Microsoft plan to force PCs with newer processors to Windows 10 backfires

A faulty detection mechanism also snagged some 6th gen AMD Carrizo PCs and locked them out of future Windows Updates

Microsoft plan to force PCs with newer processors to Windows 10 misfires
Credit: Thinkstock

Microsoft is working on a fix after Tuesday’s Windows 7 and 8.1 security updates misfired on some users, forcibly locking them out of future Windows updates.

Microsoft has acknowledged that the updates’ detection mechanism, intended to force users with newer 7th generation processor chips to move to Windows 10, also caught people with 6th generation AMD Carrizo DDR 4 PCs, which were explicitly allowed under terms of Microsoft’s Lifecycle Policy FAQ. Microsoft admitted erroneously blocking Windows Update on four different Tuesday patches: KB 4015549 (the Win7 Monthly Rollup), KB 4015546 (the Win7 Security-Only patch), KB 4015550 (the Win8.1 Monthly Rollup), and KB 4015547 (the Win8.1 Security-Only patch).

There’s a report from an anonymous Intel Celeron owner whose Celeron Dual-Core T3000 computer was shut out of future updates as well. Few Windows fans realize that the Celeron 3965U chip is designated 7th generation, and thus is targeted by the detection mechanism.

There’s currently no known way to roll back the bad patch or to unlock Windows Update.

Late last month users got a  preview look at the April Monthly Rollup. As I reported at the time, a few testers—including AskWoody Lounger dave1977nj—tried installing that Rollup Preview on their newer-generation PCs and received an Unsupported hardware message, and were blocked from using Windows Update.

unsupported hardwareIDG
windows could not search for updatesIDG

While the rollup preview gave users some warning that the April Monthly Rollup would lock out some PCs, there was no advance warning that this month’s security-only patches (manually installed patches that I recommend for “Group B” users who don’t want the new Win7/8.1 telemetry) would be similarly screened.

It would have been nice if Microsoft had provided prior notification that installing the patches could permanently prevent users from running Windows Update, or had supplied a utility to scan PCs and give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on their prospects for future Windows Update runs.

This current mess has a long history. Intel released its 6th generation Skylake processor in August 2015. On Jan. 15, 2016, Windows honcho Terry Myerson declared that Microsoft would not support Windows 7 or 8.1 on Skylake PCs. If you bought a new Intel-based PC, he said, you had to run Windows 10.

That move was met with so much incredulity that Microsoft published a retraction three days later, declaring that Win 7 and 8.1 would be supported on specific Skylake-based computers, but only until July 17, 2017. After more uproar ensued, Microsoft threw in the towel.

The latest version of Microsoft’s termination notice, dated Aug. 16, 2016, says:

  • 6th Gen Intel Core devices on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 will be supported with all applicable security updates until the end of support for Windows 7 (Jan. 14, 2020) and Windows 8.1 (Jan. 10, 2023)…
  • Future silicon platforms including Intel’s upcoming 7th Gen Intel Core (Kaby Lake) processor family and AMD’s 7th generation processors (e.g. Bristol Ridge) will only be supported on Windows 10, and all future silicon releases will require the latest release of Windows 10.

That statement was augmented by Microsoft’s Lifecycle Policy FAQ, published last month, which says:

As new silicon generations are introduced, they will require the latest Windows platform at that time for support. This enables us to focus on deep integration between Windows and the silicon, while maintaining maximum reliability and compatibility with previous generations of platform and silicon. For example, Windows 10 will be the only supported Windows platform on Intel’s upcoming “Kaby lake” silicon, Qualcomm’s upcoming “8996” silicon, and AMD’s upcoming “Bristol Ridge” silicon.

Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 will continue to be supported for security, reliability, and compatibility on prior generations of processors and chipsets under the standard lifecycle for Windows. This includes most devices available for purchase today by consumers or enterprises and includes generations of silicon such as AMD’s Carrizo [emphasis added] and Intel’s Broadwell and Haswell silicon generations.

New Skylake devices on the supported list will also be supported with all applicable security updates for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 through the end of support dates. During the support period, these systems should be upgraded to Windows 10 to continue receiving support after the period ends. Be aware that all support for Windows 7 ends on January 14, 2020 for all devices and support will end for Windows 8.1 on January 10, 2023.

It will be interesting to see how Microsoft extricates itself from this mess. As for those who say Microsoft’s 7th-gen hardware policy reeks of desperation to push users to Win10, judge for yourself.

Did you get bit? Discussion continues on the AskWoody Lounge.