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Microsoft Ends Support for Windows 7. What You Need to Know

Two days ago the security world watched the official demise of one of the most popular Windows platforms, Windows 7. But what does it really mean and how does it impact users and organizations? Here is what you need to know:

Mainstream support vs. extended support

Leaving mainstream support does not mean that Windows 7 is dead. It simply will stop receiving new features or technology improvements. Companies will no longer receive free assistance if they have a problem with the operating system – now they have to pay.

Windows 7 is now in the so-called “extended support” phase until January 2020. This means that, in the following five years, both regular users and companies will receive critical security patches, which is reassuring.

But the end of life process isn’t really news to anyone. Starting with the middle of 2014, analysts have voiced concerns about the imminent change and advised companies to prepare for the migration.

“The end of support for Windows 7 will be January, 2020, assuming there are no changes to its current support life cycle,” Gartner Research Vice President Stephen Kleynhans said in a PC Mag article. “While this feels like it’s a long way off, organizations must start planning now, so they can prevent a recurrence of what happened with Windows XP.”

Have companies learned from the end of Windows XP’s life?

12 years later, Windows XP is still the world’s second most popular operating system. Past experience shows that at least 20 per cent of the world’s population was still using Windows XP after its official “death”, including large organizations that have been unable to finish deploying the newer OS version on their machines.

xp-breakdown-labs

Windows OS breakdown by popularity – source: Bitdefender Labs data, April 2014

One of the reasons companies have lagged behind for so long with the upgrade process is the incompatibility of their custom applications with Internet Explorer versions 7 and up. And the costs of are definitely not negligible. A zero-budget migration is nearly impossible to achieve due to the lack of necessary tools, processes or bandwidth.

Bogdan Botezatu, Senior E-Threat Analyst at Bitdefender, says:

Companies shouldn’t underestimate the complexity of the whole process and start migrating as soon as possible to avoid severe or unexpected security risks. An outdated operating system can leave millions of users permanently vulnerable to being exploited in the wild like in the case of the Internet Explorer zero-day vulnerability which impacted unprotected Windows XP users, in April 2014.”

What is your opinion, have companies prepared for the Windows 7 “funerals” better than for the ones of Windows XP?

About the author

Alexandra GHEORGHE

Alexandra started writing about IT at the dawn of the decade - when an iPad was an eye-injury patch, we were minus Google+ and we all had Jobs. She has since wielded her background in PR and marketing communications to translate binary code to colorful stories that have been known to wear out readers' mouse scrolls. Alexandra is also a social media enthusiast who 'likes' only what she likes and LOLs only when she laughs out loud.

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  • “Companies shouldn’t underestimate the complexity of the whole process and start migrating as soon as possible to … ” LINUX – yes, i absolutely agree!

    > yum update
    — or —
    $$$ for proprietary garbage

  • I think it is too soon for Microsoft to do this to Windows 7. Too many companies have just switched to 7 and can’t afford another upgrade in OS. I think Microsoft is shooting itself in the foot doing this so soon. Granted, 7 has been out 8 years, but it still is a great platform. I detest Win 8 because it is very confusing and doesn’t mesh well with what I do in the education field. If I wanted a smartphone feel on my desktop, I would buy a tablet. Many other people feel the same way. Seriously, why would you stop support for your most popular OS platform? Sheesh!

    I don’t know many school systems, who just switched to Win 7 recently, can afford another OS platform this soon. Microsoft is just getting money hungry like their former CEO, Mr. Gates. I cannot fathom school districts trying to update this soon. I know my school system will not be able too because we just updated all our systems to Win 7. I surely hope Microsoft will rethink this.

  • People are very unlikely to migrate away from Windows 7 until they have some confidence that the new replacement operating system works well, and that older favorite software operates properly with it. (Even Win 7 was troublesome until Service Pack 1 was released.) So….I am hoping Win 10 will be just what we need…otherwise we will end up limping along with Win 7 and patching newer things together using the systems on other devices.