Reminder: Windows 7 Support Ends January 2020

Microsoft announced a reminder at the beginning of 2019 that extended support for their Windows 7 operating system will end on the 14th, January 2020. Mainstream support of Windows 7 had already ended on January 13th, 2015. But what does this mean for you?

Windows 7 is reportedly still used on 39% of all computers despite being nearly 10 years old. The end of mainstream support in 2015 meant that the operating system was no longer being improved with updates to its main systems, that are not related to reliability or security.

The end of extended support in 2020 means that Microsoft will end support for security and reliability patches. This means that any device using Windows 7 will no longer have security updates or technical support.  

All warranties will be void and Microsoft will no longer accept requests for new design features and design changes. The device will become vulnerable to security issues as the operating system will not be updated against newer types of malicious software.

Over time Microsoft will also discontinue software and services related to Windows 7. Internet Backgammon and Internet Checkers are to be discontinued as well as the Windows Media Centre.

Windows 10 updates have removed various unpopular programs to free up space and increase performance, but this does mean that your old software might not be compatible with the new operating system and you won’t be able to use it.  

Microsoft products are supported for ten years, the first five years products are given mainstream support but after five years mainstream support ends. After ten years extended support ends.

This happened with Windows XP. Windows XP was an unsecured operating system, to begin with but Microsoft support helped patch out security issues. One of the main reasons Microsoft retired Windows XP was because it had so many vulnerabilities.

Windows 7 follows a similar blueprint as a Microsoft system as does Windows 10, which means that hackers will keep trying to find vulnerabilities in similar bits of code. Experts have said that once support for Windows 10 ends within 10 minutes hackers are likely to find vulnerabilities and compromise an operating system’s security.

Malware can easily spread on obsolete platforms as known vulnerabilities on the systems are not going to be fixed. If you own a business that primarily uses devices with Windows 7 then your data is potentially at risk. This means that hackers are more likely to find vulnerabilities on your devices with Windows 7 and they may try and take sensitive customer information or cause other sorts of issues.

Windows support is an absolute must for any device running Microsoft software. In 2017 the NHS suffered the largest ransomware cyber-attack in history. When malicious WannaCry software developed by the NSA and stolen by hackers were installed onto NHS networks through email phishing. Computers with up to date windows security patches were able to prevent the ransomware from affecting their systems but NHS devices with out of date software were infected.

This led to all files at some local hospitals being unable to be opened as they had been encrypted by an outside source. Which then demanded payment in the form of bitcoin. This cost the NHS £92 million. The cyber-attack was conducted on a global scale infecting more than 200,000 computers in over 150 countries. The ransomware was designed to infect older windows operating systems that hadn’t been updated.

To stop yourself from becoming a victim of cybercrime you should always keep your operating system up to date and have the latest security patches. Windows updates can be irritating but it is better to be safe than sorry.

Keeping Windows up to date and installing additional security software like firewalls and other anti-virus software will help sure up your device’s defences. Also, keep in mind that once Windows 7 extended support ends all warranties are void and all customer support will stop from most companies not just Microsoft. Which means that it will either cost you a lot of money to restore your systems or there will be no one to help you.

What should you do once support for Windows 7 ends?

One of the most straight forward choices would be to upgrade to Windows 10. Upgrading to Windows 10 is relatively simple as your device will most likely be a Windows machine. However, if your device is too old it might not be compatible with your newer software and some of your favourite applications may no longer be supported but this will also be the case if you change the operating system.

Here are the minimum specifications to run Windows 10. Your hardware must at least reach these benchmarks for the operating system to run. Please note that the meeting the minimum specs will cause significant stability issues and affect computer performance.

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor or SoC
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit
  • Hard disk space: 16 GB for 32-bit OS 20 GB for 64-bit OS
  • Graphics card: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver
  • Display: 800 x 600 resolution

Oddly enough you can pay to have Windows 7 support extended if you really can’t live without it. However, Microsoft has not yet released a cost. The extension will allow users on Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Enterprise to extend security updates till January 2023.

Remember Windows 10 mainstream support end on 13th October 2020 and extended support ends on 14th October 2025. Microsoft will presumably have released a new operating system by then and it will be time to update your systems once again.

All Microsoft products have ten years of full support, so if you want your networks to be safe then you must update to a newer system. Just because Windows 7 is still available doesn’t mean you should still use it.

Additional reading:
Microsoft has an FAQ support page that can be found here

Windows 7 support ends on January on 2020
The National Cyber Security Centre has some advice on the end of Windows 7 support