Microsoft Support Lifecycle Policy FAQ

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NOTE: This FAQ was updated on November 10, 2014, consolidating multiple FAQs, grouping questions into topics, and simplifying some of the language used for clarity.

General Questions

1. What is the Support Lifecycle policy?

Microsoft provides an industry-leading Support Lifecycle policy—in length and provision—giving customers consistent, transparent, and predictable timelines for which software is supported.

The Microsoft Support Lifecycle (MSL) policy standardizes Microsoft product support policies for Business, Developer, and Desktop Operating System Software Products; Consumer Software and Multimedia Software Products; Hardware; and Online Services. The Support Lifecycle policy was originally announced on October 15, 2002. A Support Lifecycle policy update went into effect June 1, 2004. The Support Lifecycle policy update applies to most Business and Developer software products that were in Mainstream support on June 1, 2004, and to product versions released after that date. The new Support Lifecycle policy provides:

Business, Developer, and Desktop Operating System Software Products

Microsoft will offer a minimum of 10 years of support for Business, Developer, and Desktop Operating System (consumer or business) Software Products. Mainstream Support for Business, Developer, and Desktop Operating Systems will be provided for 5 years or for 2 years after the successor product (N+1) is released, whichever is longer. Microsoft will also provide Extended Support for the 5 years following Mainstream support or for 2 years after the second successor product (N+2) is released, whichever is longer. Finally, most Business, Developer, and Desktop Operating System Software products will receive at least 10 years of online self-help support.

Consumer Software and Multimedia Software Products

Microsoft will offer Mainstream Support for either a minimum of 5 years from the date of a product’s general availability, or for 2 years after the successor product (N+1) is released, whichever is longer. Extended Support is not offered for Consumer software and Multimedia products with the exception of Windows Desktop Operating system which follows the Business, Developer, and Desktop Operating System Software Products policy as outlined above.

Microsoft Xbox games are currently not included in the Support Lifecycle policy.

To find the support timelines for your product, search the Support Lifecycle Product Database.

Note: Previous versions of this FAQ discussed the Support Lifecycle policy for annual release products for which 3 years of Mainstream Support applied, such as Streets and Trips 2013. As of the FAQ update in November 2014, all software leveraging this policy has been discontinued. The policy remains intact and the products governed by the policy continue to receive support for the duration previously defined.

Consumer Hardware Products

As of October 26, 2012, Microsoft offers a minimum of 4 years of Support for Consumer Hardware products from the release date of the products general availability. Microsoft does not offer Extended Support for its Consumer Hardware products. Hardware products released prior to October 26, 2012 will not adhere to this new policy but rather defer to the originally stated Support Lifecycle timeline unless otherwise noted.

Online Services

Microsoft will provide a minimum of 12 months prior notification before customers must accept any change that is deemed a “disruptive change.” For CRM Online, Microsoft will provide customers a 6 month notification, except when removing support for an underlying system requirement, in which case, Microsoft will follow the standard 12-month notification policy.

2. Is this policy applicable globally?

The Microsoft Support Lifecycle (MSL) policy is a worldwide policy. However, Microsoft understands that local laws, market conditions, and support requirements differ around the world and differ by industry sector. For Business, Developer, and Desktop Operating System software, Microsoft may offer custom support relationships that go beyond the Extended Support phase. These custom support relationships may include assisted support and security updates, and may extend beyond 10 years from the date a product becomes generally available. Customers and partners can contact their account team or their local Microsoft representative for more information.

3. Why was the Support Lifecycle policy defined?

Customers have asked Microsoft to be consistent and predictable. The Support Lifecycle policy establishes a clear and predictable policy for product support timelines. The policy helps customers and partners manage their support requirements. The policy also allows both product planning and information technology planning in organizations based on knowledge of the support timelines for Microsoft products.

4. How was the Support Lifecycle policy developed?

Microsoft worked closely with Microsoft product teams, customers, partners, leading analysts, and research firms to determine clear and consistent policies.

5. If I have multiple Microsoft products do they all share the same support lifecycle timelines?

Each product has its support lifecycle timeline defined per the Microsoft Support Lifecycle policy and is consistent by product family for new and future versions. However, older versions of Microsoft products may have different lifecycle timelines. Therefore, it is important to verify the exact product support dates for your product. To find the support timelines for your product, search the Support Lifecycle Product Database.

6. What is the difference between Mainstream Support, Extended Support, and Self-help Online Support for software products?

 
Type of supportMainstream support phaseExtended support phase Self-help online support
Request to change product design and featuresAvailableNot availableAccess to freely available online content, such as Knowledge Base articles, online product information, and online support WebCasts
Security updates Available Available
Non-security update supportAvailableOnly available with Extended Hotfix Support
Complimentary support1 included with license, licensing program2 or other no-charge support programs Available Not available3
Paid-support (including pay-per-incident Premier and Essential Support) AvailableAvailable
Product-specific information that is available by using the online Microsoft Knowledge Base or Support site at Microsoft Help and Support to find answers to technical questions AvailableAvailable
Hardware warranty claims Available 
available imageAvailablenot available imageNot availableonly available with hotfix imageOnly available with Extended Hotfix Support through Premier Support.
Not available for Desktop Operating System consumer products.
*Please Note: Microsoft’s Support Lifecycle Policy does not apply to all products. To see the specific support start and end dates by applicable product, you can search the Support Lifecycle Product Database.

1 Refers to phone support and online support options.
2 For example, support incidents acquired through the Software Assurance program for server products.
3 Limited complimentary support may be available (varies by product).

7. What products does the Support Lifecycle policy cover and when did they go into effect?

The Support Lifecycle policy went into effect October 15, 2002, with a major revision on June 1, 2004. This policy revision covers most products that were available through retail purchase or volume licensing as of June 1, 2004, and most future products versions. For information about end-of-support timelines and Extended Support options for all products, review the Microsoft Support Lifecycle page.

In January 2011, Microsoft established the Online Services Support Lifecycle Policy. In October 2012, Microsoft instituted a Consumer Hardware Support Lifecycle Policy.

* Extended Support is not offered for Consumer Software, Consumer Hardware, Multimedia products, or Microsoft Online Services.

8. Who can receive support in the Extended Support phase?

Extended Support will be available to all customers*. Extended Support includes paid technical assistance** (technical assistance that is charged on an hourly basis or per incident), security updates at no additional cost, and paid non-security updates. To receive non-security updates, Extended Hotfix Support must be purchased in conjunction with or addition to Premier Support, obtained within the first 90 days following the end of the Mainstream Support phase. (The 90-day requirement is waived if Software Assurance or Dynamics Business Ready Enhancement Plan has been purchased for the product in question.) Microsoft will not accept requests for warranty support, design changes, or new features during the Extended Support phase.

* Extended Support is not offered for Consumer Software (excluding Desktop Operating Systems), Consumer Hardware, Multimedia products, or Microsoft Online Services.

** Limited complimentary support may be available (varies by product).

9. For Business, Developer, and Desktop Operating System software, will Microsoft offer support beyond the Extended Support phase?

Microsoft understands that local laws, market conditions, and support requirements differ around the world and differ by industry sector. Therefore, Microsoft may offer custom support relationships that go beyond the Extended Support phase. These custom support relationships may include assisted support and non-security updates, and may extend beyond 10 years from the date a product becomes generally available. Customers and partners can contact their account team or their local Microsoft representative for more information.

10. How can customers and partners estimate the support lifecycle for products that are not yet available or that are still in the Mainstream Support phase?

The Support Lifecycle policy is designed to help take the guesswork out of the length of time Microsoft provides support for a product. For Business, Developer, and Desktop Operating System software, Microsoft provides a minimum of 10 years of support. The lifecycle combines a 5 years of Mainstream Support or 2 years after the successor product (N+1) is released, whichever is longer, and 5 years Extended Support or 2 years after the second successor product (N+2) is released, whichever is longer. For Consumer Software and Multimedia products, Microsoft standardizes a minimum of 5 years of Mainstream Support or 2 years after the successor product (N+1) is released, whichever is longer. For Consumer Hardware, Microsoft provides 4 years of Mainstream Support. Extended Support is not offered for Consumer Software and Multimedia products, and Consumer Hardware. For information about end-of-support dates and any Extended support options (if applicable) for all products, search the Support Lifecycle Product Database.

Definitions

11. What does Microsoft mean by Major Product or Minor Product?

A Major Product frequently ships as a top level aggregation of a bill of materials (i.e. components and features) that is released to customers. Major Products generally receive a major version number and may be the parent of multiple minor products. Customers may obtain a Major Product through a variety of methods, including retail purchase, web download, and/or volume licensing. Typical examples of a Microsoft Major Product, defined by the Microsoft Support Lifecycle policy, include:

  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM
  • Microsoft Exchange Server
  • Microsoft Office
  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • Microsoft Windows

Minor products are an aggregation of a bill of materials (i.e. components and features), that is based on the code of a major product. Minor products bear names that can be easily identified and associated with the related major product. Customers may obtain them through Software Assurance, the Microsoft Business Solutions/Dynamics Enhancement maintenance program, or through another promotional plan.

An example of this would be Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2. The major product is Windows Server 2012, which has its own Support Lifecycle as a Business & Developer product. Windows Server 2012 R2 is a minor product, based on the Windows Server 2012 code base, and takes on the Support Lifecycle of the major release. This means that the minor product may receive a Support Lifecycle that is shorter than 10 years. In addition, both the major and minor releases will end support on the same day.

12. What is a component of a Microsoft product?

A component is defined as a set of files or features that is included with a Microsoft Major Product. Components may be shipped with the product, included in a product service pack or update, or released at a later date as a web download to the product.

13. How do I know which product or platform a component is associated with?

This information is generally specified in the Component's end-user license agreement (EULA).

14. What is a program add-on?

A program add-on is a utility or feature that aids in accomplishing a task or set of tasks.

15. What is a tool?

A tool is a utility or feature that aids in accomplishing a task or set of tasks.

Policy Questions

16. Is there a different Support Lifecycle policy for consumers and businesses for the Windows operating system?

All Desktop Operating System products, whether used for personal or business purposes, receive a minimum of 10 years of support (5 years of Mainstream Support or 2 years after the successor product (N+1) is released, whichever is longer, and 5 years Extended Support or 2 years after the second successor product (N+2) is released, whichever is longer) at the supported service pack level. Microsoft does not differentiate support between consumer and business versions of Desktop Operating System products.

17. How long do you provide security updates for your products?

Business, Developer, and Desktop Operating System Software Products

Security updates will be available through the duration of the product’s support lifecycle (5 years of Mainstream Support or 2 years after the successor product (N+1) is released, whichever is longer, and 5 years Extended Support or 2 years after the second successor product (N+2) is released, whichever is longer) at no additional cost for most products. Security updates will be posted on the Microsoft Update Web site during both the Mainstream and the Extended Support phase.

Consumer and Multimedia Software Products

Security updates will be available through the end of the Mainstream Support phase.

Consumer Hardware Products

Hardware security updates will be available through the end of the Mainstream Support phase. They are available for the software/firmware that is embedded into Microsoft hardware. Security updates for installable software, such as the operating system on Surface devices, are covered by the support lifecycle policy of the Operating System on the device.

18. What is the policy for service packs?

The Microsoft Support Lifecycle policy requires that the product’s supported service pack be installed to receive technical support and security updates.

Service Pack Support policy

  • When a new service pack is released, Microsoft will provide either 12 or 24 months of support for the previous service pack
  • Support for the previous service packs is either 12 or 24 months, varying according to the product family (for example, Windows, Office, Servers, or Developer tools)
  • Support timelines for service packs will remain consistent within the product family
  • Microsoft will publish specific support timelines for a previous service pack when the new service pack is released

When support for a service pack ends, Microsoft will no longer provide new security updates, non-security updates, or other updates for that service pack. Commercially reasonable support will continue to be available, as described below.

When support for a product ends, support of the service packs for that product will also end. The product’s support lifecycle supersedes the service pack support policy.

Customers are highly encouraged to stay on a supported service pack to ensure they are on the latest and most secure version of their product. For customers on unsupported service pack versions, Microsoft offers commercially reasonable support as follows:

  • Commercially reasonable support incidents will be provided through Microsoft Customer Service and Support, as well as through Microsoft’s managed support offerings (such as Premier Support).
  • There will be no option to engage Microsoft’s product development resources, and technical workarounds may be limited or not possible.
  • If the support incident requires escalation to development for further guidance, requires a non-security update, or requires a security update, customers will be asked to upgrade to a supported service pack.

A matrix of the Microsoft product families and the duration of service pack support for each product family is as follows:

Product Family12 Months24 Months
Windows Client and Servers Available
Dynamics Available
OfficeAvailable 
ServersAvailable 
Developer ToolsAvailable 
Consumer Software, Multimedia, and GamesAvailable 

For information about support for a product or for a service pack, search the Support Lifecycle Product Database.

19. Must I have the latest service pack installed to apply a security-related update or an update that is not security-related?

An update should only be installed on the service pack for which it was designed. Microsoft creates security updates for supported service packs whenever commercially reasonable and are available to all customers through the Microsoft Update Web site. You can request an update that is not security-related for service packs that are supported per the Service Pack Support Policy.

20. What is the Support Lifecycle policy for program add-ons?

Add-Ons are supported with the product they work with. Support can be terminated by providing a 12-month advance notice or per the lifecycle with the product they work with.

Please verify the exact product support dates as posted on the Support Lifecycle Product Database.

21. What is the Support Lifecycle policy for tools?

Tools are supported with the product they work with. Support can be terminated by providing a 12-month advance notice or per the lifecycle with the product they work with.

Please verify the exact product support dates as posted on the Support Lifecycle Product Database.

22. What is the Support Lifecycle for products or companies that Microsoft acquires?

Products that were released before the acquisition date may not be covered under the Support Lifecycle policy and may not be supported. In these cases, support will be subject to the terms of the individual acquisition. Microsoft will publish the end of support dates for each acquired product on the Support Lifecycle Web site, where applicable. For these listings, the Lifecycle Start Date is the acquisition support start date and the Mainstream Support Retired is the end of support date for the acquired product. Generally, the Microsoft Support Lifecycle policy applies to new software releases that are released under a Microsoft brand, following the acquisition.

23. What is the Support Lifecycle for minor releases of major products?

Minor releases follow the same Support Lifecycle as the major product release.

An example of this is Windows Server 2012 R2 which has the same Mainstream Support phase and Extended Support phase dates as the parent product, Windows Server 2012. Likewise, Dynamics AX 2012 R3 follows the same Support Lifecycle dates as the initial release of Dynamics AX 2012.

24. How is a component supported under Microsoft’s Support Lifecycle policy?

A component receives the same support as its parent product or platform. In other words, the support lifecycle of a parent product or platform drives support for a component—when a parent product or platform is in the Mainstream Support phase, or Extended Support phase, so is the component. When a parent product or platform reaches end of support, so does the component.

For example: If a component is licensed for Microsoft Windows, support ends for the component on the same date that support ends for Windows.

Note: Sometimes a component will receive security updates or feature enhancements that are independent of its parent product. We encourage customers to install component updates as they become available.

Technical Support Questions

25. How does the Support Lifecycle policy work with Premier Support?

In the Mainstream Support phase, product support benefits are available to all customers. In the Extended Support phase, security updates are provided to all customers and paid assisted support is available. Extended Hotfix Support is required request non-security updates for products in Extended Support. Premier Support is a prerequisite for Extended Hotfix Support enrollment. Customers with Premier Support can work with their support contact to determine the options that are available for their specific circumstances.

26. How can customers who do not have a Premier Support obtain Extended Hotfix Support for non-security updates?

Customers can contact their local Microsoft sales office. Visit the Microsoft Worldwide Web site, locate your country, and then click Go to obtain information about purchasing Extended Hotfix Support. Ask to speak with the local Premier Support sales manager.

27. Would Microsoft ever release non-security updates in the Extended Phase without Extended Hotfix Support?

Yes. Microsoft Support Lifecycle policy permits the creation and broad distribution of certain non-security updates during the Extended Support phase. For example, it may be necessary to provide a non-security update that enables continued connectivity and servicing through the Automatic Update or Windows Server Update Service.

28. Is the Extended Hotfix Support program required for customers to receive security updates?

No. If a security update is created, it will be made available to all customers through the standard security release process. The monthly security release occurs on the second Tuesday of the month.

29. How long will security updates be available?

Microsoft will provide security updates at no charge for most products as follows:

Business, Developer, and Desktop Operating System Software Products

Security updates are available on the Microsoft Update Web site to all customers until the end of the Extended Support phase at no additional cost for most products. Mainstream Support for Business and Developer products and Desktop Operating Systems will be provided for 5 years or for 2 years after the successor product (N+1) is released, whichever is longer. Microsoft will also provide Extended Support for the 5 years following Mainstream support or for 2 years after the second successor product (N+2) is released, whichever is longer. Security updates will apply only to the supported service packs for these products. Customers do not have to sign up for Extended Hotfix Support to receive security updates during the Extended Support phase. For more information about the support timeline for a specific product, search the Support Lifecycle Product Database.

Consumer Software, Consumer Hardware, and Multimedia Software Products

Security updates will be available through the end of the Mainstream Support phase to customers at no additional cost for most products. Security updates will apply only to the supported service packs for software products. For more information about the support timeline for a specific product, search the Support Lifecycle Product Database.

30. If I am running a Microsoft product that is currently supported under the Support Lifecycle policy, but my operating system is no longer supported, can I still receive support?

If the problem is specific to the Microsoft product and it is within the Support Lifecycle policy, Microsoft will provide support. If the problem is a result of the combination of the operating system and the Microsoft product, that particular problem will not be supported.

31. After the Microsoft assisted and paid support offerings have ended, what are my options if I want to continue to receive support?

Microsoft encourages all customers to remain current to ensure that they stay supported and can take advantage of innovations found in the latest products. Staying current also minimizes security risks, compliance risks, and frequently lowers the total cost of ownership.

Once a product transitions out of support, no further support will be provided for the product. This means that customers will not have access to:

  • Security updates or non-security hotfixes
  • Free or paid assisted support options
  • The option to engage Microsoft product development resources
  • Updates to online content (KB articles, etc.)

Online content may be available, if the product is still within the Online Self-Help Support phase.

Microsoft has created a Web site that lists the support options that are available for Microsoft products that no longer receive assisted support from Microsoft. For more information, visit the Retired Product Support Options Web site.

32. I do not need non-security updates, I need only phone support during the Extended Support phase. Must I have an Extended Hotfix Support contract?

No. Extended Hotfix Support is not necessary to obtain technical support for a product in the Extended Support phase.

33. How will the Support Lifecycle policy affect Personal Support (telephone and Web support options that are customized to meet the requirements of home users and home office customers)?

During the Mainstream Support phase, customer support options remain the same as they are today. Customers can check product lifecycle information by searching the Support Lifecycle Product Database. If Extended Support is available, customers can purchase either support or Extended Hotfix Support if they wish to request non-security updates.

Miscellaneous Questions

34. How long can I legally use Microsoft software after I have licensed it? Is the term of my software license affected by the Support Lifecycle policy?

The Support Lifecycle policy has no effect on how long you can use a product. The Support Lifecycle policy outlines how long Microsoft will provide technical support and security updates for products.

Microsoft encourages all customers to remain current to ensure that they stay supported and can take advantage of innovations found in the latest products. Staying current also minimizes security risks, compliance risks, and frequently lowers the total cost of ownership.

Once a product transitions out of support, no further support will be provided for the product. This means that customers will not have access to:

  • Security updates or non-security hotfixes
  • Free or paid assisted support options
  • The option to engage Microsoft product development resources
  • Updates to online content (KB articles, etc.)

Online content may be available, if the product is still within the Online Self-Help Support phase.

35. How does Microsoft manage software replacement parts, such as CDs and manuals, in support of the Lifecycle policy?

Microsoft manages replacement parts, such as CDs and manuals, by product version. Replacement parts will be available for the current version of the product and one earlier version (N-1).

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Last Review : November 25, 2014