Intel Skylake Removes Support for USB based Windows 7 Installation – Major Platform Specs Confirmed

We have a pretty huge leak today with lots of new details on Intel's upcoming Skylake processors. To begin with, Microsoft is removing support for the EHCI host controller (USB 2.0 spec) and keeping only the xHCI host controller spec (also known as the universal USB 3.0 specification). While the USB 3.0 spec is backward compatible with most USB 2.0 and 1.0 functions, installing windows 7 via USB will not be one of them (source: EXPReview).

Intel Skylake PlatformA stock die render of a Skylake chip. @ Intel Public Domain

Intel and Microsoft joining hands in making a Windows 7 unfriendly ecosystem - SpeedStep to add support for RAM and more

I have to admit one thing though, Intel has absolute plausible deniability on this. No one can claim with 100% certainty  that they are in league with Microsoft in trying to push Windows 7 users to finally get a move on. The reason for that is that the discarding of EHCI was inevitable sooner or later, and while they could have taken steps to remedy the problem easily, they have no compulsion to do so.  The problem begins with the fact that Windows 7 does not have the code to support master xHCI based installation via USB, with only installation over EHCI allowed.

You might be thinking that one can always take the bootable DVD route and even though research indicates that dependence on optical drives is diminishing by the second, it has its own caveats. You better hope that your motherboard has a PS/2 port because even while installing from a DVD, the USB ports wont work (during the install setup). If you have just one PS/2 port you will have to switch your PS/2 based mouse and keyboard as required through the entire process. All this means that Windows 7 will be very very troublesome for people to install and in most of the cases, people will consider it not worth the effort. Even if you do get it to work, the lack of EHCI means there might be unforeseen compatibility issues in the future. Effectively, from Skylake, and thanks to Intel's spec upgrade, Windows 7 is now officially an obsolete OS.

Anyways, that isn't it, we have some new information regarding Skylake as well and yes  all of this is confirmed:

  • Skylake's EIST (Enhanced Intel Speedstep Technolog) which is the standard frequency modulation and scaling technology in modern Intel processors and calculates the CPU multiplier and Turbo based on load, will get a much needed upgrade. The upgrade will be the addition of memory as dynamic and scalable entity.  Basically where it was previously only for the CPUs, now it will scale memory as well. Currently this feature is limited to the notebook platform.
  • Skylake's Southbridge has received an upgrade as well and the 8 PCI 2.0 channels have been upgraded to PCI 3.0 with 20 channels with support for 3 PCI-E devices.M.2 and SATA express will be available on the shared PCI-E channel.
  • Skylake will fully implement eSPI and will be used to replace EC/BMC/SIO communication over LPC. LPC stands for Low Pin Count and is Intel's standard specification for legacy and rom based chips present on the motherboard.  The newly implemented eSPI (enhanced Serial Peripheral Interface) will basically provide more efficient architecture for the SPI flash controller, SM Bus controller, Power management controller and GPIO Sources. Basically an upgrade for motherboard specs that will be subtle but significant.
  • Finally, you might remember we told you ages ago that Intel will be ditching the FIVR (fully integrated voltage regulation system) and we now have confirmation of the new system. Skylake will leave behind the VR12.5 standard supply system and shift to IMVP8 based spec, a technology Intel already utilizes in mobility processors.

Intel is launching Broadwell Processors in 2015 (called Broadwell-K) and will utilize the LGA 1150 socket. The processors will be the first to be fabricated on the 14nm node (in the mainstream market) and will require the 100 Series chipset natively with backwards support for the 9 series chipset as well. Since DDR4 is one of the major selling factors for Skylake, users will do well to go with the 100 Series platform (unless motherboard AIBs decide to release modified 9 Series mobos).

Intel Mainstream Platforms Comparison Chart:

Intel Sandy Bridge Platform Intel Ivy Bridge Platform Intel Haswell Platform Intel Broadwell Platform Intel Skylake Platform
Processor Architecture Sandy Bridge Ivy Bridge Haswell Broadwell Skylake
Processor Process 32nm 22nm 22nm 14nm 14nm
Processors Cores (Max) 4 4 4 4 4
Platform Chipset 6-Series “Cougar Point” 7-Series “Panther Point” 8-Series “Lynx Point” 9-Series “Wild Cat Point” 100-Series “Sunrise Point”
Platform Socket LGA 1155 LGA 1155 LGA 1150 LGA 1150 LGA 1151
Memory Support DDR3 DDR3 DDR3 DDR3 DDR4
Thunderbolt Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes “Alpine Ridge”
Platform Desktop LGA Desktop LGA Desktop LGA Desktop LGA Desktop LGA
Launch 2011 2012 2013-2014 2015 2015
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