You may have heard friends and family talking about Windows 7 ending soon. Possibly you’re also getting messages popping up on your computer warning you about it. No, it’s not fake news – I can confirm that Microsoft is ceasing support for Windows 7 on 14th January 2020.
So why is this happening, will it affect you and, if so, what do you do about it? In this article, I’ll answer all those questions so that, not only do you know what’s going on, but you can pass on this information to others you know who are confused about the situation.
Obviously the information in this article is going to be general in nature and won’t take your specific circumstances into account, so if you feel you need more detailed answers for your personal situation, remember we’re here to help. In fact, we have a special offer for those concerned about the Windows 7 issue (see the Consultation Special at the end of this article).
Why is Windows 7 going?
Information technology changes rapidly and at an accelerating rate. The internet, viruses, hacking and security have evolved and altered dramatically in the decade since Windows 7 was released. Computer use (and misuse) now is radically different to what it was in 2009, so Microsoft had to work hard to continually update Windows 7 so that it could stay functional and safe to use for the last 10 years.
But as they say, all good things must come to an end and that is the case for Windows 7. Microsoft did a great job of getting it to do things it was never designed to do, but their task has become too arduous as this old system reaches its practical limits.
How can I tell if I have Windows 7?
Many people aren’t sure which version of Windows they have; is it XP, Vista, 7, 8 or 10? How do you find out? Well, the simplest way is to look at the Start button in the bottom-left corner of your screen.
If you’re looking but don’t see anything, try moving your mouse cursor down into the bottom-left corner to see if you can make the Start button come out of hiding.
This Start button means you’re okay.
A white Microsoft logo (the 4-panel window), means you have either Windows 8 or 10, so you have nothing to worry about for now. Windows 8 support doesn’t cease until 2023. Technically, Windows 10 support won’t cease as long as you’re keeping it up to date on your computer.
This Start button means you’ve got decisions to make.
A coloured Microsoft logo in a circle means you have Windows 7 or Windows Vista (which is even older and no longer supported anyway).
If you see any Start button other than the two above, you have an even older version of Windows that will have been unsupported for quite some time. So beware, because you are well overdue for a change! If your computer is connected to the internet, I highly recommend you consider Option 3 below.
What can I do if I still have Windows 7?
If you’ve determined that you have Windows 7, you have three options to choose from:
- Do nothing, just keep using Windows 7 on your computer
- Upgrade your computer to Windows 10.
- Get a new computer
Let me explain the pros and cons of each of these choices.
Option 1 – Do nothing
The good news is that your computer won’t suddenly stop working on the 14th January. What will happen on that date is that Microsoft will stop sending out updates for Windows 7. For some people this is a welcome change because they find the updates annoying.
At this point, your computer will mostly continue to do what it has been doing. You’ll probably get different warning messages popping up, but you can still use the programs that are on it and access email and web pages.
It’s important to realise though, that a significant number of the updates your computer used to get were to patch holes or flaws in Windows. Those holes were often discovered only after it was realised they were being exploited by hackers, viruses or the like to breach Windows security. So, it’s important to realise that doing nothing will mean that your unsupported Windows will become increasingly risky to use.
Won’t my Antivirus Software keep me safe?
Unfortunately, no. Antivirus software relies on the underlying version of Windows being inherently secure but because there will be no more Windows updates, this won’t be possible. Using antivirus software with an unsupported version of Windows would be like wearing a seatbelt in a car with faulty brakes!
So, Windows 7 won’t have any new updates and security software won’t be able to its job, so this means there are websites, programs and apps that simply won’t work any more because it would be unsafe to do so.
Internet banking is the most obvious casualty, but that’s not the only service you have to worry about. Logging into any website you have an account with potentially exposes your private details and that makes you more vulnerable to identity theft.
New printers and the like
Inevitably, computers with unsupported versions of Windows are gradually replaced over time. Subsequently, the demand for accessories that work with an old version of Windows eventually becomes low enough that manufacturers stop making products that are compatible with it.
This happens with all sorts of hardware, but the one that impacts people most is the humble printer. If you find you need to replace your printer, the longer your version of Windows has been unsupported, the harder it will be to find a model that will still work with it.
Option 2 – Upgrade
Upgrading gives you the latest version of Windows which means it has all the new features and is secure. It is also a cheap option if you can do it yourself. But upgrades come with their own potential problems.
Before I talk about those problems, you may have noticed that until now I’ve been talking about “updates” but now I’m suddenly talking about “upgrades”. Both words have a similar meaning in our everyday language, but they mean something specific in regards to Windows. So, to avoid confusion, here’s what I’m talking about:
- Updates: The patches or fixes made by Microsoft that are automatically downloaded and installed to resolve problems found in Windows are called updates. Usually you don’t notice any obvious difference to the way your computer looks or behaves after the updates have been installed. Updates are going to stop happening for Windows 7 after January 2020.
- Upgrades: Changing from your current version of Windows to a newer version of Windows on the same computer is considered an upgrade. The end result is supposed to be an improved look and feel to the way Windows worked before the upgrade. Changing from Windows 7 to Windows 10 on the same computer is an example of an upgrade. Upgrades are a major change to a computer and are not done automatically. Upgrades should not be done without understanding of and proper preparation for the potential ramifications of the changes that will occur.
Can I just upgrade to Windows 10 on my computer?
Yes, you can. Microsoft even allows you to upgrade from Windows 7 to 10 for free if you know how. It’s not something we recommend though, because Windows 10 is made for the speed of modern computers. If your computer is old enough to still have Windows 7 on it, it is likely to old hardware so will be significantly slower once it has been upgraded to Windows 10.
I don’t care if it’s super slow. Are there other upgrading concerns?
If you do decide to upgrade your computer to Windows 10, the first thing you should do is backup everything before you start because sometimes things don’t go as planned! Regardless, it is strongly advised to wipe everything off the computer and install Windows 10 and all your programs from scratch. Consequently, it’s important to be sure you have access to the installation files so you can reinstall all your software after the upgrade (think of Word, Excel, your email programs, printers, etc).
Why should you wipe your computer clean before the upgrade? If you don’t, you run the risk of compounding any background problems that currently exist on your computer. Often, these problems were barely noticeable (if at all) on your old version of Windows, but upgrading to the newer version magnifies them and turns them into a nuisance.
Option 3 – New computer
If you do nothing, your computer will be a security risk. If you just upgrade your computer, it’s likely to be painfully slow and/or develop other problems that didn’t seem to be there before. Your last option is to go for something completely new.
When new technology comes out, my usual recommendation is to relax and not bother changing until you actually need a new one. If your computer has Windows 7, technology that is so old that it is about to pass its use-by date, that’s old enough that you really should be in the market for a new computer. Windows 10 is the newest version of Windows, but it’s been around long enough to have matured and is now considered to be tried, tested and well supported. However, it really needs the power of a new computer for it to work how it was intended.
Consequently, my recommendation for the best course of action is to start planning to buy a new computer.
How do I know what to buy?
Thinking about purchasing a new computer makes many people feel like ice water is running through their veins. It’s an important purchase but stressful because working out what computer will fit your needs is beyond the knowledge of most people.
The sales people at Harvey Norman and the like are usually well versed in the features of the products they sell, but they’re not technicians so there’s always the concern that their recommendations are skewed towards the best commission for them rather than the best fit for you.
Geeks to the Rescue can help advise you on new computer purchases too. Because we’ve worked with you in the past, we often already have an understanding of your requirements, too.
If you need something portable or compact, we regularly have access to discounted laptop models from our suppliers.
Or if you prefer the superior reliability and performance of a desktop computer, we custom build them to suit your requirements (and to last a long time).
If you’d like specific advice or questions answered about your particular circumstances or IT requirements, we can come to you for a one-on-one consultation. We can provide recommendations for what to buy or even help you decide if you can get away with just upgrading rather than buying a new computer.
Right now, we’re offering a special Windows 7 Consultation. We’ll come to you, discuss your requirements, go over any issues or questions you might have and find the most cost effective solution for your circumstances. The consultation is for up to 45 minutes and only $125 (plus GST).
Our advice will already help you save money by avoiding incorrect and wasteful purchases but if you do make use of our Consultation Special and subsequently purchase a computer from us before February 2020, we’ll credit your payment for the consultation towards the cost of the new computer.
Please be aware that the Consultation Special or the credit towards a new system cannot be used in conjunction with any other offers.
So, what are you waiting for? Give us a call!