Prior to the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft had a relatively simple update process. For the first five years of the OS’ lifespan, it received both security and feature updates. After this period ended, the OS still received security updates for another five years. (Windows 8.0 was an exception to this process, as part of Microsoft’s plan to move people to Windows 8.1). Windows 10 changed this policy significantly, offering updates for an unspecified period of time — back in 2015, Terry Myerson stated that Windows 10 updates would be offered “for the supported lifetime of the device.” Now we know what it looks like when devices exit that period of time, and it’s not pretty.
Owners of Clover Trail-based Atom 2-in-1s (and possibly a few laptops or netbooks) are being hit with the following error when they try to install the Windows 10 Creators Update: “Windows 10 is no longer supported on this PC. Uninstall this app now because it isn’t compatible with Windows 10.”
Clover Trail systems were sold from 2012 to 2015, typically with Windows 8.0 or 8.1 installed. Under the 5+5 update system, a Clover Trail owner who stayed with Windows 8.1 would receive feature updates through 2018 and security updates through 2023. Under the new Windows-as-a-service model, Microsoft only supports previous versions of its operating system for 18 months. Clover Trail got the previous Anniversary Update (1607), but can’t install the Creators Update (1703).
Microsoft has pledged to continue offering security fixes for Clover Trail devices that upgraded to Windows 10 through 2023, according to The Verge, but that these products will receive no new features or non-security updates.
When Terry Myerson first made his claim about updating for the supported lifetime of the device, it confused rather than clarified the situation. Microsoft later issued an updated statement that included 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.”
According to ZDNet’s Ed Bott, there’s some evidence that this is a GPU driver issue. Intel used PowerVR Series 5XT drivers for Clover Trail and Clover Trail+, and apparently either Intel or Imagination Technologies (or both) aren’t planning to update them any time soon. A support note from Acer indicated it was working with Microsoft to add compatibility for these chips, but The Verge appears to have dumped cold water all over that claim.
Where does this leave Clover Trail, Other Atom Devices?
Clover Trail owners will be limited to version 1607 (Anniversary Update) of Windows 10. (If you own an Atom, you can check to see if it’s a Clover Trail CPU here.) Microsoft will still provide security updates through January 2023, meaning no users will be dumped off the bandwagon early, at least as far as security is concerned.
What’s less clear is how Microsoft will handle this issue with other SoCs. Bay Trail devices began shipping in 2013 and mostly ran Windows 8.1 as well. Merrifield and Moorefield both launched prior to Windows 10 and also used PowerVR for graphics (G6430 in this case). Bay Trail used Ivy Bridge-class graphics, but one of Microsoft’s stated reasons for killing product support for Clover Trail was that the devices were no longer supported by Intel. As you can see below, some Bay Trail devices have already hit the same “End of Interactive Support” problem.
There’s a simple way for Microsoft to cut through the murk and clarify this solution: Promise to provide security updates to all devices that upgraded from Windows 8.1 through 2023, even if feature updates stop earlier. This would cover other lower-end products from AMD and Intel that might otherwise wind up orphaned.
Given how hard Microsoft pushed people to upgrade, and how willing it was to engage in malware-like tactics (as admitted by its own executives) to get its OS on people’s hardware, it’s the least the company can do. And if MS can’t tell the difference between consumers that upgraded from Windows 7 and those that upgraded from Windows 8.1, well, treat them the same way. It’s not like there’s necessarily some huge hardware differential between Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1 systems, and Windows 7 was more popular than Windows 8/8.1 through the entirety of the latter’s life cycle. The smart move here is to support the customers that fall into this trap through no fault of their own.
Now read: Windows 10: The Best Hidden Features, Tips, and Tricks