Microsoft was nice enough to issue a reminder before the end of mainstream Windows 7 support, which celebrated its last day January 13, 2015. If it feels like just yesterday that we issued warnings to upgrade away from the mothballed Windows XP operating system, well, it more or less was—but this is a different situation. In the Windows lifecycle, the end of mainstream support signals when you should start thinking about migrating to a newer operating system rather than a five-alarm emergency that comes with an operating system’s end of life.
Here are a few things to be aware of now that the Windows 7 mainstream support period is over.
Extended support continues through January 14, 2020. Windows 7 users have five more years until Microsoft stops issuing security patches, so while it isn’t a mission-critical security situation like we saw when Windows XP’s extended support ran out last year, users will not see new patches and updates unrelated to security moving forward.
Windows 7 won’t get any better, ostensibly. Despite what it may seem like, Microsoft doesn’t roll out Windows updates willy-nilly; usually they are meant to address user feedback or requests to change product design and features. When mainstream support ends, Microsoft essentially stops this practice. Save security features, the Windows 7 you’re running now will be the same until end of life.
You may have to pay for support features. Complimentary phone and online support ends for users that do not have Microsoft Software Assurance, a feature bundled in with enterprise Volume Licensing Agreements, and in software packages like Microsoft Office Professional Plus. This means if you request technical expertise for a problem your business is having with Windows 7 stability, you are looking at paying $499 for resolving one incident, or $1,999 for a pack of five.
Remain PCI/HIPAA/Sarbanes-Oxley compliant by installing all Microsoft-supplied security patches within one month of release. As far as your operating system is concerned, this will keep you compliant under regulatory bylaws.
Microsoft advises upgrading to the most current operating system, which is Windows 8.1. When it comes time to update an operating system, it is also a good time to consider a new desktop PC or notebook—new models come with a licensed copy of Windows 8.1, which adds considerable value to a hardware purchase. NeweggBusiness runs continuous promotional offers on licensing for Windows operating systems, and low-cost / high-performance desktop and laptop PCs.
Some users may opt to hold out for Windows 10, which Microsoft has promised will ship to consumers and the enterprise “later in the year” 2015, Executive Vice President Terry Myerson said at the product announcement event last October.
For the time being, users need not panic about the end of Windows 7 support, but should be advised to start thinking about a migration plan sooner rather than later.