Microsoft has announced that Windows 7 End of Life is coming January 14, 2020. This means that Microsoft will end all support for Windows 7, meaning there will be no further update to security or upgrade for computer systems operating Windows 7. To avoid headaches, it is important for business and personal users to ensure computers and other devices running Windows 7 are ready for changes to operating systems.
What Happens When Windows 7 Support Ends?
In early 2020, Microsoft will bring the Windows 7 lifecycle to a close after nearly a decade of support for users. Computers and other devices operating Windows 7 will no longer have support from Microsoft. Any computer or devices using Windows 7 will still start up and run, but those devices will face increased vulnerabilities to security risks such as malware and other viruses. After January 14, 2020, Microsoft will no longer offer technical support, software updates, and security updates for any computers running Windows 7.
What Will Happen When Windows 7 Reaches End of Life?
End of life is a cycle that has happened with several previous versions of Windows. It is simply a term that refers to a period of transition in which Microsoft no longer offers a wide range of support to enterprise and personal users operating the Windows 7 version of Windows. Microsoft has offered paid support for Windows 7 that extends throughout 2019 and up to the official Windows 7 end of life date in January 2020. Whiles this phase of the lifecycle includes security upgrades, it lacks design and feature updates.
Once Microsoft officially calls the end of life for Windows 7, the best option for those running Windows 7 is upgrading Windows to the new Windows 10 operating system. Until migration to a new operating system, users face increased security risks to hard drive apps and server functions that rely on Windows 7. There will also be no technical support, so users face the risk of compromised data as a result of malware attacks and no relief in the form of bug fixes.
Another possible issue facing those who do not upgrade Windows to the new Windows 10 operating system is the lack of support from third-party apps. Developers may decide that exposing their systems and networks to potential data or security breaches on Windows 7 platforms is not worth the risk of continuing to support those apps. As such, apps that users rely on can become useless as developers also suspend support for Windows 7-based applications. This support isn’t likely to happen right away as countless users opt to stay on Windows 7 for months or years. But, as that user base dwindles, third-party developers will pull back support as well.
There is one notable differentiation that users need to keep in mind. The specific end of life date for Windows 7 applies to computers running Windows 7 Home and Pro. However, devices with Windows 7 embedded or Windows 7 enterprise solutions have different end-of-life timelines.
Now, What if You Absolutely Need to Go Beyond Windows 7 End of Life?
Microsoft isn’t consigning Windows 7 to the scrap heap of history entirely. Users are welcome to continue using this version of Windows for as long as desired. In fact, Microsoft has even stated that users are not only welcome to continue using it, but also has said users can still deploy it on brand-new devices.
What is the Difference Between Windows 7 and Windows 10?
The most recent version of Windows from Microsoft is Windows 10. Microsoft does recommend that users upgrade to Windows 10, but that might come with some changes for users. The most significant difference to be aware of with Windows 10 is its synchronization. Unlike earlier versions of Windows, Microsoft has sought to synchronize its new operating system across all devices, including computers, laptops, phones, tablets, and even the Xbox gaming console.
From an interface standpoint, Microsoft has sought to maintain aspects of both Windows 7 and Windows 8 for users. Windows 10 brought back the popular Start menu features of Windows 7, while still offering the Live Tiles found in Windows 8. Other differences in Windows 10 compared to Windows 7 include:
- Windows 10 allows users to search through files and applications on the hard disk, as well as directly on the web and the Windows Store from a central search function
- Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant, like Apple’s Siri, is available to perform a multitude of functions on Windows 10 through voice control
- Users have the option in Windows 10 to create virtual desktops from the main Taskbar, a major improvement for businesses looking for enterprise solutions for multiple uses, such as a desktop for work use, personal use, and gaming
- One of the most significant changes for long-time Microsoft users is the end of Internet Explorer. The famous web engine will no longer be used in Windows 10 with the full transition to Windows Edge now complete
Can Windows 7 be Upgraded to Windows 10?
Most computers and devices operating Windows 7 can upgrade to Windows 10. The most important factor to keep in mind is the capability of the computer or device using Windows 10. Minimum requirements for Windows 10 include:
- 1 GHz processor speed or better
- 1 GB of RAM for a 32-bit installation or 2 GB of RAM for a 64-bit installation
- 20 GB of hard disk space
- Screen resolution of 800 by 600 or higher, with a DirectX 9 graphics chip
As long as an existing device meets these minimum requirements, it can be upgraded to Windows 10. If it does not meet these requirements, users will have to also upgrade devices or continue on with Windows 7.
What are the Costs of Migrating to Windows 10?
In terms of the operating system itself, there is no cost for migration to Windows 10. Microsoft is offering a free upgrade to Windows 10 for any users on the Windows 7 operating system for one year from the January 14, 2020 end of life date. However, for those enterprise users with one or more devices that don’t meet the minimum specifications for upgrading to Windows 10, costs could begin to mount when new computers and laptops need to be purchased to ensure full compatibility with Windows 10 requirements.
What Does Windows 7 End of Life Mean for Your Security?
Perhaps the biggest threat from the Windows 7 end of life cycle is exposure to security risks. Security threats are a major concern for all users on Internet-connected devices. Not only is personal and business data at risk with poor security measures, malware, and phishing attacks can result in further damage to finances and even the reputation of a brand. When the end-of-life cycle is complete, Microsoft will not offer any security updates for Windows 7 users.
Because hackers are constantly developing new malicious software, a lack of security upgrades leaves a device increasingly at risk. While the threats change, Windows 7 security measures will remain stagnant. For businesses, in particular, this means threats that could go from minor breaches to those which result in significant financial damage.
What Would Happen to a Company if it Decided Not to Upgrade to Windows 10?
Any company that opts not to upgrade to Windows 10 faces the possibility of security risks, data breaches, and even decreased productivity. As mentioned earlier, it isn’t just Microsoft’s support of the operating system that is ending. Eventually, developers of the apps that employees use to complete daily tasks will eventually pull back their support for apps that run on Windows 7 as a result of the diminishing user base. The one relief option out there for businesses is the option to pay for Windows 7 Extend Security Updates. The ESU program is available to those business users who chose not to or are unable to update to Windows 10 prior to the end-of-life date. The ESU runs through January 2023, giving businesses some buffer to determine how and when to update to Windows 10.
In the meantime, those businesses would still enjoy a measure of security as Microsoft continues to roll out security updates, bug fixes (related to security), and other patches that ensure Windows 7 users benefit from continued security protection. However, productivity could take a hit if app developers decide to end support for critical applications, especially those delivered in a virtual environment.
When Should You Upgrade to a New Operating System?
While users will still be able to boot up computers and other devices on January 15, 2020, and run Windows 7, that doesn’t mean that users should do so. The longer users continue using Windows 7, the more likely it is that the device running that operating system becomes vulnerable to security threats and viruses.
If the Deadline is not Until January 2020, Why Worry About it Now?
There’s no time like the present to get started with the migration process from Windows 7 to Windows 10. The new operating system is more powerful and offers a host of different features. Setting aside the lack of protection from security threats on Windows 7, the migration process takes time. Buying and installing Windows 10 can take up to 2 hours per device, so there’s no point in putting off the process any longer than necessary.
There is no severe, immediate threat to those users who continue with Windows 7 right up to the end-of-life date. Microsoft has promised to continue releasing security updates, upgrades, and patches for the operating system up until January 14, 2020. In fact, Microsoft typically ensures those updates are as robust as possible to give users coverage after the end-of-life date to make the switch at their own pace without exposing devices, servers, and networks to security threats. Again though, it is only a matter of time before hackers begin to test those patches and find weaknesses to attack Windows 7 devices. The only difference this time is that Microsoft won’t come to the rescue with patches.
Additionally, it is important to note that Windows 10 isn’t new. It was released in 2015 and has been building up a strong user base. Many of the original kinks of the operating system have been worked out. If all devices within an enterprise are ready, there’s really no good reason not to make the switch ahead of the end of life.
What Would be the Next Steps for Anyone to Get Past Windows 7?
As companies look to migrate from Windows 7, getting over this hurdle starts with a total-cost-of-ownership evaluation. One of the biggest deterrents for enterprise operating system upgrades is application compatibility. Microsoft has taken great strides forward with Windows 10 to minimize headaches in this department, and the peer-caching capabilities of Windows 10 address bandwidth and downtime issues that often come with operating system upgrades.
CompleteCloud from Avatara does offer enterprise businesses with a solution to the woes of operating system end-of-life cycles and upgrade downtime. CompleteCloud desktops provide businesses of all sizes with continuous access to virtual desktops running operating systems that are constantly updated. This means applications, security patches, and even operating system changes are handled by Avatara as needed over time, freeing up employees to focus 100% on work and ensuring the company doesn’t miss a beat in the process. In fact, a completed TCO may point to solutions like CompleteCloud as the better long-term choice for the company because of its continuity.