This time we are looking into a subject that is obviously of concern to many of our readers who use Windows. We have been getting lots of calls from people who have received a notice from Microsoft that the Windows 7 Operating System is nearing its “End of Life”.
Windows 7 has been widely considered to be the most reliable, comfortable and beloved of all Windows Operating Systems. Introduced in October of 2009, it quickly snuggled into a niche of high popularity between the much-maligned Vista (before) and Windows 8.1 (after). It introduced many features and conveniences that we are still enjoying today in Windows 10. In fact, it was only in January of this year that Windows 10 surpassed the market share of 7 and when we consider that 10 has been delivered on all new computers for four years now, the continued significance of 7 is certainly remarkable.
Q: What is the end of life of an Operating System (OS)?
A: Microsoft designates a date after which it will stop supporting an older OS. They will no longer send out updates and will stop monitoring for security concerns. Otherwise, that OS will continue to run, potentially for many years to come. If you are extremely lucky, you might never experience a problem as you continue to use an outdated system. In the case of Windows 7, that end of support will be in January of 2020. (By the way, Apple does not publicly announce an end of life date for a Macintosh OS, but there always does come a time when the support just simply comes to an end.)
Q: So does that mean I can just keep on using it, and ignore all this information and nagging?
A: Probably not. Nothing will happen to “shut down” the outdated OS, but there are factors that will seriously compromise its usefulness and reliability. First is the fact that Microsoft does not (contrary to the opinion of many users) simply send out updates just to be annoying. Updates tweak and correct little issues that we might not even have noticed and, more importantly, they constantly provide improvements in security, to try to keep the hackers away from the door. The end of updates is more influential than most of us realize. Second, and probably even more important, is the fact that third-party publishers will also stop supporting the OS. Soon after January 2020, you will no longer be able to find an anti-virus utility for Windows 7. Likewise, it won’t be long before drivers will no longer be available to make a new printer or other peripheral device compatible with the old OS.
Q: What are my options?
- You could ignore advice, keep using the old OS and hope for the best. (See above.)
- You can, potentially at no charge, update your Windows 7 to Windows 10. If you are already very comfortable with using your computer you can do this update yourself. There are a couple of tricks involved, but you can easily find them online or call your trusty technician for advice. The mandatory first step would be that you really must be absolutely certain your data has been backed up, so that it won’t be a catastrophe if something goes wrong during the update. A computer manufactured since 2014, (five years ago) will probably be very satisfactory with Windows 10.
- If your computer is older than five years, or if it is now inadequate in any respect, or if you are going to have to pay a technician to update the OS instead of doing it yourself, you might consider watching for a sale on a suitable replacement computer in the next few months, even if it is sooner than you had originally planned. The new computer will come with Windows 10 already installed and so you will be good to go OS-wise, for many years to come. And, by the way, don’t be misled by the old and overblown horror stories about Windows 10; in our experience it is a reliable OS with convenient features and it is surprisingly easy to use. If you do decide to buy a replacement, you can look for ways to continue to use also the old computer although keeping it offline would probably be a good idea.