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When is Windows 10 end of life? How to extend support

Windows 10 end of support is a critical date for administrators to know about. While the simplest option is to move to Windows 11, organizations can extend support for Windows 10.

The official end-of-support date for Windows 10 is an important milestone for organizations that manage Windows 10 endpoints, but it is not necessarily the end of the OS.

There are several ways that organizations can extend support for Windows 10 desktops beyond the end of support, though they each come with added complexity. Whether IT departments plan to migrate to Windows 11 or extend their usage of Windows 10, they need a concrete plan on how to handle the official end-of-support date.

When is Windows 10 end of support?

The official end of service -- also known as end of life -- for the Windows 10 operating system is October 14, 2025.

If an IT department manages devices that will not migrate to Windows 11 by the end of service (EOS) date, it should look into the extended support update (ESU) service to provide security updates after the EOS date. Organizations should already be in the process of making these decisions, as they may need to purchase the ESU subscription by October 14, 2024, depending on the type of license they need.

To complicate things further, the increased hardware requirements of Windows 11 may prevent some laptops and desktops from even running the system. So, organizations may have to choose between retiring devices early and purchasing ESU licenses for the devices until they are due for replacement.

What do organizations get with an ESU subscription?

IT managers and staff must understand what the ESU subscription is, how it is obtained and installed, and what it includes and does not include.

To begin, it is available for all editions of Windows 10. However, there are some prerequisites to get ESU. The organization needs a Microsoft support plan in place on the existing hardware. Any devices must run Windows 10 v22H2 or later and in most cases the ESU must be in place one year before the EOS date. Additionally, organizations should be prepared for cost increases over time as Microsoft may update its terms.

The ESU will not provide business-as-usual update support that is present during Microsoft's support lifecycle. It does, however, include the following:

  • Security updates.
  • Subscription service access.
  • Three years support maximum.

The pricing can vary significantly from environment to environment, so IT administrators should be sure to budget out the cost of maintaining Windows desktops via ESU.

What is not included with ESU are new features, customer requested non-security updates and design change requests. This supports Microsoft's goal of making ESU a temporary fix and providing only necessary security updates to keep the devices safe and technically functional.

Pricing options for Windows 10 ESU

There are several pricing options for the ESU program that organizations should consider. It will benefit the organization to move to Windows 11 as soon as possible on as many devices as possible to reduce this additional cost for ESU subscriptions. It will be easier and more economical to get as many devices as possible to Windows 11 prior to October 14, 2025.

While the full pricing info isn't finalized at this point, Microsoft has stated that it will be officially announced closer to one year prior to the EOS date. With that said, Microsoft has announced that the pricing for year one will be $61 per device.

There are some pricing details that are known. Here are a few key pricing notes that will help:

  • ESU licenses are included with Windows 365 subscription for users that use the cloud PC.
  • There are no minimum purchase requirements for Windows 10 ESU.
  • Purchase is available in 12-month periods only. For example, a six-month license is not available.
  • ESU is available in Volume Licensing 12 months before the EOS date. This must be in place by October 14, 2024.
  • The cloud-based ESU activation license is available at a discounted cost of $45 per user for up to five devices for year one.
  • ESU pricing for Microsoft Education customers is as follows:
    • $1 per license for year one.
    • $2 per license for year two.
    • $4 per license for year three.

Organizations can't skip out on ESU for year one and then rejoin the program for year two -- so executives and IT leaders will need to decide early and adjust their device management strategy accordingly.

3 ways to set up ESU for Windows 10

Organizations will need to select their approach for receiving ESU on their desktops depending on how those desktops are managed.

1. The 5-by-5 activation method

Purchase activation keys that IT can apply to individual Windows 10 devices. Management options for this method include scripting, the Volume Activation Management Tool and Windows Server Update Services with Configuration Manager.

2. Windows 365 subscription

Windows 365 subscriptions currently include free access to the ESU program for all linked accounts. All Windows 365 deployments can run Windows 10 as long as ESU is still active.

3. Cloud-based activation via Intune or Windows Autopatch

IT administrators can apply ESU cloud activation licenses to Windows 10 devices for one year at this time. Note that no 5-by-5 key is necessary. Admins can manage them via Intune and Autopatch. There is no manual intervention required for Autopatch, and a discounted price is available for this option.

Gary Olsen has worked in the IT industry since 1983 and holds a Master of Science in computer-aided manufacturing from Brigham Young University. He was on Microsoft's Windows 2000 beta support team for Active Directory from 1998 to 2000 and has written two books on Active Directory and numerous technical articles for magazines and websites.

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