Five years ago, Microsoft “pulled the plug” on Windows XP as a viable operating system (OS) for most of our computers. Next January, Windows 7 will get the same treatment. Like we found with XP, Windows 7 will not just stop working; it will continue humming right along like nothing has changed. The end-of-life plan from Microsoft – and it is still just a plan – will be to stop patching the OS for security vulnerabilities that are discovered in it after that date. So just like XP, the venerable OS will become a large target for malware, and it will become difficult to keep a Windows 7 machine from contracting malware, putting data and privacy at an increased risk.
Here at Harrisburg Academy, we will not be taking any chances with these heightened risks. Already, plans are being made to be sure there are no computers with Windows 7 in operation after January 2020. To date, we have identified about 27 computers (10% of our stable of machines) that still have Windows 7. The majority of these are classroom all-in-ones running Smartboards or J-Touch displays. At one time, they were running Windows 10, but upgrades to this OS several years ago caused these computers to malfunction. We were fortunate at that time to discover that reverting them back to Windows 7 made them functional again and gave the machines new life for a couple of years. Now we have no option but to replace them. Replacements will be in the form of a number of revived desktop computers that we had stored away, and when they are used up, a number of new computers will be purchased.
For the typical home computer user, there may be more options other than replacing the machine.
- Above, I said that Microsoft’s plan was to discontinue security updates in January 2020. It is possible (and not at all unlikely) that Microsoft may delay their plan and continue with additional monthly security updates. If so, then everyone gets a reprieve, but don’t count on that going on forever.
- As with XP, you might still be able to run Windows 7 after the final date actually arrives. The trick is to take it off the Internet. So if you use it for only local applications, and you never use a web browser, or other programs that access the Internet, your machine will stay safe for years.
- Upgrade to Windows 10. The free upgrades are long gone, but it is still a relatively low cost versus buying a new computer. Most computers running Windows 7 will also run Windows 10.
- Purchase a security plan from Microsoft. Though intended for businesses with critical systems that cannot be upgraded to Windows 10, and quite costly, depending on your situation, it might be a viable option.
Learn more about Harrisburg Academy on our school website.