Brace yourselves, Windows-heads! Tomorrow, January 14, Windows 7 hits EOL (End-of-life) status. Hypothetically, that means MS will no longer push public updates for Windows 7. Companies and organizations have two options if they want to keep Windows 7 running on or after January 15, 2020. Option one: they must pay for Extended Security Updates. Option two: they can sign up for Windows Virtual Desktop (MVD), and run Windows 7 in a virtual machine, carrying their legacy software and data into virtuality instead.
Option one will be required in some cases. (I remember reading about legacy hardware running command and control, or missile targeting systems on US Naval vessels as an example where switching from physical to virtual wouldn’t work when the switch from XP to 7 really got underway in the US military, for example. Other similar situations require dedicated hardware devices.) Option two will be increasingly attractive to many potential adopters, though, because it is less expensive (free for Win7 extended updates: though licensing MVD is NOT free, it is available per-seat) and doesn’t require a volume license agreement or other large-scale contract with Microsoft to make happen.
When Windows 7 Hits EOL January 14, Then What?
Good question! Basically, Windows 7 users will have to choose option one or option two as outlined above, or take their chances in an increasingly insecure and dangerous cyberthreat environment. At the same time, it will be highly advisable — to say the least — to start getting serious about migrating legacy applications and data into the Windows 10 environment. FWIW, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the public facing arm of its GHCQ security agency, now recommends that Windows 7 users neither do online banking nor retrieve email using Windows 7, as reported in The Telegraph this morning.
For its part Microsoft makes the following upgrade recommendation on its Windows 7 EOL page:
While you could continue to use your PC running Windows 7, without continued software and security updates, it will be at greater risk for viruses and malware. Going forward, the best way for you to stay secure is on Windows 10. And the best way to experience Windows 10 is on a new PC. While it is possible to install Windows 10 on your older device, it is not recommended.
I don’t completely buy into this recommendation, unless the hardware is more than 5 years old. In fact, I have two Lenovo laptops here at the house that were manufactured in mid-2012 (which makes them 7 going on 8 years old). One runs the latest 1909 build (T520 laptop: 18363.535). The other is running the Fast Ring Insider Preview (Build 19541.1000). Both have run Windows 10 without major issues (though their share of minor fixable glitches) since Windows 10 first appeared on the scene (October 2014 for the X220T and July 2015 for the T520). My advice would be to start with an image backup and USB restore media, then to try the update. If it fails, you can use the latter to restore the former. Then, you can think about buying new hardware. Just my two cents’ worth, anyway …
Author: Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.