Mainstream Support Has Ended
Mainstream support for Windows 7 has ended.
There will be no further free updates to the operating system; only essential fixes and security updates. Extended support expires January 14, 2020.
Older Pentium III-era PCs no longer are supported and the loss of support for other Windows 7 users is immanent. Microsoft is starting to remove Windows 7 support materials, replacing them with Windows 10 resources.
Windows 10 & Alternatives
Planning for Windows 7 Replacement
With less than one year left, now is the time to consider what you'll do when Windows 7 support ends. 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 the software and hardware you currently run and will require in the future.
How Important is Windows Software?
If you have a significant investment in Windows software that is expensive or impossible to replace, you may wish to move to Windows 10. If you are a basic user then alternatives like Linux and Mac become easier to accept.
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.
Your software is another consideration. Even if your hardware is older, you may wish to invest in a new Windows 10 computer if you require specific software.
Moving to another operating system may mean exporting and importing your email. This isn't a big deal if you use webmail (e.g. Gmail) but could be if you have tons of email stored on your computer that isn't also on the email server.
Similarly, if you own a CAD program, Adobe Suite or other expensive software that works fine for you, moving to another operating system may be either too expensive or unsupported.
Legacy Hardware & Software
If your hardware is older, it is unlikely that it will support Windows 10, or at least the newer features. Since Microsoft could end support for older hardware at any time, spending money to update would not make sense.
However, if your demands aren't too great, moving to another operating system like Linux might work out very well for you and it wouldn't cost you much.
An upgrade to Windows 10 may be your only option if you NEED to run software or peripheral hardware (e.g. printers) that work only on Windows.
- Purchasing a new computer probably is your best option in moving to Windows 10, especially if your hardware is older so you can take advantage of modern hardware and the new features in Windows 10.
Windows 10 has matured significantly since its release and may offer some advantages over Windows 7, depending upon your hardware capabilities and need for the newer features requiring modern hardware.
Windows 10 boots faster, works faster, and seems much more robust than either Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1. — InfoWorld
But consider these potential issues with Windows 10:
- There are privacy and monetization considerations. Privacy setting have been a moving target.
- Windows 10 is essentially a mobile-first, cloud-first operating system which is enhanced for touch rather than keyboard and mouse.
- The Windows 10 Start menu, designed for touch, is not as intuitive for those using a keyboard and mouse.
- 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.
If you do decide to upgrade to Windows 10, there are resources to help you, including:
- Windows 7 to Windows 10 migration guide.
- Windows 10: How you can successfully make the move from Windows 7.
Windows 7 ESUs
The paid Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESUs) will be sold on a per-device basis, with the price increasing each year. These ESUs will be available to any Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Enterprise users with volume-licensing agreements…. — ZDNet
Mac or Linux
Moving to a Mac means embracing the Apple computing model and mean some significant investments in hardware and possibly software. However, a Mac can last up to twice as long, justifying the extra expense. See switching to a Mac.
Linux is something to consider seriously, particularly if your hardware is too old to run Windows 10. It is free and contains most of the software that casual users require such as Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, etc.
There are various distributions (flavours) of Linux, but I recommend Linux Mint because it more closely resembles Windows 7 in how it looks and feels.
While Chromebook offers a less expensive computing experience, it has considerable privacy issues (Google never forgets). It also requires a full-time Internet connection for most functions. However, it will run Android apps.
Tablets & Smartphones
If you're a home user and you don't create a lot of original content (mostly surfing the Web, email and 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 a 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 at least 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
More software is becoming available for tablets that is aimed at business (e.g. Affinity Designer for iPad) but requires more capable devices with newer technology.
In one 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.
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.
Windows 7 Documentation Disappearing
Documentation for Windows 7 is now placed within the context of “Windows 10: previous versions” and any “recommended version” link takes you to Windows 10 documentation.
Some support options are still available, but subject to disappearing without notice:
- Windows help — Windows 7 (beneath “Make the move to Windows 10”).
- Optimize Windows for better performance applies to Windows 7.
- Windows previous versions documentation is no longer regularly updated.
- Ten things IT professionals should know about Windows 7.
- 10 Windows 7 tips to get the most out of your machine.
New Privacy Concerns
Optional updates to Windows 7 have included some that are controversial as they add “customer experience and diagnostic telemetry” data collecting elements to Windows 7.
Besides the privacy concerns, these optional updates add to the load on the Windows 7 computer and may slow down older hardware. It also adds to your bandwidth usage which affects those with data caps or mobile plans.
You might want to avoid any optional updates that aren't clearly hardware fixes or updates that describe problems you're having with your computer.
- The truth about Windows 7 and 8.1 'spy patches' KB 3068708, 3022345, 3075249, 3080149.
- Microsoft vs. privacy: Windows 10's controversial tracking tools hitting Windows 7, 8.
- Windows 10 privacy issues extend to Windows 8.1, 7: How to stop Microsoft from collecting more of your data.
Spybot Anti-Beacon allows you to make significant choices about your privacy settings including many that are hidden or not easily altered. It immunizes your computer so you can check then reset your privacy settings after rebooting your computer (particularly after a Windows Update).
Windows 7 Editions
There are four primary editions of Windows 7:
- Starter aimed at NetBooks — small notebook PCs.
- Home Premium recommended for most home users.
- Professional aimed at the needs of small businesses and advanced home users including the ability to log into a domain and run productivity programs in Windows XP mode (XP mode is no longer supported).
- Ultimate combines the features in Professional with bit-locker encryption and 35 languages.
Released October 22, 2009, Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium and Ultimate sales terminated in October 31, 2014 (October 31, 2016 for Windows 7 Professional).
“Starter” Has Limitations
Most hardware with Starter edition installed are incapable of upgrade so you'll want to be sure that your requirements are very limited and that you'll have no need to upgrade in the future.
Windows 7 Starter edition can only run 3 processes at a time and forces you to search for many of the customizations that are quickly available in other editions.
“Anytime” Upgrade Not Recommended
Microsoft offers an anytime upgrade but ensure you purchase the version you need to begin with because upgrade costs are steep.
What's New in Windows 7?
New features in Windows 7 include Libraries, Jump Lists, HomeGroup (works only with Windows 7 or newer computers) and Snap.
No Built-in Email Client
Windows 7 has no built-in email client. Vista came with Windows Mail and Windows XP came with Outlook Express (no longer supported and dangerous to use). Windows 10 has an email app.
I'd strongly recommend moving to Mozilla Thunderbird or one of my other recommended email options.
Libraries provide for the way we operate computers today — allowing you to pull similar content together from multiple sources.
Libraries are a Windows 7 feature that gives you a consolidated view of related files in one place. A Library doesn't contain files. Rather, a Library provides a single aggregated view of multiple folders and their contents. — Microsoft TechNet
You add files to a Library by linking to them. New Libraries can be added by right-clicking in the Libraries bar and selecting New then Library.
Learn more about Libraries by visiting these resources:
- Introducing Windows 7 Libraries — MSDN Magazine.
- Organizing with Windows 7 Libraries.
- Windows 7 Libraries walkthrough.
- Windows 7 Libraries FAQs.
Jump lists give you quick access to your favorite content — on your computer and elsewhere.
If you use a program like CCleaner to remove temporary files, you may need to change the settings if you wish to retain jump lists. Otherwise, your jump lists will be removed each time you run CCleaner.
Some of the limitations of ReadyBoost (introduced with Vista) were removed in Windows 7. The benefits of ReadyBoost are minimal for most Windows 7 users and you need to ensure you're using a device that works with ReadyBoost. Those seeking performance would be better served by a SSD boot drive large enough to install Windows 7 on it (you can still use a regular drive for storage).
BitLocker is a full disk encryption feature but unfortunately was only provided in the Ultimate Edition. Windows 7 had the unique capability of encrypting removable drives.
Although there are third-party encryption solutions, few would seek them out.
You can visit these sites for more information about Windows 7:
Can You Run Windows 7?
I don't usually recommend an upgrade of your current hardware to Windows 7 unless you are running a compatible Vista machine or a relatively powerful XP computer. I upgraded two XP machines (including a Lenovo T61 laptop), but not before ensuring the necessary Windows 7 drivers and software upgrades were available.
You'd best look at new hardware if you want to optimize your experience with Windows 7. See the general notes about Windows hardware requirements.
Microsoft lists the following system requirements:
- 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
- 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
- 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
- DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
- Some games and programs might require a graphics card compatible with DirectX 10 or higher for optimal performance.
Windows 7 was designed to work with today's multi-core processors. All 32-bit versions of Windows 7 can support up to 32 processor cores, while 64-bit versions can support up to 256 processor cores.
Microsoft's Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor will tell you if your computer is capable of running Windows 7 or what upgrades may be needed.
Legacy Hardware Support Uncertain
More than likely the hardware is going to determine the supportability of your computer. As your hardware ages and newer technology emerges it is possible that your computer could become unsupported. Moving to a newer computer may also offer challenges.
Prior versions of Windows, including Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, have limited support when running on new processors and chipsets from manufacturers like Intel, AMD, Nvidia, and Qualcomm. — Microsoft
Installing & Updating
Given that Windows 7 has been around for some time and that licenses are no longer available, most will be re-installing Windows 7 rather than installing it for the first time. The following will give you some resources to ensure the process goes smoothly.
Windows secure boot was marketed as a way to protect you from malware but has the potential to prevent you from installing any other operating system except Windows 8 or 10 on your computer. Windows 7 is not supported.
If your Windows 7 computer won't start, you may have to enter the BIOS to check the settings. If you've enabled Secure Boot, Windows 7 cannot boot and you need to change the settings. Look for an option like “Other OS” in your system BIOS.
32- or 64-bit?
Windows 7 comes with both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Always install the 64-bit version on 64-bit hardware. Learn more about the advantages and disadvantages.
Other Installation Issues
There are also some documented issues with installation, particularly with upgrade versions (it appears they were not intended to be used for a clean install — something that will haunt you in future years.
Issues with Windows Update
I've found that sometimes the update to Windows update itself following the installation of Service Pack 1 does something that causes Windows Update to run forever without resolving any updates. This problem is not unusual and is frustrating, particularly when the Microsoft recommended fixes don't work.
First, is your hardware very old? Windows 7 running on Pentium III computers may no longer update because Microsoft could no longer maintain hardware without SSE2 technology.
If you're having issues with updating Windows 7 try the following:
- Windows 7 stuck on “Checking For Updates” has an excellent process for resolving this issue. Some of the resources are included below, but Kris' instructions are excellent. What the heck is it with Windows updates? includes some notes about fixing a common issue with updating Windows 7:
- Windows Update fails with error code 8000FFFF.
- It may be a result of not installing KB3177467 released in October 2016.
- Windows Update Client for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2: March 2016 got me unstuck in more than one instance. Note: it took a long time for the process to run through an provide the fix.
- July 2016 update rollup for Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1.
- You can't install updates in Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, or Windows Server 2008 R2.
Security & Patches
Windows 7 security is better than XP's. Its User Account Control is more configurable and less annoying than it was in Vista.
Windows 7 Service Pack 1
Unlike many earlier versions of Windows, there was only a single service pack for Windows 7. Other patches were included in the various monthly updates.
Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) offers
new improvements to features and services in Windows 7, such as improved reliability when connecting to HDMI audio devices, printing using the XPS Viewer, and restoring previous folders in Windows Explorer after restarting.
Some folks had problems installing the service pack from a separate download, so your mileage may vary. I recommend letting Windows Update perform the task automatically.
Windows Backup & Restore
Windows 7 has included an effective built-in backup and restore system to protect your data and to allow you to recover from a disaster quickly — provided you've taken advantage of these tools before the incident.
There are also third-party commercial backup software
- Acronis True Image is strongly recommended.