According to NetMarketShare almost one third of all PCs worldwide, still run on Windows 7. Why do so many people love Windows 7? If you have been using this old Operating System by Microsoft then you know why – because it stays out of your way, and it just works.
Not anymore. On January 14, 2020, Microsoft officially ended Windows 7’s extended support. The beloved Operating System has reached it’s End of Life and the free Microsoft Security Essentials antivirus program will no longer be supported either.
Of course your computer will keep running. Microsoft will not remotely pull the plug on your device. But Windows 7 will not receive any more updates and it will not get the latest security patches. The implication of this is that your PC could become vulnerable to a bunch of malware programs garnering headlines every day. Ransomware, Exploits, Phishing attacks – If you keep using Windows 7, you need to consider taking some extra security precautions.
Hackers Love Retired Operating Systems
In April 2017, the hacker group Shadow Brokers leaked EternalBlue, a Windows vulnerability it had stolen from the National Security Agency. Less than a month later, other hackers used EternalBlue to infect more than 230,000 unpatched Windows machines with WannaCry ransomware. Microsoft had already patched the flaw in supported versions of Windows. But at the time of the outbreak, many computers were still running Windows XP (retired in 2014) and Windows Server 2003 (retired in 2015).
Microsoft was forced to issue an emergency patch for the unsupported operating systems to prevent the spread of the ransomware. (Interestingly, it later became evident that WannaCry did not affect Windows XP machines because they crashed before running its malicious payload.)
Earlier this year, Microsoft discovered another critical security flaw in Windows XP and Server 2003 that allowed hackers to infect computers with malware without requiring any interaction from the user. And again, Microsoft went out of its way to issue a patch for operating systems it had retired.
Security Support Can Continue, If You Pay Up
The main reason Microsoft retires older versions of its operating systems is that maintaining them requires resources and engineers. These can be costly, especially as the company focuses its efforts on new products and services.
From 2015 to 2020, during Windows 7’s extended support period, Microsoft issued only critical security updates. But the company acknowledges that not all its customers will be able to make the transition by January 2020, especially large enterprises and government agencies for whom the port will be costly.
That’s why the company has an Extended Security Update program, which will run until January 2023. Organizations that want to continue using Windows 7 Pro and receive bug patches will have to pay $50 per device in the first year, $100 in the second year, and $200 in the third year to do so. That’s a hefty price, especially for organizations that haven’t transitioned to Windows 10 because of financial constraints.
There will be an exception for Windows 7 users who have an active Windows 10 subscription; they will receive one year of Extended Security Updates for free.
Why do so many people still use Windows 7?
While Windows 10 has a bunch of new and different features and is a smoother experience than Windows 7, there are many users who probably can’t tell the difference. And, with Windows’ famed long-term support for apps many of today’s desktop programs still work fine on Windows 7 (or there’s a version that does).
Windows 7 still has roughly one-third of computers worldwide still running it. And for good reason. It was the first OS that just worked out of the box. It didn’t try to be flashy and it didn’t try to be cool. It was made of Windows, a taskbar, a kick-ass start button and not much else. Applications run on it and it turns on and off when it needs to.
According to the research by security vendor Kaspersky, Windows 7 is still one of the most popular OS among many enterprises and small businesses. According to the research, 47 percent of enterprises are still running Windows 7 on its devices.
Some users of Windows 7 cited their PC’s hardware limitations to run the newest version of Windows 10 as a reason to stick to the older software. Others are reluctant to spend money on buying the new Windows 10 version.
A lot of people out there are not willing to give up on Windows 7 because of Windows Media Center—Microsoft’s entertainment PC software. Microsoft released an updated version of WMC with Windows 7, but only kept the old version for Windows 8 and 8.1. Then in May, Microsoft gave WMC its marching papers, saying the aging software would not be compatible with Windows 10.
There’s also a cadre of Windows 7 and 8.1 users who don’t see the need to move on. Why mess with something that’s stable and working perfectly, after all? It comes down to the old axiom of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”