Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Replacing Windows

Your options when support ends

Remaining with Windows | Going Permanently Offline | Non-Windows Considerations | Windows Alternatives

A transparent curved Windows logo sits on a blue background.

Windows Support is Ending. Now What?

This page is about your options

Windows 10 support expires Oct. 14, 2025. Support for Windows 8.1 and earlier has already expired.

When Windows 10 hits its end-of-support date in 2025, hundreds of millions of PC owners will have four options, none of them good.

 

When October 2025 rolls around, those devices will have no Microsoft-supported migration path to a newer version. The owners of those perfectly functional PCs, some less than five years old, will instead have the following options:
  • Continue running the unsupported operating system and hope for the best
  • Retire or dispose of the unsupported hardware
  • Install a non-Microsoft operating system, such as Linux
  • Ignore Microsoft's warnings and upgrade to Windows 11 anyway
ZDNET

Microsoft has now added Extended Security Updates (ESU) to that list, but it will be expensive.

Don't Run Unsupported Computers

Replacing old software can be pricey, but there's a serious risk of data loss if your system isn't kept up-to-date.

If your device is out of support, it is no longer receiving security updates from Microsoft and may become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses.
— Microsoft
A Windows XP machine's life expectancy in 2024 seems to be about 10 minutes before even just an idle net connection renders it a trojan-riddled zombie PC
PC Gamer

You need to take unsupported computers offline permanently if you intend to continue to use them.

If you are a basic user then alternatives like Linux and Mac become easier to accept.

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Remaining with Windows

To remain with Windows, your options are

Upgrade to Windows 11

When Windows 10 support ends, upgrading to Windows 11 will be the best option for most people — if their hardware supports the upgrade. Windows 11 is a free upgrade from Windows 10.

Unfortunately, most Windows 10 era computers will not support the upgrade.

While Windows 11 could easily run on the same hardware as Windows 10, this is thwarted by Microsoft's posted system requirements which include the need for a very recent processor plus TPM 2.0.

Many Windows 10 computers, including some that were less than five years old when Windows 11 was launched, are not eligible for upgrade and won't be in 2025.

Purchasing Extended Security Updates (ESU)

Microsoft is offering ESU to small businesses and consumers for the first time. Essentially, you are purchasing security updates for an unsupported version of Windows.

The cost to business is significant: A three-year ESU subscription will cost $61 + $122 + $244, for a total of $427.

Consumer pricing hasn't been announced. Details will be shared on Microsoft's consumer end of support page when they become available.

Ignoring Recommended Requirements

You can bybass the TPM 2.0 requirements if your hardware has TPM 1.2. Microsoft advises against doing so when assessed for Windows 11:

This PC doesn't meet the minimum system requirements for running Windows 11 - these requirements help ensure a more reliable and higher quality experience. Installing Windows 11 on this PC is not recommended and may result in compatibility issues. If you proceed with installing Windows 11, your PC will no longer be supported and won't be entitled to receive updates. Damages to your PC due to lack of compatibility aren't covered under the manufacturer warranty.
Microsoft

Not only is this unsupported by Microsoft, but the need to emmulate a TPM is likely to be a strain on the system resources (the reason for the TPM 2.0 requirement). You are unlikely to get decent performance and risk damaging your hardware.

Purchase a New Computer

A new computer preloaded with Windows 11 is the best solution. While more expensive, it will provide the modern hardware that supports the newest features in Windows 11.

It will also provide a fresh start, getting rid of old or unused apps. There are differences from Windows 10 that will take getting used to, but it is still Windows — the operating system you're familiar with.

Be sure not to waste your money on an entry level computer. You get what you pay for.

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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.

While you can block access using software settings, this is not secure enough if your operating system is obsolete. You need to disable network access.

Disadvantages

Being offline has some disadvantages. The wonderful world of the Internet is no longer available to you.

Perhaps you're happy using your smartphone to view such content, but your computer will be severely limited in what it can safely do.

Exchanging files, even with a secure computer, via a USB-based thumb drive or hard drive is risky. There is always the possibility that you'll transfer malware or viruses that the newer computer is protected from, but which the legacy offline computer is not.

Obtaining New Drivers

If you install new hardware (such as a video card) you'll need to have the drivers to make it work.

Hardware is no longer accompanied by drivers on CDs, DVDs or other media. Being offline, you'll no longer have access to Microsoft's online driver library.

While you may be able to download and copy the driver from a supported Internet-connected computer — if a version exists for your legacy operating system.

This practice can be risky since the legacy computer is no longer receiving security updates.

You can reduce the risk by ensuring that you download only from legitimate sources on another trusted computer.

  1. Download drivers only from the vendor's site (not third-party “driver support” sites).
  2. Be sure the driver is the right one for your system (e.g., 32- or 64-bit and supports your version of Windows) as well as the version of the hardware you're installing.
  3. Run a scan on the download with an updated, currently-supported security suite before copying it to a thumb drive for transfer to the offline device.

If there is no driver for your system, you'll either have to find a device that supports your legacy system or you many need to try Linux (after backing up your data) because it can run better on legacy computers than current versions of Windows.

Security Concerns

Scammers and hackers continue to test old systems for vulnerabilities that were 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.

Repurposing Your Devices

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 an alternative operating system are options you should consider.

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Non-Windows Considerations

While Microsoft may not support your hardware any longer, other operating systems are much more frugal in how they use system resources.

How Important is Windows Software to You?

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.

Hardware is less flexible than software:

Software can often be replaced with versions compatible with other operating systems. This is more likely with Internet and similar software than with specific games and specialist commercial software.

Consider what software you're running and how necessary it is.

If you have a significant investment in Windows software or hardware that is impossible to replace, you may need to move to Windows 11 even if it means investing in a new computer and updating your software.

Email

Moving to another email program may cause some issues, particularly if your old programs is either obsolete or not supported by the new operating system.

This will be less of an issue if you meet one of these conditions:

Webmail will continue to work on the new computer via your browser, provided the mail you need remains on the server. This is why IMAP is commonly used.

IMAP will generally leave all your mail on your ISP's server (e.g., Shaw/Rogers or Telus) unless you've manually removed it from the server (or used email settings that do so).

Email Stored Only On Your Computer

If you have a significant amount of important email stored on your computer that is NOT currently on the email server, the transition could be more challenging and you may need to use an import/export utility to convert the mail format.

Moving to another operating system may mean exporting your email from the old email program then importing it into the new one. This works better for some programs than others, so your mileage may vary.

CAD/Adobe/Accounting

CAD programs, an Adobe Suite, accounting programs or other significant software that currently works for you may not be supported on another operating system or require you to purchase the correct version for the new operating system.

Seldom are there cross-platform discounts.

However, subscription-based or cloud services such as Adobe Creative Cloud and Microsoft 365 offer cross-platform support. These can be moved from one computer or operating system to another with few problems (you may need to contact the vendor's support for help).

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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 a new version of Windows.

Users with limited requirements may consider ChromeBooks and ChromeOS.

Others may consider doing away with a computer altogether and moving to a tablet or smartphone. Combined with a wireless printer, most basic requirements can be met.

Mac

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 licence when installed on a Mac (Adobe Cloud and Office 365 subscriptions do).

However, the Mac comes with an office suit pre-installed as well as a host of other decent software. It can also run LibreOffice.

If you already use an iPad or iPhone, familiarity with iOS will make the transition to macOS easier.

There is a Mac resources page on this site.

Linux

Switching to Linux offers a free but workable option, particularly if your hardware is too old to run Windows 11.

Modern Linux automatically installs most of the software that casual users require such as Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, etc. You can also install other software.

Linux comes in various “flavours” or distributions as well as options for your desktop environment. I recommend Linux Mint because it more closely resembles Windows in how it looks and feels. Mint is based upon the popular Ubuntu.

Ubuntu and Mint are now the third and fourth most popular home operating systems (after Windows and Mac).

While Windows is the king of the hill with 72.13% and MacOS comes in a distant second at 15.46%, it's clear that Linux is making progress.
ZDNET

Not only home users have embraced Linux. The governments of South Korea and Munich, Germany are among those that have moved to Linux.

There is a Linux resources page on this site.

Chromebook®

While Chromebooks offer a less expensive computing experience, it is essentially a cloud-based operating system although recent versions can work offline, syncing content once reconnected to the Internet.

ChromeBook has considerable privacy issues (Google never forgets) but will run Android apps, which may appeal to those with Android devices.

Chromebook requires connection to the Internet. There is no option for going off-line permanently, so you'll need to replace your Chromebook when support expires.

Chromebooks may be suitable for light users, but any power user should look elsewhere. Just be clear on what you're getting and what you're sacrificing if you purchase one.

More about Chromebooks.

Chromebook may work for some users with less demanding requirements or try installing ChromeOS Flex on your Windows 10 computer to see if that works for you.

ChromeOS

ChromeOS is the operating system running on Chromebooks. Google has provided options to install this onto existing hardware. While primarily aimed at corporate users, it may be an option for others.

You can run ChromeOS Flex on most computers with Intel or AMD processors. ChromeOS Flex does not support ARM architecture.

Learn more about ChromeOS and ChromeOS Flex.

Tablets & Smartphones

If you're a home user and you don't create a lot of original content (i.e., you mostly surf the Web, read email and view 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 computers 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.

Be sure to consider the disadvantages of moving from a traditional computer and tactile keyboard when making your decision. External BlueTooth keyboard are available, but may not suit your requirements.

Smartphones

Smartphones are excellent for communications tasks but the limited screen size may affect your productivity when using 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 the larger-format tablet a useful compromise. Neither threatens my need for computers at this time. New technologies like folding phones may change that.

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Updated: June 11, 2024