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What's the deal with Windows 7 end of support?

by John Browne, on Jan 16, 2020 5:38:15 PM

Alas Windows 7, we hardly knew ye.

Actually, not true. We knew ye for almost 11 years, since the launch date was in 2009 and it was the OS that booted XP out of 1st place in our heart. Windows 7, coming on the heels of the Disaster Known as Vista, seemed to be flawless: stable, fast, and beautiful.

And now it's over.



As of January 14, 2020, Microsoft has cut off extended support for Windows 7. If that makes you mad, consider it's been out of mainstream support since 2015, so only security patches since then. Because we've had Windows 8, 8.1, and Windows 10 in the interim. It's not like you didn't get the memo.

Can I still use Windows 7?

Of course. It's not going to actually stop working. You will see a big nasty warning that you're using out of support software and you should upgrade to Windows 10 (Microsoft threw Windows 8.x in the dumpster a long time ago and no one wept to see it go). Your Win 7 PC will boot up and run just like it did a week ago, at least until the Usual Suspects install some malware on it and start encrypting all your files.

Is Windows 7 safe to use?

Taking selfies at the edge of the Grand Canyon: that's not safe. Not using your seat belt. Smoking. Those things will kill you. Windows 7 won't kill you, but using could really mess up your life.




How will it mess up my life?

Bless your heart, that's a great question. It's the question one would ask if one had just awakened from a 10 year coma. Hmm, where to start? Well, in 2019 (aka two weeks ago) there were at least 5000 data hacks scoring about 8 billion (yeah, with a B) consumer records. Quest Diagnostics: 12 million. Capital One: 100 million. Houzz: 49 million. Shall I go on? Oh, why not? Dubsmash: 161.5 million. And number one with a bullet: Zynga at 218 million including, probably, me (since I used to play Words With Friends until I got disgusted with their unique version of the English language).

Hacks come from a variety of sources (SQL injection, buffer overflows, phishing, and on and on) but running on an out of support OS is basically leaving the keys in your car while you go have dinner.

Won't my anti-virus software protect me?




Well maybe. And maybe the rhythm method is a terrific birth control plan (just ask your grandmother) but from time to time it yields a smiling little face you have to feed for 18 years or so. I personally believe that Windows Defender (ie automatic Windows Updates) is all the anti-malware you need--plus it's FREE--and the other AV companies are basically in business to trick you into a subscription that you really don't need. But Windows Updates ain't a-gonna happen no more for your Windows 7 system so good luck with Norton or McAfee or whatever crap came bundled on your laptop. What Windows Update could do that they can't is actually patch your OS. And since they don't have the OS source code they don't understand how to block vulnerabilities like MSFT can and does. But with Windows 10, not with Windows 7. So keep running Windows 7 and, like all those families in the 50s who relied on the rhythm method, hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

Hah! I'll run Windows 7 in a VM.

Hah! That won't help a bit. The security systems for a host system protect the host; not the client running in a VM. My former colleague Leo Notenboom explains it pretty well here. All a VM does is virtualize the physical machine; unless the VM has no network access via the host there is no security added by running in a VM. And if you don't need network access, why run in a VM? Just keep running that old Win7 PC, but unplug the network cable or risk the consequences.

Microsoft patched XP. They'll patch Win7.

It's true that Microsoft released an update for Windows XP long after it was out of extended support. In fact, they released two updates. Here are two takeaways from that information:

  • Microsoft itself discovered a vulnerability that could be used for a worm to spread malware. They weren't responding to a known attack; instead they were locking a door that had been left open. And their patch ONLY closed that door; it didn't bring XP up to date on all known exploits. Windows XP is still vulnerable as all get out and if you're running an XP machine that has any connection to the outside world it's not a question of if you will get infected but when.
  • That patch for XP (and some other Windows Server versions)? They didn't need to patch Windows 8.x or 10 because why? Because those operating systems were constructed better than the older systems. Dad's 1960 Plymouth Valiant had drum brakes, no seat belts, and a steel dashboard just waiting to crush your face in an accident. That was a terrific car in 1960 but by today's safety standards it's a deathtrap. Because after analyzing automobile accidents and fatalities for years and years, engineers figured out things like crush zones, seat- and shoulder belts, air bags, disc brakes, padded interiors, and collapsible steering columns. In 1960 they didn't know about any of that. And when Windows 7 (and XP and on and on) were created there were lots of things people didn't know about how bad actors could attack operating systems and applications.

I'll just pay them

Certain classes of customers can pay for extended extended support. But it's not cheap, and the price goes up every year. And eventually even that will stop. For example, if you are in a business with 1000 Win 7 Pro clients you want to keep running, you'll wind up paying Microsoft $350,000 for three more years of updates. Of course, that doesn't include updating device drivers for any old hardware in those PCs, since those drivers come from--and are updated--by the OEMs who make them, not Microsoft. It's anyone's guess how long they will keep supporting old hardware they've already been paid for.

Windows 7 is better than Windows 10

No, it's not. I loved Win 7, but Windows 10 is reliable, fast, efficient, has a great UX, and does stuff Windows 7 only dreamed of.

Sure, if you look at the Internet you'll find people who have had troubles, but there are many many more who use it and it works just fine. With an open system like Windows (allowing PCs to mix and match hardware and install all kinds of sketchy executables), there are always going to be scenarios where somebody doesn't play nice and the dreaded BSOD pops up. Failing RAM or power supply, badly written device drivers, and other non-Windows related problems can look like the OS is unreliable. But that happens with every OS, including the beloved XP and Win 7. 

But my application won't run on Windows 10!

Ok, good point. If you have critical apps that can't run on new configurations, you can replace them, replatform them, or migrate them. For the right kind of applications, migration is by far the best option. Call us to learn how. 

You know what to do.







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