Support for Windows Vista coming to an end
Microsoft determines the support lifecycle of each of its products from the day that they are released: all products intended for private use are given five years of "mainstream support", while products designed for enterprise use receive an additional five years of "extended support"; in practice, a product's support lifecycle is always a few days or weeks longer. During the second phase, the only patches Microsoft will provide free of charge (at its download centre and via the Windows update function) are those which the it considers to be security related.
From 10 April, 2012, the Home editions of Windows Vista will no longer be supported. The Business and Enterprise editions of Vista with their comparatively wider range of features will be supported until 2017. However, Vista Ultimate, which has the widest range of features, is counted as a Home edition, and Microsoft's support for this edition will also end in April 2012.
Irrespective of this, another support period will end before then, as Microsoft will only continue to support Windows Vista if the current Service Pack has been installed; this applies to all editions from Starter to Ultimate. When a new Service Pack for Windows is released, users have two years to install it, as the support of the previous Service Pack is discontinued after that time. And that is what is about to happen to Vista with SP1: from 12 July, patches will only be released for versions of Vista that have SP2 installed.
After April 2012, affected Vista users can either switch to Windows 7 – Windows 8 will probably not be ready yet – or to Windows XP. Contrary to Microsoft's rules, all versions of XP, including XP Home, will be supported until at least 2014.