Understanding the Windows lifecycle policy (for all you IT Pros out there)

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Understanding the Windows lifecycle policy (for all you IT Pros out there)

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With so many customers relying on IE, it helps to get a solid grasp of the Windows Lifecycle Policy, which at first blush can appear to be a bit cryptic. Fortunately I think I can shed some light on Microsoft’s policy with these simple rules:

  1. We support the version of IE that shipped with an OS or Service Pack for as long as the OS or Service Pack is supported
  2. We support the latest standalone version of IE (that’d be IE 6 SP1) on every OS that’s still supported (unless superseded by a newer version of IE, like IE6 in XPSP2)
  3. As IE & OS Service Packs are released, the older Service Packs are slowly retired from support

Given these rules, you can break down our support policy like this:

  1. IE 6 for Windows XP SP2 is the version of IE supported on Windows XP SP2 (obviously). Similarly the version of IE shipping with Windows Server 2003 SP1 is called “IE 6 for Windows Server 2003 SP1”
  2. IE 6 SP1 is supported on every other OS currently supported: Windows Server 2003 Gold, Windows XP SP1, Windows 2000 (SP4 & SP3), Windows Millennium, Windows 98SE, and Windows 98
  3. IE 5.5 SP2 is still supported on Windows Millennium because Windows Millennium shipped “out of the box” with IE 5.5 installed
  4. IE 5.01 SP3 & SP4 are supported on Windows 2000 SP3 & SP4 respectively because Windows 2000 shipped “out of the box” with IE 5.01 installed
  5. Versions of IE prior to IE 5.01 are no longer supported (IE 5.0, IE 4.x, IE 3, etc.)

If you’re running Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, or Windows 2000, you’ll remain in support so long as you stay up to date with the latest Service Packs. There’s a grace period of 12 or 24 months when a new service pack is released before older service packs are retired. Windows Server 2003 + the latest Service Packs will be in mainstream support through 2008 and in extended support until 2013. Windows XP + the latest Service Packs will be in mainstream support through 2006 and in extended support until 2011. Windows 2000 + the latest Service Packs will be in mainstream support through June 30th of this year and then move into extended support through June 30th of 2010. Please see the lifecycle site for more details about what it means to be in mainstream vs. extended support.

While we still support older versions of IE like IE 5.5 SP2 and IE 5.01 SP4 for the sake of our corporate customers who remain on those platforms, we continue to strongly suggest that all users upgrade to IE 6 SP1, Windows XP SP2, or Windows Server 2003 (+SP1 when it’s released) for the most secure versions of IE.

In the next few months, as we share more information about IE 7, I will blog a bit about IE 7 & the lifecycle policy for it as well.

Until next time!
-Christopher

EDIT: Fixed the Windows 2000 information to accurately reflect that it moves to extended support after June 30th of this year, not EOY.

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