That’s because on January 12th, Microsoft will no longer push out security updates for Windows 8, leaving those customers out in the cold. In Microsoft’s eyes, Windows 8.1 is a free and logical service pack for Windows 8, and mainstream support for that operating system will last until January 9th, 2018, while extended support (when the security update gravy train ceases) doesn’t end until January 10th, 2023. And for those keeping score, extended support for Windows Vista,Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 ends in April 2017, January 2020, January 2023 and October 2025 respectively.
Microsoft explains its reasoning in this support document:
Unlike service packs that are typically just a collection of fixes, Windows 8.1 has new features and enhancements. We designed Windows 8.1 to give customers an ability to deploy this update in a manner that is similar to how customers deploy service packs, therefore we are applying the existing service pack support policy to Windows 8.1.
We can’t say that we fault Microsoft for taking this approach. Unlike Windows 10, which represents a pretty big overhaul of Microsoft’s premier consumer operating system platform, there’s really no reason for Windows 8 users to shun Windows 8.1 at this point. For Windows 8 users that are now panicking at the prospect of losing out on security updates, there’s a simple solution. While Windows 8 cannot be ugraded to Windows 8.1 via Windows Update, you can make a quick jaunt over to the Windows Store to download the free upgrade.
Microsoft would probably just prefer that you upgrade to Windows 10
However, we’re almost positive that Microsoft would prefer that Windows 8 users skip Windows 8.1 altogether and head straight for Windows 10, which is available as a free upgrade. Microsoft has faced a lot of controversy for its update shenanigans and certain privacy policies with Windows 10, but it’s definitely a more fleshed out operating system than Windows 8.
And if you’re not careful, you might find yourself unknowingly upgrading to Windows 10 anyway if you don’t pay close attention to Windows Updates in the coming months.