Win7 reaches milestone; prepare for its demise

Susan Bradley

It might be difficult to believe, but on Jan. 13 we begin the final countdown for Windows 7.

On that date, one of Microsoft’s best and most successful versions of Windows hits its official “end of mainstream support.” Here’s what that means for all Win7 users.

Windows 7 enters its extended-support phase

Most major Microsoft products have a formal life cycle that includes two key end-of-life dates. For Windows, those dates are listed on Microsoft’s “Windows lifecycle fact sheet” webpage. The first date — End of mainstream support — effectively means that Microsoft will no longer offer free updates to the operating system.

Once mainstream support ends for a specific version of Windows, it then enters its Extended support phase, during which Microsoft offers only essential fixes and security updates. (Companies can also pay for specific nonsecurity updates.) When an OS reaches its End of extended support milestone, all official support ends. Windows XP, as many Windows Secrets readers know, passed its “End of extended support” date on April 8, 2014. It has not had official updates of any kind since. (For more specifics on MS product life cycles, see the online “Microsoft support lifecycle policy FAQ.”)

As noted in the “Windows lifecycle fact sheet,” Jan. 13 marks the end of mainstream support for all versions of Windows 7 SP1. What does that mean for the millions of us doing our daily computing on Win7 systems? Very soon, our operating systems will be essentially frozen — we’ll no longer receive any enhancements or nonessential fixes. We will, however, receive monthly security updates until Jan. 14, 2020, Win7’s official “End of extended support” date (at which point, Microsoft will want us on Windows 13 — or whatever it’s then called).

Just as with XP this past April, Win7 systems should no longer receive updates of any kind after January 2020. And just as XP is now, Windows 7 will then become extremely vulnerable to new malware and exploits. Win7 will continue to work well after 2020 (there’s no deadline for your Win7 license), but I wouldn’t use it to go online. (I hope all XP users have heeded my advice and are now using some other device for their Internet activities.)

Bottom line: Windows 7 is far from dead, but it is entering its final phase of official life. It’s time to plan for that change.

Preparing for the eventual migration from Win7

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2015-01-08:

Susan Bradley

About Susan Bradley

Susan Bradley is a Small Business Server and Security MVP, a title awarded by Microsoft to independent experts who do not work for the company. She's also a partner in a California CPA firm.