PC gamers sticking with old versions of Windows may finally need to upgrade if they want to keep playing the games in their Steam libraries. Valve announced this week that it will stop supporting Steam on Windows 7 and Windows 8 on January 1, 2024. “After that date,” the company’s brief announcement reads, “the Steam Client will no longer run on those versions of Windows.”
That timeline is still fairly generous to users of the 14- and 11-year-old operating systems, given that Microsoft ended all support for both of them back in January of 2023. GPU makers like Nvidia and AMD also stopped supporting their latest GPUs in Windows 7 or Windows 8 quite a while ago.
This move will affect a vanishingly small but persistent number of Steam users. According to Valve’s own survey data for February of 2023, the 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 account for a little less than two percent of all Steam usage. This is almost nothing next to Windows 10 and Windows 11 (nearly 95 percent), but all macOS versions combined account for only 2.37 percent, and all Linux versions combined (including the Steam Deck) add up to just 1.27 percent.
The main culprit, according to Valve, is the built-in Chromium-based browser that Steam actually uses to render the Steam store and other bits of the UI. Chrome dropped support for Windows 7 and Windows 8 right around the same time that Microsoft ended support for the operating systems earlier this year. Versions that still work in Windows 7 and 8 will be susceptible to security bugs and, increasingly, rendering bugs and other functional problems as time goes on.
Upgrading to Windows 10 should still be relatively simple for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users, thanks to a free upgrade offer from Microsoft that never really ended, even though it was supposed to end back in 2016. If your PC still runs Windows 7 or 8 reasonably well, it should do the same for Windows 10, and Windows 10 will continue to receive security updates from Microsoft until at least October of 2025. If you want to upgrade all the way to Windows 11, though, you’ll probably need a hardware upgrade, or you can take your chances with an unsupported install—Windows 11’s more restrictive hardware requirements will keep it from running on most PCs that can run Windows 7 or Windows 8.
Valve recommends upgrading to a newer version of Windows now rather than waiting for the January 2024 cutoff, primarily because these PCs are now unpatched and more vulnerable to malware.