By SAIL Vendor Cris Carpenter
“I’m hearing reports that Microsoft is going to discontinue support for Windows 7 early next year, and my computer runs that operating system. What should I do?”
The short answer is that you don’t need to do anything for the foreseeable future. Even if Microsoft discontinues support for Windows 7 the beginning of next year, and there is plenty of prior experience evidence they will probably back away from that threat, it won’t make a difference to most computer owners for several years.
They tried to pull the same stunt with Windows XP, starting way back in the Vista days, in an attempt to bolster lagging sales of computers equipped with the new operating system. After they finally did discontinue official support for XP in 2014, several years after they first threatened to pull the plug, computer owners running XP experienced no problems using their PC’s for years, and a surprising number of computers are still running the supposedly obsolete operating system without trouble. Ironically, despite their claims to the contrary, Microsoft just recently quietly released a security update for Windows XP, so they are lying to us about that too.
Windows 7 is currently the most popular operating system on the planet, and Windows 10 sales are lagging. Many individuals, institutions, and corporations that did upgrade to the new operating system, had problems or were otherwise unhappy, and reverted back to Windows 7. We can expect a huge push back on Microsoft’s threat to discontinue support for Windows 7, especially from corporations, which have a lot of sway with the tech giant. Microsoft can’t afford to risk losing so much market share to other competing up-and-coming operating systems.
Windows 7 is also a very mature and stable operating system, which simply means it does not really need much in the way of updates anymore. Updates are most important in the first few years of the life cycle of an operating system. After that, and after the first services packs, which are a package of updates bundled together, updates become much less important, except for very specific relatively unusual circumstances which don’t apply to the ways average computer owners use their computers anyway.
The claim that lacking fresh updates for Windows 7 puts computers at greater security risk does not hold water either. Security has never been the responsibility of the operating system, and has always been in the hands of other internet security providers like Norton, and browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. In fact, the best way to know for sure that it is time to stop using an operating system is when those browser and internet security software writers stop supporting it. We went through that with Windows 98, which was widely used for several years after Microsoft stopped supporting it, and are now beginning to see it with Windows XP. Although the internet security software companies continue writing versions that will run under XP, third party browser writers no longer provide updates for their software running under that operating system.
The only exception to that for Windows 7 is if someone still insists on using the Internet Explorer browser, which is part of the operating system, but I can’t imagine for the life of me why someone would want to do that. Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome are both much better browsers than Internet Explorer. In fact, we have a joke in this business (though it is not really a joke because it is true) that IE’s only job is to download and install a different browser.
So, the take-home message is that you don’t need to do anything or be concerned about it for the foreseeable future, except to make sure you are running decent internet security, and that you use either Firefox or Chrome as your default browser and that your browser is up to date.
If you do decide to ever upgrade your computer to Windows 10, make sure your hardware is capable of running that operating system. One of the most common complaints I hear from people who upgraded from Windows 7 to 10 is that the computer actually runs slower than it did before, which is obviously an unwelcome side effect.
Thanks, Cris, for this helpful article!