach end of life until April 2017. Windows 8.1 has until 2018, Windows 7 will hit its end of life on January 2020, while Windows 8.1 reaches end-of-life on January 2023.

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