A new visual refresh of Windows, codenamed Sun Valley. is on the way this summer. Until recently, we assumed this update would simply bring a new look to Windows 10 21H2 – the main release of Windows 10 in the second half of 2021 – but new information in the form of end-of-life (EOL) data for Windows 10 and a leaked screenshot of something claiming to be “Windows 11 Pro” strongly imply that serious changes are on the way.
Windows 10 EOL in 2025
Rumors that Sun Valley is “Windows 11” have been doing the rounds for months, but we haven’t paid much attention to them until recently. Windows 10 was intended to be Windows as a Service – a radical departure from the previous era of new, major Windows releases every three years or so. It seemed likely that Sun Valley’s “major visual rejuvenation” would result in Windows 10 21H2 looking very different from Windows 10 21H1. Why fix what isn’t broken?
The first strong indication that bigger things may be coming came last week from a Microsoft-published EOL notice for Windows 10. “Windows 10 Home and Pro” — no codenames, no minor version numbers — is now listed as being retired on Oct. 14 , 2025. “Retired” is part of the Modern Lifecycle Policy and means that the retired product is completely out of support; this does not follow the old Fixed Lifecycle policy with “regular” and “extended” support. Retired is retired – go out into the meadow.
As Windows Central points out, the retirement date isn’t entirely a new phenomenon. Microsoft initially launched the operating system with “mainstream support” through October 2020 and “extended support” through October 2025, the same five- to 10-year support period it provides for server and enterprise operating systems. What has changed is the way Microsoft talks about that end of support. There was no retirement date for Windows 10 as a whole on the home-and-pro lifecycle page until recently.
There is no real question about the end of life at this point; Microsoft has published it and we have no reason to believe it won’t. The interesting questions revolve around what comes next and when it will happen.
Windows 11 in 2021?
We’ve been seeing rumors for a few months that Sun Valley would be a new Windows 11, and until Microsoft posted a new EOL for Windows 10, we were skeptical. Windows 10 has been touted as “Windows as a Service” with no real expiration date, and there was no real reason to expect otherwise.
The end-of-life date for Windows 10 as a full operating system changes that – and it’s backed up by leaked screenshots of a Windows build claiming to be “Windows 11 Pro” that appeared on Baidu today. The new build is visually similar to the canceled Windows 10X and the screenshots appear legit. (The Verge says it can “confirm they’re real,” with no details on how.)
What does a new version of Windows mean for me?
For now, it’s unclear what a new “Windows 11” means for end users. There are no guarantees that existing Windows 10 licenses will allow use of Windows 11 let alone an in-place upgrade. We also have no concrete idea when new releases of Windows 10 will stop, when the first Windows 11 will be available, or what the costs will be.
However, we have an educated guess or two. Microsoft’s generous upgrade policy from Windows 7 to Windows 10 (you can still upgrade for free today!) strongly implies a similar policy for 11, which Microsoft is probably eager to get users on. We also don’t expect changes under the hood as drastic as those between 7 and 10. In all likelihood, internal upgrades will be available.
The consumer support cycle for Windows 10 is also up short. For example, Windows 10 21H1, the most recent build, is only supported through December 2022. That’s a lifecycle of about 18 months and there is no longer an extended support policy for consumer Windows. When it leaves support, you are expected to upgrade to the next version if you want to continue getting support and bug fixes.
We may or may not see a Windows 10 21H2 or even a Windows 10 22H1. But we don’t expect to get a new Windows 10 build after 2023 at the latest, as that would imply support for 10 beyond the October 2025 retirement date.
More details are on the way
If you find the lack of concrete details here frustrating, you’re not alone. Fortunately, the wait for more information won’t be long: Microsoft’s What’s Next for Windows digital event is coming up on June 24, and we’re expecting plenty of screenshots, news, and more detailed upgrade instructions by then.