Last month, we covered news that Microsoft had introduced a KB update that would break Windows Update when running on Kaby Lake or Ryzen hardware from AMD. What was less clear is when the company would actually switch that capability on. Now we know — they did it yesterday.
Ars Technica reports that as of now, Microsoft detects Ryzen or Kaby Lake CPUs running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 and returns the following message:
Your PC uses a processor that is designed for the latest version of Windows. Because the processor is not supported together with the Windows version that you are currently using, your system will miss important security updates. Please select the “Learn More” link to address the situation.
This isn’t even the first time we’ve seen a Microsoft OS fail to run on modern hardware because modern chips are faster than the OS expects, or have capabilities the OS doesn’t know how to drive. That said, there are two things that set this situation apart from any other. First, Microsoft is deliberately killing Windows compatibility by enforcing a software lockout, as opposed to an old OS simply not working properly on new hardware because it was never updated to do so. Second, instead of throwing the problem off on hardware OEMs and driver authors to fix (for example, leaving it up to a hardware vendor to decide whether to support USB 3.0 in Windows 7, or to build NVMe drivers for that operating system), MS is short-circuiting support altogether.
Any company that builds software eventually has to decide when it makes sense to stop supporting certain versions. This isn’t unique to Windows — Apple, Linux distros, and Android all contain their own methods of dealing with support, typically by only offering it for a limited time. But that’s not really what Microsoft is doing here. Windows 7 is still supposed to be receiving security patches through 2020, while Windows 8.1 is still in mainstream support through January 9, 2018: