Technology is an unending and onward curve of progress. Anyone who saw the time before the PC revolution can more than vouch for this. We’ve come a very long way in the past 50 years since people got serious about computers, and while processors aren’t going to keep getting faster forever, we can expect the march of progress to never relent.
For long-time computer users, this can be a curse and a blessing. We’ve all had to stare down the barrel of a Windows version we were very happy and comfortable with, being replaced by something new. Sometimes, we’ll get used to the new one after a few months and be fine with it, but sometimes we just hate the new version. A prime example of new versions that really didn’t catch on with most users are Millennium/ME and more recently, the dread Windows 8 which was pretty much unanimously hated.
In the shadow of Vista, which didn’t stay on the market (mercifully) long enough to make that shortlist, we all came to very quickly love Windows 7. It’s as intuitive as old favorites like 98 and XP, it’s very stable, it’s easy to learn, and it’s easy on the eyes with the neutral and stylish Aero theme.
When Is Windows 7 End of Life?
Unfortunately, as of January 14, 2020, Microsoft will be officially terminating legacy support for Windows 7. This isn’t the first time Microsoft’s tried to surreptitiously put the squash on Windows 7, either. At one point a few years ago, the “free upgrade” update that they sent out upgraded many machines without even confirming the users’ permissions. This earned them quite a bit of ire from many users, and understandably so.
Sadly, we can’t expect a company to support outdated software forever, it’s just not reasonable. Given that technology on a hardware, level has changed a good bit since Windows 10 was introduced, it’s going to be increasingly tricky to support legacy platforms to the point of a logistical nightmare. And so, like it or not, Windows 7’s time as an active platform is coming to a close. What does this mean for Windows 7 users?
How Bad is Windows 10?
This isn’t really the right question, but it’s worth discussing this for a moment. A lot of Windows 7 users experienced a demo of 8 and hated it (like everyone alive), and when they saw 10, which bears some vague visual similarities, they were instantly put off by it.
There’s no denying that 10 is “ugly” in the eyes of many, with its lack of color accenting on active/inactive windows, the blinding white color scheme, the ugly and useless tiles carried over from 8 into the start bar. Out of the box, many would find this operating system abrasive.
If you get past the aesthetics, though, the user experience is, in most aspects, not very different from Windows 7. The only major difference is the introduction of “universal windows apps”, which everyone hates and are likely to not stick around too far into the future, and thus aren’t worth worrying too much about.
It’s also entirely possible to fix the aesthetic problems, with third-party applications that can reskin the interface to something more appealing, or even resembling 7. Annoying additional UI elements like the much-hated ribbon can be banished from sight, and the tiles on the start bar can be removed without any need for third party support. With a little elbow grease (none of it is difficult), you can simply upgrade to 10 and not have to contend with the ugliness that’s been its biggest criticism. Microsoft, it’s worth noting, will surely offer better aesthetic settings in a future update as users continue to complain about this.
What Does Support Ending Actually Mean?
If you don’t want to upgrade, or the device in question can’t run 10, this may be even more alarming. What does end of support actually mean? Well, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Basically, it simply means Microsoft won’t be producing any more updates, security patches or further refinement to Windows 7 itself. Likewise, they won’t be producing any more Windows 7 installation discs, and it’s not going to be packaged with any new devices.
This does not mean that Windows 7 will stop working. It also doesn’t mean you can’t install and activate Windows 7, as this is more of a passive support termination than a complete shut-down of the platform.
Your bigger problem will be in third party developers not actively supporting the platform with new versions of their software.
Can I Still Get Support?
What if you’re willing to pay out of pocket for ongoing support? This would be something of an edge case more geared to businesses who just can’t deal with the logistics of this upgrade for now.
Microsoft has stated that yes, for a cost, support can still be provided within the limited scope of problem-solving, installation of existing updates, activation and so on. They have yet to state what this will cost, so bear in mind it may prove prohibitively expensive in some cases.
Am I Safe?
So, your final worry is probably, are you safe with your Windows 7 installation if new security patches are coming to an end? Well, this is where it gets unfortunate. Hackers and other malcontents tend to wait for a system to pass its end of life, whereupon they can outpace existing security measures and do what they want to do.
Third-party security tools can help with this, but you do indeed take a great risk by staying with a deprecated operating system as fairly recent XP enthusiasts will be quick to attest.
Can I Upgrade?
If you’re ready to upgrade (which we’ve pointed out can be softened by some customizations), you can take heart in knowing it won’t cost you anything. Existing Windows users can get a free fully-licensed copy of Windows 10 from which to upgrade their system. If you have at least 1GB of ram, 1GHz of processing power, and a DirectX 9-compatible graphics card, you’re good to go.
Ultimately, while Windows 10 has its annoyances, these can be handled with a little extra work (none of which is that involved), and while 7 was fantastic, this end of life cycle does pose security risks and the inevitable point where nothing new will run on it. It is best to upgrade, but thankfully, you have some time even after the support ends, to do so if you need to get your ducks in a row first.
Still not sure about Windows 10, or how to make it more appealing after an install? Not sure how much risk your 7 installation really is? Fill out our contact form today, we’ll be happy to explain in greater detail!