Afraid of Windows 7?

January 14, 2020 is now past. If you were running Windows 7, it no longer works. Right? Well … despite the propaganda from Microsoft, it still works. As a matter of fact, millions of people are still running Windows 7, and this post is being written on it. Is it dangerous? In our opinion, it’s not any more dangerous than it was a year ago.
In fairness to Microsoft, it might be unreasonable to expect a vendor to support any particular version of an operating system for more than ten years or so.

So the well-publicized “end of support” for Windows 7 is here. That means that Windows 7 will no longer receive monthly security rollups and new versions of Microsoft’s monthly malicious-software removal tool. Although it’s also fair to say that, in all of my years of supporting Microsoft Windows computers, I have never actually observed any malicious-software removal being performed by that tool.

It is also notable that, if you have a computer with Windows XP (released to manufacturing in 2001), and you turn it on, that operating system also still works. Although Windows XP won’t run the many applications and features that have been added to Windows during the Windows 7 and Windows 10 eras, it will still happily run all of the applications that were originally designed for Windows XP–and many applications that were designed for Windows Vista, Windows 98, and even previous operating systems. Whether you upgrade your Windows 7 computer to Windows 10 (not recommended); upgrade your Windows 8.1 computer to Windows 10 (also not recommended); or go out and buy a new Windows 10 computer, it is pretty much guaranteed that you won’t be able to run 20-year-old software applications on it. Which brings up the reason why I still run a Windows XP machine on my network: it runs a 25-year-old, very expensive application program that I use all the time, and will not run on any operating system newer than Windows XP. I use that machine to run that program–not to browse the web or otherwise access the internet.

In summary, I think it’s worth saying that if you cannot afford–or would prefer not–to rush onto the Windows 10 bandwagon for another several months or longer, Windows 7 should still serve you very well while you wait.

For one thing, a final patch issued on January 14 “broke” a feature having to do with desktop backgrounds; Microsoft has already pledged to fix that issue–which means that there will yet another update to Windows 7 in the near future. And not that long ago, a Windows security flaw was exposed that affected all Windows operating systems going back years. A patch for Windows XP (!) was issued as a result of that.

So you can continue to use Windows 7 for quite a while and still sleep at night. However, you should make sure that you take a few reasonable steps to keep your computer and your data safe for the future:

  • Back up your data files, starting immediately if not sooner, and often. If your hard drive fails, your files are gone.
  • Using Windows 7’s own “Backup and Restore” feature, or a commercial program like Acronis True Image, save a complete image of your operating system and hard drive on external media (commonly, a high-capacity USB external hard drive) and put your backup in a safe place. In case of computer or hard-drive failures, you will be able to use a new hard drive to restore Windows 7 and all of your programs and data from the image you saved.
  • Make sure you keep automatic updates turned on, so that if Microsoft does issue a patch to fix a security or other issue, your computer will receive the update. After any updates, make sure to take another image of your hard drive so that it will reflect the updates to the operating system.
  • Install a highly-rated (not necessarily high-priced) anti-virus and anti-malware program and keep it updated. Here is a list of anti-virus vendors who have already announced that they will support Windows 7 for another year or two, at least. If you have been using Microsoft Security Essentials, we recommend picking another antimalware program now.
  • Use a trusted and secure web browser. Our recommendation is Google Chrome, which is constantly updated and quite secure. Google has already announced that the Chrome browser will be supported on Windows 7 until at least July 15, 2021. Do not use Internet Explorer; it has lacked many security features for years, and will no longer be updated for Windows 7.

In short, don’t be afraid of Windows 7. We’re not saying that Windows 10 (which currently gets a major upgrade every six months or so) is particularly scary, but if you have not yet made the transition you can and will run into issues. Some application programs will gradually drop features and require that you eventually transition to Windows 10. We use certain applications that we know for sure will not work on Windows 10. Some native Windows 7 features are simply missing from Windows 10, and you will have to find (or buy) the appropriate workaround.

But sleep well at night, or at least don’t let your sleep be disturbed by nightmares about Windows 7.