While this announcement by Steam shouldn’t really affect the majority of gamers as most PC users would now already be using either Windows 10 or Windows 11, there may be a few who refuse to upgrade due to cost or just not liking the user interface of the newer Windows iterations.
However, according to Steam’s February Hardware and Software Survey, there are still 0.09% of users running the 32-bit version of Windows 7 and 1.43% using the 64-bit version of the operating system. If you happen to fall into either category, you will be required to upgrade your operating system if wish to continue gaming.
Starting next year or to be more specific, January 1, 2024, Steam will officially stop supporting Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 operating systems. This is because Steam relies on an embedded version of Google Chrome, which no longer functions on older versions of Windows. On top of that, future versions of Steam will require Windows features and security updates only present in Windows 10 and above.
Of course, with Microsoft no longer supporting these versions of the operating systems, it would be wise to upgrade to one of the newer versions to ensure that you receive the latest security updates that are essential to protecting you from newer malware and other exploits.
If you want a cheaper and cost-free alternative though, you could experiment with the various flavours of Linux, which is essentially the operating system Valve uses for the Steam Deck.