As you are reading this, Microsoft will have officially ended support for Windows 7 on January 14, 2020. It’s a testament to the popularity of the OS that despite Windows 10 being offered as a free upgrade for any licensed copy of Windows 7 or 8, it took Windows 10 nearly 4 years to finally surpass the installed base of Windows 7 users. Even now, though the upgrade is still being offered for free, 26% of all PC’s are still running Windows 7. In prior years, I had warned about charging headlong into upgrading to 10, as the process was fraught with problems, and some of you inadvertently upgraded through Microsoft’s rather heavy-handed and confusing update messages. Fortunately, though it still has its problems, the upgrade process is much more stable and many computers, even though they may be relatively old (in computer years), can run the “new” OS just as well as they ran 7.
January 15 begins the slow retirement of Windows 7
One of the things that is worrying most of my clients are the various dire warnings they are receiving from many software vendors that “Windows 7 will no longer be supported” by that company. When conversing with the support desks of these various software vendors, you can ask them point-blank, “Will your software stop running on Windows 7,” and you will receive the answer, “We no longer provide support for computer running Windows 7,” which doesn’t really answer the question. Any well-trained support representative cannot answer this question without getting into trouble, as any variation of “Yes, but…” will result their customers continuing to use an OS that is no longer guaranteed to get fixed by Microsoft if something breaks. And therein lies the heart of the matter.
Though we can’t guarantee it, it’s pretty likely that your software, if it was running properly on Windows 7 on January 14, will continue to run properly on January 15th. While it is technically possible that a software developer could code their applications to stop running if it sees your computer running Windows 7, you can see how that may not sit well with customers if a program they paid for just stopped working. Instead, they are taking a gentler path, hoping to use a thinly veiled threat/warning instead of an outright cattle prod.
In the short run, if you hit a problem with a piece of software that requires a call to tech support, you’ll get nowhere fast as soon as they notice you are still on Windows 7. Though the software may still be running despite the issue, you’ll be on your own to solve the issue (even if it’s not caused by Windows 7), and if it’s not running at all, you are out of luck.
In the long run, continuing to use Windows 7 will be a problem for everyone, as the Microsoft will likely stop producing security patches after a year if they follow a similar retirement path to the one used for Windows XP. Not only will this make the OS increasing dangerous to use, it will likely result in Windows 7 becoming more unstable as time passes, and performance will decrease as new hardware and software are optimized only for Windows 10.
Even though you will probably be just fine running on Windows 7 for the next few weeks (or even months depending on your environment), unless you have a compelling reason to not upgrade, moving to Windows 10 should be on your first or second quarter to-do list. Be prepared for some disruption, whether you upgrade the OS or buy a new computer with 10 already installed. If you need a primer on what to expect on going to 10, have a look at our three part series here: