We look back at Windows 7's journey and how it led us to the polished Windows 10, as well as the options users sticking with 7 have going forward.
Microsoft officially ended support for the Windows 7 operating system (OS) on Tuesday, 14th of January.
What that means is that users still running the OS on their computers will no longer benefit from updates and security patches that help protect PCs from the latest threats floating across the web.
When it was first released in 2009, Windows 7 represented a return to form for the tech giant. After a middling Windows Vista OS that received lukewarm reception, Windows capitalized on the strengths of Windows XP and brought us Windows 7: the ease of use of XP with a 2009 polish.
It has been so successful, analytics website Net Market Share reports that 26.6% of the world's computers today still use it.
Following on from 7, however, Microsoft introduced Windows 8, mistaking the appeal of tablet UIs for something that computer users would want to contend with.
They were wrong.
Windows 8 adoption rates were even worse than the Vista's, and most users were content with sticking by the tried-and-true 7 OS.
Eventually, in 2015, Windows 10 was introduced (9 was skipped for an absurd, but logical reason). While better than Windows 8 by leagues, touting a fancy coat of paint as well as a handy voice assistant to boot, it was still missing the warm welcome of 7. Eventually, Windows 10 came into its own, and it is currently a pretty solid option as far as OS's go, perfecting the 7 formula while avoiding the blunders of 8.
Don't wing it - An unsupported OS is no laughing matter
Bold users out there looking to venture the murky waters of the internet with an unsupported OS always have the option to do so, but we don't recommend it.
"A user should never use an unsupported operating system for public facing internet use, like browsing the web or for email. It is bad practice," Chris Morales, head of security analytics at Vectra, said.
"If a users’ current hardware does not support Windows 10 or a newer OS, it is likely old hardware that doesn’t support any of the latest versions of apps either," Morales continued. "This means not only the OS is out of date, but everything is most likely out of date, which is a much bigger problem. I’d recommend for those users to buy new hardware."
As surprising as it may sound, an operating system can be as complex as a living organism (not exactly, but you get our point). They're very complex software ecosystems that involve billions of lines of codes, created by hundreds if not thousands of employees. It's for that reason that abusable bugs and loopholes can be discovered within a piece of software 15, 20 or even 37 years after launch.
A switch to Windows 10 is what we recommend. Windows 10 is available for purchase and download via Microsoft's website for $139. While Microsoft technically ended its free Windows 10 upgrade program in July 2016, as of January, CNET has confirmed that the free update is still available for Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 users.
Still can't let go of Windows 7 yet? You have options, but they'll cost you a hefty sum If you're still intent on sticking with Windows 7, you can. In fact, you can do so while enjoying the peace of mind of a supported of OS. That's because Microsoft has announced that it will provide support to users that are willing to pay for the "Extended Security Updates" (ESU).
Back in October, Microsoft announced the availability of paid Windows 7 Extended Security Updates through January 2023 for businesses of all sizes.
"Starting on December 1, 2019, businesses of any size can purchase ESU through the cloud solution provider (CSP) program," Microsoft said in a blog post. "This means that customers can work with their partners to get the security they need while they make their way to Windows 10. "
According to cloud consultant Agile IT, ESU wil be sold "on a per-device basis, meaning the more machines you need to support, the more expensive the ESU program will be.
"For the first year, ESU licenses start at $50 per machine for Professional and Ultimate users, and $25 per machine for Enterprise users. These costs double to $100 and $50 respectively in Year 2, and double again to $200 and $100 per machine in Year 3. These costs also include continuing support for Office 365 ProPlus, allowing Windows 7 machines covered by the ESU program to continue to run Office 365 apps."
Essentially, your options are either to wing it with no security patches, get the patches for a significant sum, or just make the switch to Windows 10 (which should be free through the method CNET mentioned, linked again here).