It’s been three years since Microsoft ended mainstream support for Windows 7, but Microsoft allowed enterprise and education customers who wanted to continue using the operating system to pay for up to three years of extended security updates.
Now time is up – Microsoft has ended extended security support for Windows 7, as well as Windows 8.1. That means that while you can still use either operating system, you may be putting your data at risk since Microsoft will no longer be pushing bug fixes, security updates, or other patches.
Windows 7 had a good run. The operating system was first released in 2009, and it was a breath of fresh air after Windows Vista. Unlike Vista, which was filled with resource-intensive visual effects, Windows 7 was designed to run well on budget laptops as well as high-end desktop computers. And it was a lot less crash-prone.
Microsoft shifted gears in a big way with Windows 8, trying to make the operating system touchscreen and tablet-friendly, with the introduction of a new full-screen Start Screen, a new “Metro” design language for touchscreen apps, and an integrated Windows Store app store. It… wasn’t particularly popular, which is one reason why many users stuck with Windows 7 for as long as possible.
While I think Microsoft’s course corrections with Windows 10 were largely the right ones, I know some folks aren’t too happy with some of the design decisions in Windows 11 which arguably make the desktop operating system feel a bit more like a mobile OS.
But at this point, it’s increasingly unsafe to stick with Windows 7.
If you’ve bought a new Windows computer in the eight years, this probably isn’t a huge problem, as it most likely shipped with Windows 10 or Windows 11. But if you’ve got an older laptop or desktop computer running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, you might want to consider:
- Upgrading to a newer version of Windows.
- Switching to a GNU/Linux distribution or another operating system that is still supported.
- Keep using your computer, but disconnect it from the internet.
You could also theoretically keep using your computer with third-party anti-virus and/or firewall software, but there’s no guarantee that this will protect you against all future vulnerabilities.
If you do decide to stick with an older version of Windows, they’ll likely become less useful over time. The Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome web browsers are ending support for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, which means that they’ll also no longer received security updates or new features.