Three months to go before Windows 7 end of life: What are your options?

Three months to go before Windows 7 end of life: What are your options?


With only three months to go before Windows 7 is finally retired, businesses still using the old operating system have little time left to prepare for the end of support. If you’re among the few remaining Windows 7 loyalists, it’s important to understand that continuing to use an outdated operating system presents serious security risks. Microsoft will stop releasing critical security updates from January next year, after which new vulnerabilities will no longer be patched.

Hackers often take advantage of businesses and individuals still running outdated operating systems. The original developer also sheds their responsibility to address potential security flaws. This makes users who haven’t upgraded easy targets. Perhaps the most infamous examples are the WannaCry and NotPetya attacks, which specifically exploited old operating systems.

Making the move to Windows 10

Upgrading to Windows 10 is the obvious solution for almost all businesses and individuals that don’t want to migrate to a completely new operating system or managed cloud-based virtual desktops. Windows 10 provides an instantly familiar interface, and it addresses many of the complaints of its controversial predecessors Windows 8 and 8.1. Most importantly, however, it is delivered as a service model and always kept up to date.

Windows 10 is often hailed as the last version of Windows in that once you purchase a license, you have it for the lifetime of the device it’s installed on, even if you upgrade. You can also move licenses over to other machines. Windows 10 sees two major updates every year, which are installed automatically by default. You’ll never have to pay for upgrades, and you’ll be able to take advantage of continuous innovation.

It’s usually possible to perform an in-place upgrade to Windows 10 provided you’re running a previous edition of Windows that operates on the same architecture. That means, for example, if you’re running Windows 7 64-bit, you should have no problem upgrading to Windows 10 64-bit without having to wipe your hard drive and install all your applications from scratch. One notable exception is if you’re also switching from BIOS firmware to UEFI, which is the firmware found on most computers and motherboards released in the past five years. If your computers are older than that, it might be time to start thinking about replacing them anyway and, in doing so, having Windows 10 preinstalled on the new machines.

For the most part, Windows 10 should run on any device that’s capable of running Windows 7 without a hitch. Most applications designed for Windows 7 also work with its successors. A notable issue is file associations being different between the two operating systems. Some of these may need to be manually reconfigured after installation if you want to continue using the same default applications.

If for any reason you can’t perform an in-place upgrade of Windows 10, you’ll need to wipe the device and start from scratch. A clean installation is generally preferable anyway, although it does take a lot longer.Regardless of whether you’re going for an in-place upgrade or clean installation, you should make sure to back up all important documents first. To keep disruption to your operations to a minimum, consider upgrading one user group at a time. This will also give employees a chance to get used to the new system, although that shouldn’t be much of an issue since most people are already using Windows 10 on their personal machines.

What are your other options?

For large enterprises running hundreds or even thousands of workstations across multiple branches, upgrading everything is far more complicated and time-consuming. However, this should not be taken as an excuse to delay any more than absolutely necessary. To give people more time to upgrade, Microsoft will provide extended security updates for three more years to volume licensing customers via the Extended Security Updates (ESU) program, but it does come at a high price, reaching $200 per device in the last year for Windows 7 Pro customers.

Another option is to migrate to an entirely new operating system, such as MacOS or a Linux distribution. However, both options will require extensive retraining, and upgrading to MacOS also means replacing all your machines with Apple computers anyway. In almost all cases, the only practical solution is to upgrade to Windows 10 as soon as possible.

At Xact IT Solutions, we don’t wait for IT problems. Instead, we provide proactive solutions and managed services you can depend on to drive business growth. Call us today if you need help deploying Windows 10.

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