Upgrading when Support Ends
When Windows Support is Ending
This page is about your options when a currently-supported version of Windows is about to expire.
Support for Windows 7 and earlier has expired. Windows 8.1 will be the next to lose support January 10, 2023 under the old support protocol leaving only Windows 10 supported.
However, the terms of support for Windows 10 have changed, which makes determining the end of support difficult to pin down since several variables are involved.
Once support for your version of Windows has expired, it is dangerous to use because newly fixed security vulnerabilities can affect older systems that are no longer being updated.
Your choices are to:
If your Windows 10 device is no longer supported, your options are the same as above except that you need to purchase new hardware if you wish to continue using Windows 10.
Going Permanently Offline
If you continue to use an unsupported version of Windows (or any operating system), you'll need to take it permanently offline. Be sure to unplug network cables and disable wireless connectivity.
You can continue to use Windows for word processing, home theatre, music, etc. as long as you're depending upon CDs and DVDs or existing stored content.
However, being offline has some disadvantages.
- You may be unable to install devices because you're not connected. Drivers for current hardware seldom comes on CDs or DVDs and legacy drivers of any type are quickly vanishing.
- Online content, like news, email, Netflix, YouTube, is no longer available.
- Entertainment and video selection is restricted to CDs, DVDs and previously-stored content.
Scammers and hackers continue to test old systems for vulnerabilities fixed in newer (supported) Windows versions.
Because your computer is no longer receiving security updates or fixes, importing an infected file from another system may cause data loss or your computer to become unusable. Repairs may not be economical.
You may be able to repurpose devices for less demanding tasks.
Is it Worth It?
Only you can determine if the risks are worth the value you obtain from an offline computer. Replacing the obsolete computer with a new computer (or installing Linux) is recommended.
Windows Support Phases
Microsoft has changed how they define the supported period for software, including Windows.
Traditional Support: 10 Years
Traditionally, Windows support came in two phases, totalling 10 years:
- The end of mainstream support means that there will be no further free updates to the operating system (only essential fixes and security updates).
- When extended support expires there will be no more security updates, bug fixes, or technical support.
Modern Support: Lifetime of the Device
Currently, Microsoft provides support for one year from the most recent major update (spring and fall). If you continue to update, this will not be an issue for you until Microsoft determines that your hardware is unsupportable.
When Extended Support Ends
Once extended support for any version of Windows ends, it is no longer safe to us and you need to look for an alternative as soon as possible.
In the last year of extended support, Microsoft will give you plenty of warning so you can prepare before it is too late.
Planning for Windows Replacement
After January 14, 2020, no further security updates will be published freely to [Windows 7] users, though paid security updates will be available to volume license users of Professional and Enterprise versions through January 10, 2023. — Tech Republic
If you're still running Windows 7, Microsoft will no longer provide updates or fixes, including security updates. As security updates are released for Windows 10, hackers and malicious actors will be testing Windows 7 (and earlier) for those same vulnerabilities, making it increasingly dangerous to remain online.
How Important is Windows Software?
The options depend upon how committed you are to Windows and what you use your computer for.
Probably the most important aspects to consider are your software and hardware requirements.
- Consider what software you're running and if it can be replaced or likely needs to be upgraded in the future.
- Consider if you have critical hardware that cannot run on alternative operating systems and if it can be replaced easily. Not all Windows-based hardware will work with Windows 10.
If you have a significant investment in Windows software or hardware that is expensive or impossible to replace, you may need to move to Windows 10. If you are a basic user then alternatives like Linux and Mac become easier to accept.
- Windows, Mac, or Linux? We compare the pros and cons of these computing platforms.
- macOS vs. Windows: Which OS really is the best?
Moving to Windows 10
Recent Hardware & Software?
If your hardware is recent and relatively powerful, it will likely support Windows 10. The question becomes one of how well does it support the new features you want to use and if you will need to replace external devices like printers and scanners.
If your hardware is relatively old, you need to invest in a new Windows 10 computer or consider one of the alternatives to Windows.
Your software is another aspect to consider. If you have relatively-new software it will likely run on Windows 10.
Whether you move to Windows 10 or move to another operating system there is the possibility that you'll need to purchase or upgrade your current software. Most Linux software is free, but not all Mac software or Windows 10 apps are.
Moving to another operating system may mean exporting your email from the old mail program then importing it into the new program.
This isn't a big deal if you use webmail (e.g. Gmail) but could be an issue for you if you have a significant amount of important email stored on your computer that isn't still on the email server (email hosting company's computer — e.g. Telus or Shaw).
Similarly, if you own a CAD program, an Adobe Suite, an accounting program or other significant software that currently works for you, moving to another operating system may be either unsupported or require you to purchase the version for that operating system without any upgrade discount.
Windows 10 Upgrades
An upgrade to Windows 10 may be your only option if you NEED to run either software or hardware that works only on Windows. While many printers and scanner provide support for both Windows and Mac, not all do (and fewer provide support for Linux).
Windows 10 has matured significantly since its release and may offer some advantages over Windows 7 and 8.1, depending upon your hardware capabilities and your need for the newer features.
Windows 10 boots faster, works faster, and seems much more robust than either Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1. — InfoWorld
Free Upgrades Still Possible
If your computer hardware is sufficiently modern, a free Windows 10 upgrade from Windows 7 or 8.1 may be possible.
If your hardware too old, it is unlikely that it will support a Windows 10 upgrade, or support the newest features. Since Microsoft could end support for older hardware at any time, spending money to update wouldn't make sense.
I've continued to be able to upgrade suitable Windows 7 computers but you'll possibly have to pay for it, especially if you wait. See Should You Upgrade? on the Windows 10 page's aside (sidebar on larger screens).
I have managed free upgrades since Windows 7 support officially ended, but some have failed due to hardware incompatibility and such support can disappear without warning.
If you do decide to upgrade to Windows 10, there are resources to help you:
- Upgrade to Windows 10: FAQ (Microsoft Support).
- Windows 7 to Windows 10 migration guide.
- Windows 10: How you can successfully make the move from Windows 7.
Moving to a New Windows 10 Computer
If you cannot upgrade your current computer, you need to consider a new Windows 10 computer if you choose to stay with Windows.
In such a case, purchasing a new Windows 10 computer probably is your best option. It will allow you to take advantage of modern hardware and the new features it supports in Windows 10.
To take advantage of the latest hardware capabilities, we recommend moving to a new PC with Windows 10. As an alternative, compatible Windows 7 PCs can be upgraded by purchasing and installing a full version of the software. — Microsoft Support
But consider these potential issues with moving to Windows 10:
- There are privacy and monetization considerations. Privacy setting have been a moving target. Linux is a safer bet if you're worried about that.
- Windows 10 pre-loads a lot of bloatware (e.g. Candy Crush) and places annoying roadblocks when trying to make your preferred apps the default instead of Edge, Photos, Films & TV, etc.
- Many non-essential apps cannot be uninstalled at all (including Xbox).
- Windows 10 is essentially a mobile-first, cloud-first operating system which is enhanced for touch. Windows 10's Start menu is nothing like Windows 7's but is an improvement over Windows 8.1's.
- Some users have experienced issues with forced updates that have included flaws leading to the loss of personal data or even the inability to start Windows. Microsoft appears to be reconsidering this practice.
The widespread collection of data and threats to privacy are not unique to Windows 10. Many websites routinely collect a lot of information about us and many apps on our smart phones and tablets do the same.
Corporate Users Face Unique Challenges
For companies, particularly those that have folks working from home, there are additional challenges when moving to Windows 10.
For small offices, without added automation capabilities, you have to send a person down to every machine to do the migration. And there are plenty of home users that rarely, or never, come into the office. — Sumir Karayi
The following resources can help you make the right decision for your business and perhaps smooth the transition period:
- Choosing your Windows 7 exit strategy: Four options (a $49 Tech Republic white paper).
- How to prepare your organization for the end of Windows 7 support.
- The Windows 10 security guide: How to safeguard your business.
Alternatives to Windows
If you aren't committed to the Windows environment but still need a computer, the best options include either moving to a Mac or to Linux. Both will require some adjustments, but so does moving to Windows 10.
Chromebook may work for some users with less demanding requirements.
Others may consider doing away with a computer altogether and moving to a tablet or smartphone. Combined with a wireless printer, most simple requirements can be met.
Switching to a Mac means embracing Apple's computing model and can mean some significant investments in hardware and possibly software. Since Macs can last up to twice as long the extra expense can be justified.
Major software like Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Office does not recognize a Windows license when installed on a Mac (Adobe Cloud and Office 365 subscriptions do).
If you already use an iPad or iPhone, familiarity with iOS will make the transition to macOS easier.
Switching to Linux offers a free but workable option, particularly if your hardware is too old to run Windows 10.
Modern Linux automatically installs most of the software that casual users require such as Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, etc. You can also install other software.
There are various distributions (flavours) of Linux as well as several desktop environments to choose from. I recommend Linux Mint because it more closely resembles Windows 7 in how it looks and feels and is based upon the popular Ubuntu.
Ubuntu and Mint are now the third and fourth most popular home operating systems (after Windows and Mac). Windows 10 now contains the Windows Subsystem for Linux and the modern macOS is based upon Linux.
The South Korea and the city of Munich, Germany governments are among those that have moved or are planning to move to Linux.
ChromeBook has considerable privacy issues (Google never forgets) but will run Android apps, which may appeal to those with Android tablets or smartphones.
Other limitations have been noted such as this evaluation of a ChromeBook supplied by an American school district:
But what I quickly discovered is that the Chrome's sound output, camera quality, and screen are inferior to our Windows-based home PCs. — AskWoody
Our kids have been using Chromebooks in school for years and pretty much hate them because they're just, well, cheap. Poor keyboards, tiny retina burning displays, ads, ads, ads and oh yeah, ads! — AskWoody
I'm sure there have been upgrades and options for better ChromeBooks. Just be sure what you're getting when you purchase one.
Tablets & Smartphones
If you're a home user and you don't create a lot of original content (mostly surfing the Web, reading email and posting on social media) you might consider moving to an iPad or Android tablet. Combined with a suitable wireless printer you may be able to do away with your computer altogether.
Tablets for Business
Businesses may find it useful to move to a suitable tablet for travel or other portable use, but most businesses will continue to require computers for some of their work — at least for now.
Tablets have gotten more powerful over the years, but even top-tier 2-in-1s like Microsoft's Surface Pro and Apple's iPad Pro are still a step away from replacing laptops for many business users. — ComputerWorld
Newer versions of Apple iPad Pro are as powerful as computers and when combined with the latest Apple pen they provide a powerful incentive for some business uses.
More software is becoming available for tablets that is aimed at business (e.g. Affinity Designer for iPad) but require newer, more capable devices running the newest technology.
In one 2018 review, the 9.7 inch iPad Pro fared well against the Microsoft Surface Go for Business when a Logitech Slim Folio for iPad keyboard case was added. Hardware has improved since then.
Smartphones excellent for communications tasks but the limited screen size may affect your productivity with apps that benefit from a larger viewport.
While smartphones are available in quite large sizes, I find the convenience of a smaller phone for portability combined with a tablet a useful compromise. Neither threatens my need for computers at this time. New technologies like folding phones may change that soon.