A practical guide for current owners of Windows 7 computers

As you may have heard, Windows 7 support, aka the "end of life," is January 14, 2020. As an owner of an older PC, what is your best option?

First, does this apply to you? If the Windows start button is entirely within the rectangular taskbar at the bottom of the screen, you have Windows 7. Comprehensive steps to identify any Windows version are available at this LifeWire page.

Identify Windows 7 to address End of Life security concerns

So what if you do have Windows 7?

According to Microsoft:

"…technical assistance and software updates from Windows Update that help protect your PC will no longer be available for the product. Microsoft strongly recommends that you move to Windows 10 sometime before January 2020…"

 
According to LifeHacker:

"Windows 7 will keep working come January 15. However, now that Microsoft won’t be releasing any more security updates for the operating system, it’s true that Windows 7 will be more vulnerable to attack. No question there."

"Eventually, Microsoft will even start disabling key Windows 7 services…"

"[think] hard about your cyber-security setup at home and [do] everything you can to ensure that software doesn’t get on your machine that can take advantage of any vulnerabilities that will not be patched going forward."

 

How we can help

At PeopleFirst, we specialize in helping regular folks extend the useful lives of their computers. The good news is that Windows 10 upgrades are often inexpensive and straightforward. Depending on the age and specs of your machine, now is the time to upgrade your hard disk to a solid state drive (SSD). As we cover on our Services page, SSDs are a game changer, allowing your computer to run faster than it ever did (yes, even when it was brand new). Contact us for a painless Windows 10 upgrade.
 

Upgrading to Windows 10

As of this writing, Microsoft generally provides an upgrade path to Windows 10 to licensed Windows 7 users at no charge. Each licensing agreement is different, however, especially if yours was a custom-built machine. That said, we've been successful upgrading nearly every major PC brand (Dell, HP, Asus, Lenovo, and so on) in recent memory without having to purchase Windows 10 separately.
 

Getting by on Windows 7

Running Windows 7 in 2020 likely means that there may be other aspects of your PC that could use a tune-up, especially when it comes to security. If you can't upgrade right away, here is a list of priorities:

  • Ensure you have a complete backup, ideally more than one; one of which stays offline or in the cloud, such as Backblaze.
  • Use a highly rated antivirus program. Bitdefender is a good choice for Windows 7 and up. Manually run a complete system scan.
  • Don't use Internet Explorer. Here's why. Chrome is fine, but Firefox offers much better privacy and tracking protection.
  • Keep your wireless router's firmware up to date.
  • Use a standard account (as opposed to an administrator account) for everyday tasks, while switching temporarily to an administrator account when needed. Make sure your administrator account has a strong password. This would be a good time to upgrade to a quality password manager if you haven't already.
  • Disable or remove features you don’t need, especially Java, Adobe Flash Player, and add-ons of questionable utility. ShouldIRemoveIt is a great resource.

Are there any downsides to upgrading?

Upgrading your computer's operating system is a fundamental change, so occasionally older software and device drivers don't work. Backing up your system before upgrading to Windows 10 is critical — we do this for all client upgrades. It may be necessary to upgrade software, or in some cases, it might be the right time to swap out that clunky 15 year old printer instead of spending time trying to make it work. One fact of life with technology is that sooner or later, an upgrade is inevitable.

Certainly there are some ancient PCs lying around, and some are simply too old to handle Windows 10, but in our experience, this is relatively rare and limited to certain Asus laptops. Microsoft offers some bare minimum requirements but in the case of an underpowered PC, you will likely tear your hair out in frustration over the lack of performance. We assist clients in upgrading their machines to run Windows 10 smoothly.