Goodbye, Windows 7. We’ll miss you.

January 14th 2020 is a sad day. It’s the day that Windows 7 reaches its ‘end of life’ and I feel like I’m losing an old friend. But what does ‘end of life’ mean, and how does it affect you? Read on…

Until Windows 10 came along, Microsoft supported each Windows version for ten years, meaning that for ten years Microsoft would fix errors that have been found and, crucially, patch the security holes that villains use to break in.

You may remember back in 2017 when the NHS and many other businesses were brought to their knees by a ‘malware’ infection. As the BBC pointed out a few months later:

“…all of this could have been avoided if security patches had been applied to protect the Windows 7 systems common throughout the NHS.”

Those really annoying ‘Windows is installing updates. Don’t turn off your computer’ messages have been a sign all along, telling you that the latest security features are being installed and updated.

So what happens in January?

Absolutely nothing. Not at first. But each month that goes by, for the 36% of computers still using it, the chances increase that a new way of breaking in to Windows 7 will be found and, if it is, you’re on your own. It’s possible that an up-to-date antivirus will help, but most of the computers affected in 2017 had one of those and were still compromised. In a nutshell, it’s no longer safe to use Windows 7 in two months time, unless it’s disconnected from the internet: no browsing, no email, no shopping, no banking.

What to do next

It’s time to make a difficult decision. Many old Windows 7 computers have the power to be updated to Windows 10 and run it perfectly well although, to be perfectly honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of Windows 10. It is certainly the most secure Windows there’s been but I don’t like its version of ‘privacy’, the way it installs programs you haven’t asked for (unless you delve deep into Settings) and the way it introduces a completely new version every six months, changing how things work and in some cases stopping things working completely: I’ve just had a month of laptops where the internet has stopped working and sometimes the mouse too. It’s a fixable problem: download a further update, over the internet that you can’t use…

Some machines might struggle with Windows 10 but still be perfectly capable – along with their newer, more powerful relatives – of running an alternative, such as Linux Mint. Mint is a very Windows-like system for the average computer user. It’s free, secure and for a typical user works more like Windows 7 than Windows 10 does. It’s fair to say that, under the skin, it’s a very different beast but I’ve been recommending it as an alternative for some years and I’m now finding my Linux customers recommending it to their friends and neighbours.

Mint still allows you to shop online, read your email, edit and create Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, edit your photos and videos, use Skype, and do most of things normal people do with their PCs. I installed it for my wife a few years back – not something I would do lightly! – and she has described it as ‘Windows with the annoying bits removed’. I can say no more.

Otherwise, there is always the option of buying a new Windows 10 PC or an Apple device or even a cheaper device like a Google Chromebook. Your system can usually be changed over without losing any of the important ‘stuff’ you’ve accumulated since your Windows 7 machine was a baby in 2009.

Please get in touch if you need help (although we do not sell computers ourselves we can advise on suitable options).

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