As of today, Microsoft is no longer supporting Windows 7. That means no more software updates, security fixes or patches, or technical support. It is dead, an ex-operating system if you will. There’s a decent chance this doesn’t affect you—after all, Windows 7 first launched over 10 years ago in October 2009. Windows 8 and 10 have both come along since then. That said, Windows 7 was a solid OS and millions of computers are still running it. So, what do you do if you or your company is still on Windows 7?
The easy answer is: Get Windows 10. There are two ways you can go about that. First, if you’re an individual user and your computer is more than three years old, you might want to consider getting a new computer entirely. But if you can’t afford that right now, or if you’re a business and replacing that many computers is an outrageous expense, the more cost-effective solution is to simply upgrade. While Microsoft initially offered free upgrades to Windows 10, that offer expired back in July 2016. Now, it’ll cost about $140 per computer for the cheapest version.
Technically, you don’t have to upgrade right away. According to Microsoft, you’ll still be able to use any PC running Windows 7 indefinitely. It’s just not a great idea security-wise. Because Microsoft will no longer release any security updates or fixes, your computer is consequently more vulnerable to exploits and bad actors. That’s bad news for individuals, but it’s especially bad for, say, medical facilities, banks, or other institutions that handle sensitive personal data.
Speaking of security, there seem to be rumors floating around that Microsoft is patching an “extraordinarily serious security vulnerability” today. The red flag was first raised by security researcher Will Dormann on Twitter, followed by a report from investigative journalist Brian Krebs. Krebs cites sources who claim that the bug involves a “core cryptographic component” in all versions of Windows. As of this writing, most of this is cryptic rumbling but it would appear that based on a media call this morning, the flaw was initially discovered by the NSA.
While everyone should upgrade for security reasons, it makes sense why some would be reluctant. Windows 7 was a good and popular OS, especially when you compare it to Vista or Windows 8. It took a whole four years for Windows 10 to surpass it in terms of popularity. Upgrading can sometimes feel like an inconvenient expense meant to fatten the wallets of big corporations. That said, Windows 7 has been kicking around for over a decade and it’s just not equipped to handle more modern features. But perhaps the most convincing reason to get the transition over with is starting tomorrow, Microsoft will begin running aggressive, full-screen notifications to bludgeon users into doing so. If you thought the yearlong pop-ups asking you to upgrade were annoying, this will be worse, as Microsoft says you can’t make them go away “until you interact with it.” No one deserves that.