Stop Using Windows 7 Right Now

Come gather around for a Windows 7 elegy, as Microsoft officially sunsets the OS

It’s been years, five to be precise, since I touched a Windows 7 PC. I’m not alone. More than a 900 million Windows users left behind Microsoft’s most popular OS since Windows XP (also still in use in some backwoods businesses and at your local dentist). I don’t miss it and I happily accept virtually every update Microsoft quietly dumps on my Surface Pro 7 every third or fourth Tuesday of the month.

Windows 7 EOL
 Lifewire / Hilary Allison

Microsoft pulling the plug on all Windows 7 support today doesn’t concern me in the least. As I’ve said, I’ve moved on.

However, like your friend that refuses to give up his favorite moth-eaten sweater, there are still those who, whether by choice or necessity, cling to Windows 7 and are at this moment glitching like a damaged 3.5-inch floppy disk.

Windows stats
Windows 10 is the blue line. Windows 7 is that yellow line. Statcounter

A Too-Gradual Shift

According to software services company Kollective.com, which surveyed 100 IT pros in the U.S. and U.K, 40 percent of U.S. businesses are still running Windows 7. In the U.K., it’s worse: 63 percent.

My anecdotal Twitter poll, which had over 400 respondents, paints a slightly rosier picture: 

  • 88 percent report running Windows 10
  • 6 percent are running Windows 7
  • Windows 8 and Windows 2000 have, in total, almost 6 percent

 The best estimate I saw for how many people are still running Windows 7, though, comes from tech analyst Ed Bott at ZDNet. Bott, whom I’ve known for decades, says that if you assume there are now 1.2 billion Windows users Worldwide and account for market shrinkage (yes, fewer people are using PCs and buying new ones—blame mobile), there are probably 200 million people still running Windows 7 (or even older OSes— likely Windows XP).

Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld
Seinfeld and former CEO of Microsoft Bill Gates (at left) were quite the comedy duo.  Microsoft

I Get It

It’s not hard to understand this on-going affection for Windows 7.

When Microsoft released the platform update in 2010, it came on the ignoble heels of Windows Vista, an operating system so misbegotten that Microsoft enlisted comedian Jerry Seinfeld in 2008 to try and change its fortunes.

Ironically, Vista was as unsuccessful in getting people to switch from the then still very popular Windows XP as some say Windows 10 has been in getting consumers to switch from Windows 7.

In all fairness, Windows 10 is a much better OS than Windows Vista ever was. It is, in my estimation, the best operating system Microsoft has ever produced.

Still, a decade ago, Windows 7 was the answer to many a consumer and business prayer. It wasn’t a huge change from Vista but fixed virtually everything that was wrong with it. Back then, I described Windows 7, not unkindly, as “sensible” and “the meat-and-potatoes edition of Windows.”

That familiarity was the point though. Windows 7 threaded the needle between recognition and innovation. It improved:

  •  Stability (fewer Blue Screens of Death)
  • Fewer annoying User Access Control prompts (“Do you want to allow [PROGRAM] to change [SYSTEM LEVEL STUFF]?)
  • Better Wi-Fi networking

It was the right OS for its time, and millions made the leap from XP to Windows 7, just as many have made the leap from Windows 7 to Windows 10 (there never was a Windows 9).

Lance Ulanoff and desk
Me (far left) running Windows 7 in 2010. Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff 

A Hiccup

Windows 7 roots grew XP-level deep because Windows 8 was, like Vista before it, such a disaster. Window 8 remains the least popular Windows (Windows 8.1, which returned the Start button, did somewhat better).

In my experience, consumers will hold onto an OS for as long as their computer works. Most computers have about three excellent years in them, two good years and then an extended “I’m running my fan as fast as I can” existence.

Usually, it’s the incompatibility of beloved software that will prompt an upgrade. But conversely, it’s also software and storage media that can forestall platform upgrades for years.

Windows 7 might remain pretty on the surface, but underneath a leprosy will spread.

This is especially true in businesses, where the prospect of a system upgrade can translate into sunsetting unsupported storage media and industry software, often at a cost of millions of dollars. It’s why I often find people like Mike Escutia, who told me on Twitter that he has a Mac at home but a Windows 7 computer at work. Why? “Ask the IT department,” he wrote.

I’m certain, however, that there are also consumers, some possibly reading this right now, who are still on Windows 7, unwilling to upgrade because their Netbook (remember those?) still works.

That’s fine. You keep doing you, but remember, Windows 7 is not as stable as Windows 10. More importantly, Windows 7 is not as secure.

What “Never Upgraders” often fail to realize is the work Microsoft has put into baseline cybersecurity protection. Windows 10 isn’t just helping third-party security software protect your PC. It’s fully capable of protecting it on its own. I haven’t run third-party security software on my home Windows 10 system in years. Windows 10 has kept me virus- and malware-free.

So What

From this point forward, your Windows 7 machine, which is no longer getting security updates and patches from Microsoft, will grow less secure each day. It might remain pretty on the surface, but underneath a leprosy will spread. It will succumb to threats, and fresh vulnerabilities will surface like open wounds.

Whatever software you run will get updates and eventually won’t work with Windows 7. In the end, even your old-school floppy disks and physical hard drives will fail (all hard drives fail) and you won’t be able to repair or replace them.

It’s time to take Microsoft’s advice and upgrade to a new PC and move your data to the cloud. You might find that you don’t need Windows anymore: You can run Microsoft Office on any phone or tablet and store all your documents in OneDrive.

Windows 7 is a dead end. Take the off ramp now.

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