When Microsoft announced that Windows 10 would be available as a free upgrade to Windows 7 and 8 computers, millions of people took them up on the offer (some involuntarily). The upgrade was meant to jump start adoption of the new OS, and was intended to provide a way for older PCs to take advantage of a more powerful, versatile and secure operating system without having to go through a major hardware investment to do so. As many found out, the upgrade process wasn’t always the smoothest, but once your computer and you finally arrived on the proper side of Windows 10, the new OS actually performed surprisingly well on older hardware, something that couldn’t be said of previous Windows upgrades.
Unfortunately, older PCs are already being abandoned by Microsoft’s forced updates
Flash forward to present day, after the gamut of upgrade experiences, and after the most troublesome upgrades have turned the corner as productive computers, many users are finding that Microsoft’s forced updates are no longer available for certain hardware configurations or even rendering parts of their computers unusable.
As always, the fine print is where we “get got”: When the free Windows 10 upgrade was first announced we were told that Windows would be kept up to date “for the supported lifetime of the device at no additional charge.” Just prior to the actual Windows 10 launch date, Microsoft clarified this stance with the following:
A device may not be able to receive updates if the device hardware is incompatible, lacking current drivers, or otherwise outside of the Original Equipment Manufacturer’s (“OEM”) support period. (emphasis mine)
What most people still fail to realize that on top of the Windows operating system being updated by Microsoft, there are typically a whole host of drivers that your computer manufacturer provides for the various bits of hardware that comprise your particular computer model. In the past, the manufacturer would launch a particular model line as “certified” for a particular version of Windows, allowing them to also build and maintain a set of hardware drivers that were designed for a specific OS. As Microsoft marches forward, the hardware manufacturers are forced with the choice of spending resources to patch (or even rewrite) drivers to keep up with Windows on their older hardware, or focus those resources on putting out new drivers on new hardware. It shouldn’t take much thought to see why both Microsoft and your PC’s manufacturer are leaving your old PC behind.
Sadly, you are now forced to make a choice. Roll-back (if you can, and some of my clients can’t) the update that killed your PC, and then figure out how to avoid the forced updates pushed out by Microsoft (inadvisable in the long run due to security risks), or cough-up for a new Windows 10 PC. While the first choice may save you some money in the short-run, you will eventually have to succumb to Microsoft’s update cadence, and unless your PC’s manufacturer takes the unlikely approach to releasing working drivers for your old hardware, it will be time to go computer shopping once again.