In a nutshell: Microsoft wants to move as many users as possible onto Windows 11. The operating system didn't gain steam as quickly as Windows 10, but the older edition is approaching official end-of-life status. After next year, those wishing for further security updates must pay.

Microsoft announced that users and businesses can continue receiving critical security updates for Windows 10 after its official support ends in October 2025. Like Windows 7, the company will offer an annual subscription for three years of patches following the official sunset date.

Enrollees will receive monthly updates to close vulnerabilities but will not obtain new features. Microsoft previously confirmed that 22H2, released last year, is the final feature update to Windows 10. Pricing and availability details for the subscription are still to come. Enterprise IoT systems will continue receiving updates on a longer alternate timeline.

The company mentioned the upcoming subscription at the end of a blog post explaining different methods for migrating to Windows 11. Aside from the free updates available to many Windows 10 systems, Microsoft also suggested buying new Windows 11-capable devices in a likely ploy to spur PC sales, which have begun to recover after a dry spell lasting multiple quarters.

The company also pushed its cloud and subscription services like Windows 365 to facilitate migrations. Microsoft will roll the Windows 10 extended support subscription into 365 when users connect to Windows 11 cloud PCs, and Windows 10 Azure Virtual Desktop users receive the patches for free.

Users wishing to avoid subscriptions or continue using Windows 10 longer must rely on third-party groups like 0patch to keep their systems secure. 0patch continues to release updates for Windows 7, Server 2008, and Server 2012, so it will likely support Windows 10 for years.

Despite having less than a year of official support left, Windows 10 remains highly popular. The latest OS usage snapshot from Steam's November 2023 hardware and software survey suggests that over half of systems still run Windows 10. Its successor is gaining popularity, but not nearly as quickly as Windows 10 replaced Windows 7.

Meanwhile, previous rumors suggest Windows 12 could emerge around June next year. Companies like Intel and Quanta have expressed optimism that the next version of Windows could boost the client-side and AI markets.