New processor + old OS = woes

The intersection of computer hardware and software can often introduce thorny compatibility problems. Sometimes they’re unforeseen. But sometimes they’re intentionally created by Microsoft.

Intel have introduced a new range of processors based on the Kaby Lake architecture. They’re collectively referred to as “7th Generation” and they have a 4 digit model number starting with a 7 – i7-7700 or i3-7300 for example. And a newly invigorated AMD have introduced a range of processors, known as Ryzen or Bristol Ridge, which they’re hoping will compete with the Intel juggernaut. The Kaby Lake processors are already appearing in products – in laptops from Dell, Asus, and Lenovo for example – and AMD obviously hope their Ryzen processors will be popular too.

Now, all those laptops come with Windows 10 installed. But there are often reasons why somebody (or some organisation) would want to install an older operating system instead – Windows 8.1 or even Windows 7. And that’s where the problem will arise.

Beyond the technical challenges of installing an older OS on a new chip (such as getting Windows 7 to understand just what USB3 is when it’s been assured that USB only goes up to 2), Microsoft have thrown a new spanner in the retro-computing works. Microsoft’s Knowledge Base article 4012982 describes a situation where a device with a 7th Generation processor will be blocked from downloading Windows Updates for any OS other than Windows 10.

So because Microsoft are not planning to test Windows 8.1 (a supported operating system) and Windows 7 (an extended support operating system) on the new processors, you can’t have the updates. I pity the poor build tech who is given a shiny new laptop for the Managing Director and told to install Windows 8.1 on it.