Windows 7 End of Support

As you may have heard, Microsoft announced the end of support for the Windows 7 operating system, effective January 14, 2020. This brief article will explain what that means, and what you may need to do about it.

Operating system software is different from any other software (apps) you might use, in that it provides a platform and functional services that all apps on your computer rely on. As a result, when your operating system is no longer supported, it may affect everything you do on your computer.

From a user's or business manager's perspective, support for operating system software means that the software publisher:

  • Provides software updates, usually for free, to fix programming faults, and
  • Works with application publishers to ensure new and upgraded applications run properly on the operating system.

While generally opaque to users, publishers also continue performing research on their systems to find flaws to fix or ways to improve performance, and provide telephone or e-mail configuration and diagnostic services for businesses building complex networked systems or integrated devices using their operating system.

Microsoft introduced Windows 10 in 2015, and since that time has continued to invest in supporting Windows 7. To do this, since Windows 10 is so different from Windows 7, Microsoft has had to maintain two separate support teams to continue performing research, all while gaining only dwindling revenue for Windows 7 licensing, if any, and while the challenge of getting Windows 7 to work on devices that were unimagined in 2009 (when Windows 7 first came out) only increases. As you can imagine, eventually they need to end these activities.

This doesn't mean Windows 7 will stop working on your computer come January 14. However, two things will happen:

  • Some software applications will no longer run. Exactly when depends on the publisher of that application. Some may in fact have a time bomb and simply stop working as of January 14, or even prior. Others might not want to install updates you need. Some may simply pester you with messages telling you to upgrade to Windows 10.
  • You should consider your computer, as time goes along, to be more and more vulnerable to injections of malicious software. Here's why. When a flaw is discovered in Windows 7 program code which a bad actor can exploit, Microsoft examines the code and develops a fix, and then your computer installs it next time it checks Microsoft's servers for updates. Once Windows 7 goes out of support, Microsoft will no longer publish fixes for flaws found in Windows 7. And this can impact everything you do, because most any software running on your computer that accesses the Internet uses program functions provided by your operating system.

The solution to the above problems is to upgrade to Windows 10. Unfortunately, if you have some very old applications, they may not work in Windows 10, causing a bit of a conundrum. To keep using those, you may need to upgrade the old applications to a current version. If there is no more current version of the old application, you may need to migrate all of its functions and data to a different application, which can be expensive in service fees and your employees' time learning the new system.

Whether to keep some or all of your workstations on an unsupported operating system to keep using old applications despite the risks, or upgrade to Windows 10 and develop mitigations for your old applications, is a decision best made with support from an experienced and knowledgeable information technology service provider, such as J.D. Fox Micro.