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. When extended support expires there will be no more security updates, bug fixes, or technical support.
Extended Support Ends January 14, 2020
The end of ALL support for Windows 7 will expire on January 14, 2020 when extended support ends.
Older Pentium III-era PCs no longer are supported and the loss of support for other Windows 7 users is immanent.
Support Materials Mostly Gone
Microsoft is has already removed much of their Windows 7 support materials, replacing them with Windows 10 resources.
Microsoft Nagging You to Upgrade?
Microsoft has already issued a Windows Update that will nag you to upgrade:
- Windows 7 SP1 end of support notification (KB4493132).
- Avoid this Windows 7 patch unless you want nagging end-of-support warnings has more details, including how to turn these off.
Planning for Windows 7 Replacement
However, you do need to begin to plan for retiring Windows 7 and consider what you will replace it with.
Windows 7 ESUs
An Option for Enterprise Only
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
These interim measures will cost more each year and are limited both in how long they'll be supported and are primarily aimed at enterprise customers with legacy hardware that won't run on Windows 10 to give them time to come up with another solution.
For everyone else, they must either upgrade to Windows 10, abandon Windows 7 or find an alternative.
Windows 10 & Alternatives
With less than one year left, now is the time to consider what you'll do when Windows 7 support ends. Your options depend upon how committed you are to Windows and what you use your computer for.
Over a third of Windows users are clinging to Windows 7, though support ends in [less than] one year. — Tech Republic
I've moved the information about upgrade possibilities to a new page: Replacing Windows: Upgrading when support ends.
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.