Microsoft Support Lifecycle Policy FAQ

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1. What is the Support Lifecycle policy?

The Microsoft Support Lifecycle (MSL) policy standardizes Microsoft product support policies for Business and Developer products, and for Consumer, Hardware, and Multimedia products. 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 products that were in Mainstream support on June 1, 2004, and to future product versions. The new Support Lifecycle policy provides:

Business and Developer products

Microsoft will offer a minimum of 10 years of support for Business and Developer products. Mainstream Support for Business and Developer products 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 and Developer products will receive at least 10 years of online self-help support.

Consumer and Multimedia 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 and Multimedia products. Products that release new versions annually, such as Microsoft Streets & Trips, will receive a minimum of 3 years of Mainstream Support from the product's date of availability. Most products will also receive at least 8 years of online self-help support. Microsoft Xbox games are currently not included in the Support Lifecycle policy.

To find the support timelines for your product, visit the Select a Product for Lifecycle Information site (products listed by Product Family) or the Support Lifecycle Index site.

Consumer Hardware products

As of October 26, 2012, Microsoft will offer 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. Does this policy affect U.S. customers only, or is this policy global?

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. Therefore, Microsoft offers custom support relationships that go beyond the Extended Support phase. These custom support relationships may include assisted support and hotfix support, and may extend beyond 10 years from the date a product becomes generally available. Strategic Microsoft partners may also offer support beyond the Extended Support phase. Customers and partners can contact their account team or their local Microsoft representative for more information.

3. What is the difference between Mainstream Support, Extended Support, and online self-help support for software products?

Support provided

Mainstream Support phase

Extended Support phase

Paid support (per-incident, per hour, and others)

X

X

Security update support

X

X

Non-security hotfix support

X

Requires extended hotfix agreement, purchased within 90 days of mainstream support ending.

No-charge incident support

X

Warranty claims

X

Design changes and feature requests

X

Product-specific information that is available by using the online Microsoft Knowledge Base

X

X

Product-specific information that is available by using the Support site at Microsoft Help and Support to find answers to technical questions

X

X

Note A hotfix is a modification to the commercially available Microsoft product software code to address specific critical problems.

4. 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 offers custom support relationships that go beyond the Extended Support phase. These custom support relationships may include assisted support and hotfix support, and may extend beyond 10 years from the date a product becomes generally available. Strategic Microsoft partners may also offer support beyond the Extended Support phase. Customers and partners can contact their account team or their local Microsoft representative for more information.

5. If my program is currently supported under the Support Lifecycle policy, but my operating system is no longer supported, can I still receive support for the program?

If the problem is specific to the program, Microsoft will provide support. If the problem is a result of the combination of the operating system and the program, that particular problem will not be supported.

6. Why are you defining the Support Lifecycle policy?

Customers have asked Microsoft to be consistent and to demonstrate predictability. 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.

7. How was the Support Lifecycle policy developed?

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

8. 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, visit the Select a Product for Lifecycle Information site (products listed by Product Family) or the Support Lifecycle Index site.

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

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

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

The Microsoft Support Lifecycle timelines are consistent by product family for new and future versions of its products. 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 do this, visit the Select a Product for Lifecycle Information site (products listed by Product Family) or the Support Lifecycle Index site.

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

Extended Support will be available to all customers*. Extended Support includes paid support (support that is charged on an hourly basis or per incident), security update support at no additional cost, and paid hotfix support. To receive hotfix support, an Extended Hotfix Support contract must be purchased 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, Consumer Hardware, Multimedia products or Microsoft Online Services.

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

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.

12. How does the Support Lifecycle policy work with Premier Support agreements?

In the Mainstream Support phase, product support benefits are available to all customers. In the Extended Support phase, paid assisted support and security update support is provided. An Extended Hotfix Support contract is required to receive the ability to request non-security hotfixes for products in extended support. Premier Support is a prerequisite for Extended Hotfix support enrollment. Customers with existing Premier support contracts can work with their technical account manager (TAM) to determine the options that are available for their specific circumstances.

13. How can customers who do not have a Premier agreement obtain an Extended Hotfix Support contract for hotfixes?

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 an Extended Hotfix Support contract. Ask to speak with the local Premier Support sales manager.

14. I do not need hotfix support, I need only phone support during the Extended Support phase. Must I have an Extended Hotfix Support contract?

No. You can purchase telephone support during the Extended Support phase as required.

15. 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 at the Select a Product for Lifecycle Information site (products listed by Product Family) or the Support Lifecycle Index site for their product’s Extended Support options. If Extended Support is available, customers can purchase either phone-only support or an Extended Hotfix Support contract for hotfix support.

16. What is the Security Update policy?

Business and Development software

Security updates will be available through the end of the Extended Support phase (five years of Mainstream Support plus five years of the Extended Support) 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 products

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

Consumer Hardware products

Security updates will be available through the end of the Mainstream Support phase. They are available for the software/firmware and Operating System that is embedded into Microsoft hardware with the exception of Surface devices. Security updates for Surface devices are covered by the support lifecycle policy of the Operating System on the device.

17. 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 monthly security release cycle. The regular security update release is on the second Tuesday of the month.

18. What is the policy for service packs?

The Microsoft Support Lifecycle policy requires that the product’s supported service pack be installed to continue to receive support (including security updates).

Note new Service Pack Lifecycle Support Policy effective April 13, 2010: http://support.microsoft.com/gp/newSPlifecycle

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, hotfixes or other updates for that service pack. Limited break/fix troubleshooting 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 limited troubleshooting support as follows:

  1. Limited break/fix support incidents will be provided through Microsoft Customer Service and Support; and through Microsoft’s managed support offerings (such as Premier Support).
  2. There will be no option to engage Microsoft’s product development resources, and technical workarounds may be limited or not possible.
  3. If the support incident requires escalation to development for further guidance, requires a hotfix, or requires a security update, customers will be asked to upgrade to a supported service pack.
  4. A matrix of the Microsoft product families and the duration of service pack support for each product family is as follows:

    Product Family

    12 Months

    24 Months

    Windows

    Yes

    Office

    Yes

    Servers

    Yes

    Developer Tools

    Yes

    Dynamics

    Yes

    Consumer, Multimedia, Games

    Yes

For information about support for a product or for a service pack, visit the Select a Product for Lifecycle Information site (products listed by Product Family) or the Support Lifecycle Index site.

19. 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 for products.

20. 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 and Developer products, Microsoft standardizes a minimum of 10 years of support. The lifecycle combines 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 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. Products that release new versions annually will receive 3 years of Mainstream Support. Extended Support is not offered for Consumer and Multimedia products, and for products that release new versions annually. For information about end-of-support dates and any Extended support options (if applicable) for all products, visit the Select a Product for Lifecycle Information site (products listed by Product Family) or the Support Lifecycle Index site.

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

You must install a hotfix on the service pack for which the hotfix was designed. Microsoft creates security updates for supported service packs whenever commercially viable, and are available to all customers through the Microsoft Security Web site. You can request a hotfix that is not security-related for either the current service pack or for the previous service pack (if it is still supported).

22. How long will security updates be available?

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

  • Business and Development Software

    Security updates are available on the Windows Update Web site to all customers until the end of the Extended Support phase at no additional cost for most products. That phase consists of five years of Mainstream Support plus five years of Extended Support. Security updates will apply only to the supported service packs for these products. Customers do not have to sign up for an Extended Support contract to receive security updates during the Extended Support phase. For more information about the support timeline for a specific product, visit the Select a Product for Lifecycle Information site (products listed by Product Family) or the Support Lifecycle Index site.

  • Consumer, Consumer Hardware, and Multimedia 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, visit the Select a Product for Lifecycle Information site (products listed by Product Family) or the Support Lifecycle Index site.

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

When you request support for add-ons to products that have reached the end of their lifecycle, support for the add-on will not generally be available unless you have a custom support agreement in place. Therefore, make sure to verify the exact product support dates as posted on the Select a Product for Lifecycle Information site (products listed by Product Family) or the Support Lifecycle Index site.

24. How does Microsoft manage 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).

25. 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 acquisition 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.

26. What is the Support Lifecycle for FAST products?

The FAST Support Lifecycle policy provides FAST customers with guidelines for product support availability. Mainstream and Extended Support for FAST products are modeled after Microsoft’s Support Lifecycle Policy, but have been modified specifically to better serve FAST customers. Mainstream and Extended Support are available to customers with a current FAST Maintenance and Support contract.

Mainstream Support includes technical support during business hours by phone or e-mail; access to 24x7 support for Premium customers; access to the self-service portal with knowledge base, product documentation and ticket tracking; downloads of major versions; and software updates including security fixes, patches and services packs.

Extended Support provides all of the same options as Mainstream Support; however, software updates include security fixes only. No software updates in form of patches or service packs will be released for products in Extended Support. FAST will not accept requests for design changes or new features during the Extended Support phase.

27. 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.

Last Review : May 21, 2014