End of Life for Windows 7

I’m still on Windows 7 – what should I do?

By Richard Marsh, 5 March, 2020

Laptop running Windows 7

Support for Windows 7 has ended – what does that mean?

Windows 7 has reached the end of its support life, meaning it will no longer be updated with security patches.

Microsoft Windows 7 – launched in 2009 – came to the end of its supported life. Despite Microsoft’s repeated warnings to Windows 7 users, there may still be a couple of hundred million users, many of them in businesses.

What should people do next?

To begin with, Windows 7 will not stop working, it will just stop receiving security updates. Users will therefore be more vulnerable to malware attacks, particularly from “ransomware”.

Why is this dangerous?

There are reasons to be fearful, because of the way the malware industry works.

On the second Tuesday of every month, Microsoft releases security patches that should be installed automatically by Windows Update. The malware industry analyses these patches to find the holes, and then looks for ways to exploit them. A lot of the code in Windows 10 goes back to Windows 7 and earlier versions. As a result, some of the security holes in Windows 10 will also be present in Windows 7, but they won’t be patched.

Malware writers don’t normally target out-of-date operating systems, because they don’t usually have many users. In this case, as with XP, there could be millions of relatively easy targets.

The British government’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) told the BBC:

“We would urge those using the software after the deadline to replace unsupported devices as soon as possible, to move sensitive data to a supported device and not to use them for tasks like accessing bank and other sensitive accounts.”

That’s good advice.

The NCSC’s website suggests some “short term-steps to take when you can’t move off our-of-date platforms and applications straight away”. It’s aimed mainly at government departments and businesses and isn’t specific to Windows 7.

The core advice boils down to this: avoid encountering any malware, and make sure you have nothing to lose. The first is basically impossible in a world where malware can be served via advertisements (“malvertising”) even on respectable websites.

The second is tedious but essential.

While you can’t patch Windows 7, you can make sure your other software is patched. That applies to browsers. Fortunately, the main browser suppliers will keep updating them, and Google has said:

“We will continue to fully support Chrome on Windows 7 for a minimum of 18 months from Microsoft’s end of life date, until at least 15 July 2021.”

Eventually, however, they’ll stop testing their browsers on Windows 7 because it’s expensive and will only serve a shrinking number of users.

Replacing Windows 7

Given the risks of running Windows 7, users should plan to replace it as soon as possible. Windows 10 is the best option for most ordinary Windows 7 users. Although it has some additional stuff, Windows 10 still has most of the features of Windows 7, and you can make it look much the same. It will run most, if not all, of your existing software, and you will have to do the least amount of relearning. Decades of Windows experience will still be useful.

Microsoft offered Windows 7 users a free in-place upgrade to Windows 10 during the year after its launch, and it would have been sensible to take it. Since then, you have been able to download a copy of Windows 10 and use Microsoft’s media creation tool to upgrade Windows 7 either directly or from a thumb drive.

So far, most users who have tried this and entered their Windows 7 product key have had their copy of Windows 10 authenticated. I can’t say whether that will continue to work. However, Microsoft wants people off Windows 7 and on to Windows 10, so it’s worth a go. Just skip the part where it asks for a product key and leave it for later.

To summarise, if your still running Windows 7 on your devices it is time to start looking to update your devices. The reason to update isn’t solely based on receiving support from Microsoft and incorporates the risk associated to not receiving the automated update that protects you from cyber-attacks targeting out of date and unpatched software.

The true decision isn’t whether to upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 7 as that is a given. You should do it. The decision is whether you can run Windows 10 on your existing devices without affecting the productivity of your workforce.

I hope you found this post insightful and helpful. If you would like to book in a collection for any of your old IT equipment that isn’t Windows 10 compatible please feel free to get in touch.