- Originally launched in October 2009, Windows 7 is expected to remain on nearly 19% of all Windows machines, according to Net Applications.
- Conversely, Windows 10 can be found on nearly 55% of all Windows computers as users continue to transition from the operating system's predecessor.
- There will be one final security update from Microsoft on Jan. 14, but no more after that.
In technology, change is inevitable. New advancements bring necessary upgrades, pushing consumers to adopt the latest, fastest or most efficient tech available to them. Tomorrow, global tech giant Microsoft is nudging its consumer base off of an old version of Windows in the hopes of bringing them into the "we need to upgrade" camp.
After Microsoft's final security update for Windows 7 is released tomorrow, users will no longer get any additional patches, thus ending the corporation's extended support for the operating system. Mainstream support officially ended for Windows 7 back in January 2015, but Microsoft continued to release fixes to address key security issues and other areas of concern.
Since its launch in October 2009, Windows 7 has long been seen by enthusiasts as a stable operating system that found itself sandwiched between the often problematic and critically maligned releases of Windows Vista and Windows 8. Created as a sort of stop-gap against the negative reviews surrounding its predecessor, Windows 7 sported a more traditional aesthetic while adding new features that made it more user-friendly.
Windows 7 users have known since November that this day was coming. According to a blog post by Windows Corporate Vice President Matt Barlow, Microsoft has been pushing notifications to users, reminding them that official support was coming to an end. At the time, he said the hope was that the notifications would give users "time to plan and prepare" for a transition to Windows 10.
How this will impact you
If you're one of the millions of people still using Windows 7 as their main PC's operating system and you haven't yet planned to upgrade to Windows 10, this transition shouldn't be too worrisome for you in the initial weeks.
Even though official support ends tomorrow, your computer will still run normally. You can still do everything you currently do on your computer, but it's important that you upgrade soon, if you continue to use Windows while connected to the internet.
One of the main things that Microsoft's Windows updates frequently addressed was security. Whether you know it or not, your computer is constantly under threat of digital intrusion, either by an active attack from a hacker or through malware found on the internet. Operating software usually includes security features to prevent issues, but enterprising digital malcontents have been able to find exploits in Windows in the past, causing major damage to systems. Those issues are patched through updates when possible.
In addition to the loss of regular security updates, the end of support for Windows 7 will ultimately mean the operating system will be left behind. As newer programs get released, developers will be less likely to create them for an unsupported system.
If you need to install new software, or if you update existing software to a newer version, sticking to Windows 7 will ultimately hamper your ability to do so. And if you use your PC for gaming on the side, the newest games will become less and less likely to run on a Windows 7 machine.
What you should do next
If you're a Windows 7 user who doesn't want to get left in a lurch, there are still some things you can do to ensure your computer's safety without having to switch to Windows 10 just yet. As was mentioned earlier, if you continue using Windows 7, the system will still work, and nothing will change for you – at least in the short term. But you will no longer receive updates or support from Microsoft, so if anything goes wrong, it will be on you.
Just because Microsoft isn't going to protect Windows 7 users anymore doesn't mean you can't keep yourself safe. If you're worried about your security while using a sunsetted operating system and you don't require the internet for daily use, you can disconnect the machine from the web. If completely cutting your computer off from the internet is not feasible, you should always make sure that your router's firmware is up to date and that you have software in place to detect malware.
If for some reason you don't want to upgrade at all, you can always install a different operating system, like Linux. Doing so will likely require some getting used to, but countless people use Linux as their main operating system without much of an issue. The main problem that's likely to crop up for regular users is the lack of support for Linux by some developers, so be sure you're willing to deal with that if you switch.
Making the upgrade
One of the biggest hurdles for most people wanting to upgrade their operating systems without resorting to pirated software is the price. If you were to purchase a Windows 10 Pro upgrade license online, you're looking at spending around $200. If that's more than you're willing to pay, there are some free ways to upgrade Windows 7 without spending any money.
If you don't need the Pro license, you can still upgrade to Windows 10 for free if you have a valid Windows key. All you have to do is follow a few simple steps ‒ you'll be able to upgrade your system without having to go through the hassle of a clean installation.
Or, if for some reason you're not interested in Windows 10, you can still make the next incremental upgrade and install Windows 8. Windows offers the upgrade for free, as long as you have a valid Windows key. Making the switch to this version gives you another three years of support from Microsoft.