Today is the first Patch Tuesday of 2016 and marks a couple of significant changes relating to the lifecycle support of Windows 8 and Internet Explorer.

Both of these changes should not be a surprise as Microsoft has been talking about today's deadline for several months and hopefully most users in these situations have made moves to upgrade in order to continue receiving full support for their operating system and browser configurations. Failure to get yourself into one of these supported configurations will mean your system will be vulnerable to malware and other attacks if any future insecurities are found in the software.

Here is a breakdown of the changes you can expect now and options to continue receiving support and updates.

Internet Explorer

On desktop operating systems you must be using these combinations:

  • Windows Vista SP2 and Internet Explorer 9
  • Windows 7 SP1 and Internet Explorer 11
  • Windows 8.1 Update and Internet Explorer 11

Of course, Windows 10, which is being offered as a free upgrade for Windows 7 SP1 and 8.1 systems supports Internet Explorer 11 and the new Microsoft Edge browser under that systems normal lifecycle support process.

As a reminder, Windows Vista extended support ends on 11 April 2017 so it is also time to consider your upgrade options from that version of Windows. That upgrade process to one of Microsoft's supported OS/browser configurations will have a side benefit of getting you on a more modern web browser which will significantly enhance your web browsing experience.

There are also changes today for IE on server and embedded operating systems and you can see the entire list here.

If you opt not to update your browser after today you will be provided reminders about the need to upgrade to continue receiving support. This reminder process will be installed under KB3123303 on Patch Tuesday.

Windows 8

This much maligned version of Windows was upgraded to Windows 8.1 just a couple of years after it hit retail shelves.  Just like in the past, Microsoft considered Windows 8.1 a Service Pack level update to the OS. That means all Windows 8 users were required to upgrade to Windows 8.1 within two years of its availability to continue receiving mainstream support until 09 January 2018 and extended support until 10 January 2023.

That two year period ends today with the first Patch Tuesday of 2016.

Windows 8 users have two options when it comes to continued support of their operating system.

The first is to upgrade to Windows 8.1, which was only delivered through the Windows Store, and then install Windows 8.1 Update through Windows Update. Both of those updates are free of charge and will ensure you are able to receive all future security updates for those devices through their extended lifecycle support date.

The other option to get on a supported operating system from Windows 8 is to take advantage of the current free Windows 10 upgrade that is available to anyone on Windows 7/8 until 29 July 2016.

You can either upgrade to Windows 10 from within Windows 8 or do a clean install of Windows 10 and then use your Windows 8 product key to activate the system.

Whichever path you choose for IE or Windows 8 it is important that you get the upgrade done to protect your system against future threats.