Microsoft Windows 7 and 8 hit the shelves for the last time

Microsoft Windows 7 and 8 will officially no longer be sold in a retail pack, signalling a Microsoft move to distance itself from previous OS versions, indows XP.

The date to halt sales of the software was set a while ago and should help Microsoft move people on from obsolete packages. Luckily for Microsoft, statistics suggest that people are finally transferring from old versions to more recent ones (Windows XP was down from 24 per cent to 17 per cent market share, according to October statistics from Netmarketshare).

Read more: Windows 10 won't be free for everyone

Windows 10, the most recent Microsoft OS, is due for release in late 2015.

From 31 October, Windows 8, and the Home Basic, Home Premium and Ultimate versions of Windows 7 will no longer be available to consumers. This will affect both copies sold in stores and those pre-loaded on PCs and laptops.

The move will take some time to filter through the market though, as PC makers have sizable stocks of Windows 7 and 8.

Windows 7 Professional will remain, and those who wish to run it will be able to "downgrade" from Windows 8.1. This option is limited to a few PC firms though.

Read more: Windows 10 will shine because of Windows 8's failings

Windows 7 has far outshone its successor Windows 8 in the popularity stakes. Its older brother suffered from users' revulsion at its overhaul of the familiar elements of the OS. Around 53 per cent of Windows users are on the various editions of Version 7 of Windows, while Windows 8 only bagged a 6 per cent market share, Gordon Kelly pointed out in Forbes.

The change will also clear the path for the arrival of Windows 10, Kelly added.