Valve has announced that Steam will no longer run on Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 as of 1st January 2024. From that point on, the Steam Client will require Windows 10 as the oldest Microsoft operating system.
The reason for this, as described by Valve is that, “The newest features in Steam rely on an embedded version of Google Chrome, which no longer functions on older versions of Windows. In addition, future versions of Steam will require Windows feature and security updates only present in Windows 10 and above.”
As of the most recent Steam Hardware Survey in February 2023, this change will affect just a small fraction of Steam’s users. Of all Windows users, just 1.86% are using Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, compared to 62.33% using Windows 10 and 32.06% who’ve jumped over to Windows 11.
Steam has required a 64-bit operating system since 2019, when they dropped support for Windows XP and Windows Vista. At that time, just 0.2% of Steam users were affected, but all that this did was lock people out of using the built-in game storefront. They could still load up Steam and launch their games. With this upcoming change, “the Steam Client will no longer run on those versions of Windows.” Of course, user accounts will continue to exist, but they’ll have to upgrade to Windows 10 or 11, or switch to Linux or Mac to retain access… with varying levels of game compatibility.
In fairness, we are now well beyond any reasonable support period for Windows 7 or Windows 8. Windows 7 first released in 2009 while Windows 8 debuted in 2012 and Windows 8.1 a major update in 2013. While Windows 7 has an enduring popularity similar to that of Windows XP, thanks to how it fixed complaints about Windows Vista and the general dislike people had for the tablet-oriented design of Windows 8, it is now five years since Windows 10 surpassed it to be the most-used version of Windows. Since Windows 10 was a free upgrade, had effectively identical system requirements, and similarly walked back a lot of dislikes user interface choices, that was no surprise.
Microsoft ended mainstream support for Windows 7 in 2015 with extended support continuing until 2020 and security updates until January 2023. Windows 8.1 support ended in January 2018 with Extended support ending in January 2023.
The march of time is cruel, but this does suck for gamers who maintain older systems for playing games of yesteryear in their original form. Not even having a game launcher option feels frankly stupid, though we’ll see if such a capability remains possible with an un-updated version of the Steam client.