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How To Keep Using Windows 7 Safely After Support Ends

I want to keep using Windows 7, but support is ending. Am I screwed?


No, you’re not screwed.

You may very well be able to keep using Windows 7 safely, just as a small number of people continue to use Windows XP to this day.

You simply have to take responsibility for keeping yourself safe — even more than before.

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Keeping Windows 7

The analogy I used in the previous version of this article for Windows XP was this: it’s like keeping your old 1957 Chevy that still runs great.

Sure, it’s a simpler vehicle, but it has no seatbelts, air bags, navigation system, backing-up camera, anti-lock brakes, nor whatever else we take for granted on modern vehicles. Getting leaded gas or an equivalent is a bit of a problem, and driving the old girl requires a different skill set — for example, do you still remember how (and why?) to pump the brakes?

Windows 7And, of course, when something fails, you have a problem. You won’t easily find a repair shop to help, not to mention replacement parts, and there certainly won’t be any fixes or recalls.

As long as you’re willing to work around all that, you can certainly keep driving it until it fails beyond repair.

Staying safe with Windows 7

To be honest, there’s nothing really new or special you need to do to use Windows 7 beyond its support window (which ends, as of this writing, January 14, 2020). You just need to pay more attention to the things you should be doing already.

Keep your security software up to date. Keep all your other applications up to date. Be even more skeptical when it comes to downloads and emails.

Keep doing all the things that allow us to use our computers and the internet safely — with a little more attention than before.

Diminishing support

Over time, more and more software vendors will stop supporting Windows 7.

If that includes your security software, you’ll need to find a replacement right away. Microsoft Security Essentials — my general recommendation — will keep working for some time independent of the Windows 7 cut-off date, but Microsoft won’t support it forever.

That’s true for any security software you run. As long as it keeps supporting Windows 7, you can keep running it. The moment it doesn’t, you need to find an alternative.

Pragmatically, that’s true for any software you run: at some point, Windows 7 support will be dropped, and you’ll need to either find an alternative, stop using that software, or upgrade to a supported version of Windows.

Outdated software as a security risk

The risk of using any unsupported software, but particularly an unsupported operating system, is this:

  • At some point, a vulnerability will be discovered that will not be fixed
  • Malware will exploit that vulnerability

You’ll then be relying on only your security tools — and your own common sense — to protect you.

Depending on who you talk to, this is either almost certain doom or a complete non-issue.

Naturally, I fall somewhere in between.

As we’ve seen with Windows XP, predictions of catastrophe failed to materialize. As I said, there are folks happily and safely running it today. But there are also those who, faced with critical tools, favorite applications, and even hardware dropping support for the OS, have chosen to upgrade.

The same will likely be true for Windows 7; continuing to use it will eventually become more irritating than it’s worth.

Exactly how long it’ll take for that to happen depends, of course, on you.

Most important of all is that you take the steps to stay safe and remain skeptical.

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34 comments on “How To Keep Using Windows 7 Safely After Support Ends”

  1. Windows 7 is a mature OS with years of fixing security holes. Keep a up to date browser and security software and your good for awhile. Just remember that hardware makers will also probably drop driver support, and even software may slowly stop supporting Win 7. There comes a time when the cost to support Win 7 doesn’t make sense. Couple old PC’s I have cannot run Win 10 well so I have moved on to Linux desktop OS. Windows 7 still runs on one of my PC’s but only because the PC maker still supports it and provides driver support for most recent Win 10 release.

  2. “As we’ve seen with Windows XP, predictions of catastrophe failed to materialize.” Like Y2K, nothing happened. If I had a dollar for every time the media caused mass hysteria, I could buy my own media outlet and influence minds like they do.

  3. What does the inquirer plan to do with the Win7 computer?

    For some purposes it may be enough to just disconnect from the source of most malware, the internet, except when updating security software. Even during security updates, don’t do email, open a browser., and disable auto updates on all other software.

    I keep a WinXP computer that has a bit of expensive software, which the supplier will not upgrade to a Win10 version. As the software is only occasionally used, I just never connect this machine to the internet and also minimize other threat vectors (DVD’s, thumb drives, the wireless interface, etc.)

  4. When my attempt to upgrade to Windows 10 in 2015 bricked my motherboard, I decided Microsoft no longer existed. Surely no one associated with Microsoft has noticed or cared, but will they someday…?
    Anyhow, should my W7 become unusable, I’ll switch to Linux, probably Mint.

  5. i use MBAM for my security and they have advised me they will still protect my win 7 ultimate computer even after microsoft no longer supports it. Mr. N advised me to use it when i first got a computer and i have been completely happy with it. as for MSE you mentioned, microsoft forces us to put it on our computers, and i`ve had it on mine since 2012, but it has never, ever, caught anything endangering my computer. its a useless security program. and a full scan sometimes takes an hour and half to complete only to find it found nothing. i`m gonna stick to win 7 until MBAM tells me i should switch.

  6. I’m still running Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1, (mainly because it includes Windows Media Center, which has unfortunately been removed from Windows 10), but if Microsoft were to restore WMC to Windows 10, I would upgrade immediately, even though I’m not crazy about the new interface.
    I don’t own a TV set, Windows Media Center is the only way I can watch and record live TV, and after considerable amount of research, downloading, installing, testing and then uninstalling various replacements, (both free and commercial, including JRiver Media Center and Plex), I have not been able to find a satisfactory replacement.
    I am well aware of a website/forum called “The Big Green Button,” which purports to help Windows 10 users to install the last version of WMC, but, from what I can gather, there seem to be numerous technical problems, and I’m not at all sure that I would ever be able to make it work.
    Bottom line: Bring back WMC to Win 10 and I’ll upgrade immediately!

    • I’ve never used Windows Media Center and I strongly believe it’s a good idea to upgrade to supported software. I generally like the recommendations from the alternativeto website. You might try one of their recommended Media Center replacements.

  7. Using and older computer with Windows XP. I never go on the internet with it. Never have. It doesn’t even have a security system on it anymore so as not to suck up CPU when recording. I use Pro Tools 7LE for recording on it and have 100+ songs recorded on that older version and Pro Tools, now AVID, has new suffix for its files, and will no longer copy older files to their new version. (As far as I know) Pretty stuck unless someone has a suggestion. I bought a couple of old mother boards for it in case the computer goes down from that standpoint which it did a couple of years ago. True, like trying to find parts for a 1979 Pinto.

  8. I contacted Windows help desk, and they told me because I am running Windows 7 Pro, and I am on disability, the continued updates are free for me.

      • I don’t have a link but I have been reading for quite a while that ms will provide essential security updates for commercial users for several years, for a price of course. I don’t know if that is available for personal users and even if so it is probably too expensive for most. I guess that may have changed but if you want I will look it up and link.

  9. Besides Windows 7 Pro, I have Linux Mint 19.2 Tina Cinnamon and Ubuntu Studio installed. The Latter 2 OS occupy one Hard Drive and Windows sits on its own Hard Drive. Linux Mint 19.2 Tina Cinnamon is my Daily Operating System, but for the next few weeks, I will be on Windows, because I have been asked to transfer some VHS tapes to DVD, and I have a NLE Video Editing Program that can capture those tapes, it is a windows based Program.

  10. I updated two of my Windows 7 computers to Windows 10, when Microsoft had free updates. At two different times, when Windows 10 updated, I had a catastrophic failure of both systems, which forced me to go back to Windows 7, which was my original operating system of both computers. I do NOT like Windows 10, nor would I recommend any operating system to update it. Windows 10 crashing caused me to lose most of the data which I had installed on my computers. Due to the fact that I had many of the original programming disks, I was able to reinstall my programs.

  11. As Leo says, ‘You may very well be able to keep using Windows 7 safely, just as a small number of people continue to use Windows XP to this day.’ I am one of those who still use XP. As I understood when XP was ‘orphaned’, MS still provided support for OEM system builders (those who did ‘clean’ installs, as many banks and financial institutions had done). Rightly or wrongly, I still get occasional security updates from Microsoft. I use PC Matic as my security, as they still support XP, but certainly don’t push the envelope; I just don’t do social media. Will probably go to Linux Mint in future, but have kept XP because of a proprietary business software program that doesn’t run on 7, 8, or 10.

  12. I wouldn’t be surprised if ms works behind the scenes to produce some garbage to take out some W7 users causing a lot of panic, pushing people to 10 of course. Just look into bill gates to see what this guy is capable of. I don’t know if he was ever on the rails personally but he sure has been way off them for the last couple decades that we know of.

  13. I am still driving my first and only car, a 66 mustang and I can fix it myself and have no problem finding parts and it’s paid for and yes people do know what it is not like all new look alike cars.

    • This is certainly not an old car forum, but I think Gary is right on. I keep threatening my wife the next car I buy is going to be a 65 or 66 Mustang, as all you worry about are gas and ignition problems which are straight forward. The same seems to apply to computers, but then, I’m an old guy who started with CPM on ‘personal’ computers. AND, BTW, they still work, even with the internet, if you don’t mind dial up modems!
      As one of the ‘Leo’s’ (Notenboom or LaPorte) said, ‘there is really only one operating system now, and that is Unix. Even Microsoft is realizing that.’

      • An original Mustang would probably cost you as much as a Tesla. I’ve seen them on sale for upwards of $50,000 and another example used here, a ’57 Chevy, is even more expensive.

  14. On my A cer Aspire 5310, the upgraded W7pro tó W10pro built 10240 works well, but it’s imposible to update It, because the frozen of matherboard on installing phase(when I have tó select the language of claviature) Is’t any solution for this? Return toW7, or Ubuntu?

      • I will argue with you about ‘crapmobiles’ Leo. You say they are safer in an accident, which I don’t believe except for the airbags (IF they work). The old cars have more weight (density) and certainly will win in a standoff with MOST of the lighter cars today. There’s a reason why semi-trucks or bus drivers don’t have to wear seat belts. They are going to win in an accident. I have an old Volkswagen repair shop across the street from me. Most of the VW’s towed in there are so mangled, I’m sure the occupant(s) were killed in the mishap.

        • My high-tech “crapmobile” was rated one of the safest cars on the road today. Sure, there are true crap vehicles out there, but new doesn’t necessarily mean bad, and old doesn’t necessarily mean better (Pinto, anyone?). Evaluate the cars (and computer technologies … and people, for that matter) on their merits, not their age.

  15. Interesting article, but no mention of Chrome operating system laptops. I will do the bulk of my work with a new one of those, making use of google accounts and just continue with my Windows 7 machine for the few essential programs I use having disconnected the machine from any access to internet or bluetooth.

  16. I’m 72 and in a panic. I can’t afford a new computer. I have thousands of pictures on here ( my PC ) and of course some documents. ( I have backed them up to portable things, so I know I still “have them”,) but do I have to worry that I will lose online access to them without having to plug in one of those things everything I need to see or use something? Second question. I only use Chrome, as soon as my computer turns on I click on that, so do I need to worry?

    • I’m not sure what you’re worried about (as in it’s unclear from your comment). Windows 7 will keep working, since that’s the subject of the article, so no need to panic. Just keep using best security practices, and BACK UP regularly.

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