Microsoft have announced the date for Windows 7’s end of life – January 14th 2020. After this date, Windows 7 will no longer receive security updates from Microsoft. Despite being 10 years old, Windows 7 is still extremely popular, with around 39% of PCs running the operating system. These people now have to seriously think about upgrading.
Windows 7 is currently in “extended support”. Mainstream support ended in 2015, when Microsoft stopped pushing major feature updates. During extended support, Microsoft continued to release patches to fix security issues and bugs. This will eventually have to stop, as it is in no way financially viable to continue updating old software, when there is newer software out there.
When the end of life period begins, all support will stop. This doesn’t mean Windows 7 will cease to function, you will still be able to boot your computer. This doesn’t mean you should, as any computer still running Windows 7 after end of life begins will become increasingly vulnerable to security threats and new, emerging viruses.
If you still use Windows 7, it is strongly recommended that you upgrade to a newer operating system. There are a number of choices, but the most obvious one would be Windows 10, as they are virtually the same operating system under the hood, just with a different user interface. The upgrading process is usually easy, and you have the option to keep all your files. However, it is strongly recommended that you back up all your files before you do something like this. Also, while Microsoft have tried to make Windows 10 run on older hardware, some older machines may struggle. Microsoft states that a 1GHZ CPU, 1GB RAM (2GB for the 64-bit version), a 800×600 display and 16GB (20GB for the 64-bit version) of free storage are required as minimum to run Windows 10, but even these may not be enough, as they recommend 4GB RAM for both 32 bit and 64 bit versions. If your computer doesn’t meet these, you could upgrade the components in your PC to fit the requirements, or you could purchase a new Windows 10 computer.
Alternatives to Windows 10.
An alternative to switching to Windows 10 (because at this point, most people running Windows 7 still probably don’t want to go anywhere near Windows 10) would be switching to a Linux based operating system. While this may seem daunting, there are many Linux versions (known as distributions or “distros”) out there which are extremely easy to set up and use, such as Ubuntu and its derivatives. There are downsides, such as the fact that Linux is an entirely different operating system to Windows 7, so there is no compatibility between the two. However, due to its growing popularity, there are many alternatives to Windows only software available, usually for free (such as LibreOffice, a clone of Microsoft Office). There is also WINE, a program which acts as a compatibility layer allowing you to run Windows programs on Linux, to varying degrees of success.
You could also switch to using an Apple computer, which have a good reputation for being well designed both physically and in Apple’s macOS operating system. Most Windows programs are also available for Mac, and there’s still the option of alternatives. However, Apple also have a reputation for charging a lot for their products, and the Mac line is no exception.
Backup your files before you make the change.
No matter which route you take, it is important to back up your files. Whether you put them on an external drive or upload them to a cloud based storage solution.
If you are running a business and you absolutely cannot upgrade from Windows 7, there is a solution, and it’ll cost you. Microsoft will be providing extended security support for Windows 7 Enterprise and Professional users, starting at around £20 for Enterprise and £40 for Pro. This rate will double each year.