Microsoft’s support for Windows 7 ends today as Microsoft is dropping support of Windows 7, nearly 11 years after first launching the operating system with a flashy New York City marketing campaign. “I’m a PC, and Windows 7 was my idea” was the message back then, a clear nod to the fact that it was designed to fix the Windows Vista failure. Windows 7 certainly did fix things, with its new taskbar, Aero window management, file libraries, and much more.
Windows 7 became so popular, in fact, that it took Windows 10 nearly four years just to pass it in market share. Even today, millions of PCs are still running Windows 7, and the operating system still runs on a massive 26 percent of all PCs according to data from Netmarketshare. Microsoft spent years trying to get people to upgrade to Windows 10 free of charge, but tens of millions of PCs will now be left vulnerable to exploits and security vulnerabilities.
And yet, Windows 7 is the Microsoft operating system that millions do not want to upgrade. Just like Windows XP users, who shunned Windows Vista, Windows 7 users shunned Windows 8. Only once Windows 10 showed up did the real upgrade cycle begin, helping sell PCs along the way. And in another similarity to Windows XP, even though most consumers have moved to Windows 10 many businesses still cling to Windows 7.
In September 2019, when Windows 10 passed 50% market share, Windows 7 had 30.34% market share. Windows 7 has continued to decline slowly, capping off last year with 26.64% market share. Nonetheless, having one in four computers running Windows 7 still translates to hundreds of millions of computers running a decade-old operating system.
What end of support means
Microsoft’s Mainstream Support includes free incident support, warranty claims, fixes for non-security and security bugs, plus design changes and feature requests. Extended Support consists solely of security updates. In other words, Windows 7 is dead in Microsoft’s eyes.
If you continue to use Windows 7, your computer will still work, but it will become more vulnerable to security risks and malware. Software and hardware manufacturers will be even less likely to make products that work with the operating system, opting to focus on more recent versions of Windows.
For over a year now, Microsoft has been warning Windows 7 users about the January 14, 2020 date. Now that it’s here, security updates are no longer available for Windows 7, at least not for free. You may, however, be able to purchase Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESUs).
Regardless, Microsoft plans to start showing a new pop-up notification to Windows 7 users tomorrow. From the KB4530734 support article:
Starting on January 15, 2020, a full-screen notification will appear that describes the risk of continuing to use Windows 7 Service Pack 1 after it reaches end of support on January 14, 2020. The notification will remain on the screen until you interact with it.
This notification will show up on the following Windows 7 editions: Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate. If you have purchased Windows 7 ESUs, your computer is domain-joined, or it’s in kiosk mode, the notification will not appear.
For an overview of other important upcoming dates for Microsoft’s desktop operating systems, check the Windows Lifecycle page. The next major end of support date is for Windows 8.1, on January 10, 2023. If you’re still on Windows 7, you could move to Windows 8.1, but you should jump straight to Windows 10.
Despite the end of support, Windows 7 looks like it has some life left in it yet. It could take another year or two to get Windows 7 firmly below 10 percent market share, especially when Google is committing to support Chrome on Windows 7 until at least the middle of 2021. That presents Microsoft with some headaches for ongoing support. We’ve already seen the software giant break with tradition multiple times for Windows XP, issuing public patches for the operating system after its end of support date. Given the increases in ransomware attacks in recent years and their devastating effects, it’s likely we’ll see public Windows 7 security patches in the future.
The vast majority of these support headaches will come from businesses that don’t always upgrade to the very latest Windows releases. Windows Vista and Windows 8 weren’t exactly solid in-between releases to which you could reliably upgrade, and that left most businesses running Windows XP or Windows 7 to avoid software issues and incompatibilities. Windows 8 won’t have the same issues when its support ends in 2023, as it’s only running on less than 5 percent of all PCs.