Will Windows 7 Keep Working After Support Ends?

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Apparently there are people that believe when support for Windows 7 ends it’ll stop working. That’s just wrong, right? It’ll keep working? Can’t I just keep using it?

Yes, Windows 7 will keep working.

You can keep using it, but it’s important to understand the risks involved.

One thing we’ve learned, though, from being here before, is that the risks may not be as horrific as some make them out to be.

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End of support?

You’re absolutely right. Windows 7 will keep working.

The only thing that happens when support ends (planned for January 14th, 2020 as of this writing1) — is that no further fixes will be made available, even for security-related issues.

Windows 7In fact, security-related issues are the only fixes you’re getting now. Everything else ended back in 2015.

So whatever Windows 7 looks like next January is what it’ll be from then on. No changes, no fixes, no ‘nuthin.

Applications may still get updates

Just because Windows stops getting updates doesn’t mean that the applications you use will stop getting updates. That depends entirely on the application vendor and when they decide to stop supporting Windows 7.

Some may already have stopped. Others will stop in the future. You simply need to keep an eye on updates for the programs you care about.

Someday, those updates will stop as well. It’ll be up to you to decide if you care.

So, what’s the risk?

Good question. The “gloom and doom” scenario is that there’s an unpatched vulnerability that will be found, hackers will exploit it, and Microsoft won’t fix it.

The more pragmatic risk is that eventually, your other software will no longer be updated. You’ll have to figure out whether you can live with that, or find alternatives.

The other risk is that when your computer dies, you won’t be able to get Windows 7 for its replacement. Once again, you’ll be faced with a decision: move to the latest, most current version of Windows, or switch to something else entirely?

Mitigate the risks

Perhaps the most important step to keeping yourself safe is to make sure your anti-malware tools continue to work — including keeping themselves up-to-date. If your security software is no longer supported, then find an alternative immediately.

The hope is that Windows Security Essentials — which (as I understand it) shares its technology, if not its name, with Windows Defender on Windows 10 — will continue to be updated for some time. How long? No idea. You need to keep an eye on it.

The other very important step I recommend is my old standby: regular and complete backups. If something does go wrong, you’ll want to restore to a backup. This will also protect you to some extent when Microsoft eventually takes existing Windows 7 updates and activation offline, which will prevent you from reinstalling Windows 7 from scratch.2

We’ve been here before

If what we’re experiencing sounds hauntingly familiar, that’s because it is. This is exactly what happened with Windows XP some years ago.3

And in the light of many dire predictions of catastrophe and doom … nothing happened. There were no catastrophic malware outbreaks targeting Windows XP. There was no list of known vulnerabilities that hackers were keeping secret until they knew they wouldn’t be fixed.

Nothing.

Windows XP users were probably more impacted by the decreasing hardware and software support for the applications they cared about.

I expect Windows 7’s “death” to be very similar to that still underway for Windows XP — which a few folks continue to use to this day.

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References & Footnotes

1: Via Microsoft’s Product Lifecycle.

2: I believe Windows XP is in this state right now.

3: To the extent that I began this article by duplicating the Windows XP version.

35 comments on “Will Windows 7 Keep Working After Support Ends?”

  1. Where Windows-XP is installed.. there is an icon for checking with Microsoft. Since XP will no longer be supported by MS, will this do any “Un-validation” as XP license will not be then recognized? You mentioned that if the computer dies, you cannot re-install Windows-7 and I magine it is then even worse with XP. I installed it from an old Backup on one of my external hard drives.

    • I don’t think it’ll invalidate anything, it’ll just not work. Yes, Windows XP installed from scratch can’t be complete updated any more, I don’t believe. The best thing to do is to keep an image backup of as up-to-date a system as you can, and use that should you need to reinstall a clean system.

  2. I liked Win 7. A lot. But after a cascading failure of my devices, I was forced to buy all new hardware. Bye-bye Win 7. The new hardware wouldn’t support the older OS. Now I have three newer devices that came with Win 10 Home. I upgraded them all to Pro (for about $10.00 each) so that I could defer updates and avoid being a beta-tester. So far, so good, knock on wood. Past performance never predicts future results.

      • That’s easy. My computer is a pro version. I had a vanilla box and a technical friend of mine got a license, legally btw, via having a certified dead pc’s license transferred. M$ allows this. Simply because a pc physically dies does NOT mean you lose your rights to the license. And M$ has no way of cross checking who you are (or maybe they do). Cost of license from dead PC… $10 NZ from a trader on ebay I believe. Heck, my friend wouldn’t even let me pay him for the license. Dems da best of friends. : )

        • That might have been legit in your case but generally it’s very risky buying second hand software from places like E-Bay and Amazon.

  3. Don’t count on Microsoft Security Essentials (anti-virus). At the end of Windows XP they did an update which installed a nag notification that your computer was at risk and turned the icon permanently red to scare you into thinking there was a real problem when there wasn’t. Not long after that they stopped sending signature updates.

    • Are you sure the nag notification was coming from Security Essentials? I’ve never had that or heard of anyone else who has. Sounds like that notification is a scam from somewhere else, possible malware.

      • I’m pretty sure it was legit. The nag notification was the same notification that comes up if you turned off your anti-virus. So when you looked to see why you were unprotected, the MSE icon was red. When you click on it to see what the problem is, it would tell you that it was no longer supported.

        On one XP computer, I uninstalled the last Microsoft Update that updated MSE and it went back to normal. On a different XP computer, I had the same thing, so I uninstalled the last update and it went back to normal too. The update tried to install again. On the one computer I didn’t care. On the other computer, I blocked the update, treating it as if it was an update that was wrecking my computer. I knew I was not protected; I didn’t need to be constantly nagged.

        • Do you have Security Essentials set to scan in real time? You’ll definitely get that nag message if you don’t have an AV running in real time scanning mode.

          • Oh, I’m not using the XP computer any more, so no worries there. I was just commenting on Leo’s statement that he thinks Microsoft Security Essentials/Windows Defender (whatever name they want to call it) will keep working. My point is that it only kept working a little bit longer before they dropped support for it as well. So you might as well consider that if you are staying with Windows 7, you should be prepared for no built in anti-virus.

  4. I was just able to update my WIN 7 Premium Lap Top to the latest version of WIN 10 Home. It activated with no problem and has updated as needed with no problems.
    Research so far is showing a $99 cost to upgrade to WIN 10 Pro

      • You can download the Win10 iso from here… and yes, it IS legal. My understanding from techie friend is it is there to take “some” of the load off Microsoft servers. Quite how much of a load these days is debatable though…

        {URL removed}

    • I’ve heard of a few other cases where people mentioned that they were still able to upgrade from Windows 7 to 10 and it was automatically activated using the Windows 7 license. It would be good to hear from anyone who’s had success with that.

  5. Well, if they stopped the updates, the user was certainly at risk. An anti-virus with no updates is not very different from no anti-virus at all.

    • Right, but an OS that has stopped updates is different than security software that’s no longer getting updates. Depending on the security software you use, it could continue to be updated long after the OS itself has stopped being updated. A current OS would be better, but current security software is critical.

  6. I’m sticking with Win7 as long as my programs continue to function. At a point down the road if I move to Win10 I’ll assume that I can mount the Macrium Reflect drive and easily transfer the files including the file structure. Besides a fresh backup before any such transition I’ll also drop the whole kit and kaboodle on the NAS, and back that up too. Any stories about folks moving from 7 to 10 using Macrium? Smooth or rocky?

    • I took the offer to update to Windows 10 back when MS first did that free. I transitioned from Windows 7 on an old laptop, and Windows 8 on two slightly newer desktop computers. All went well. I used Macrium on all three to back up my data before the update. It all went without a problem. Since all of my personal data is on Dropbox, the file structure remained the same as before the transition. The system files took care of themselves.

  7. First, the “risk” of stopping OS updates is vastly overstated (just paraphrasing what Leo said). The biggest risk to the obsolescence of Windows 7 (or XP) is that continual and automatic updates of applications installed on your machine will eventually make them incompatible with the OS. When your applications stop working, then the OS becomes useless. If you intend to use Win 7 (or XP) for a long time, you should protect against forced application obsolescence by shutting off automatic updates and saving full installation packages of versions that do work on your computer. Remember, if your objective is to keep on using Win 7 or XP, then focus on the practical aspects of doing work on your computer and not on some societal group think that “updates are good”. Windows 10 has proven that not to be true.

  8. Is it me being suspicious or is something else happening in the background here with MS ? Two out of my 3 laptops all on Win7 started throwing errors and crashing the Windows Explorer system the same week as the MS mail outs started warning of Win7’s demise next year.
    Call me paranoid, but……

    • I believe that if Microsoft were doing it deliberately, we would have received dozens if not hundreds of complaints from our readers on that. Most likely a coincidence.

  9. The question of programs updating and no longer being compatible with Windows 7 is somewhat offset by programs and especially drivers which run in Windows 7 but not in Windows 10. I’ve had to buy new scanners twice when I upgraded to new versions of Windows.

  10. My question is simple… if I update from 7 to 10, will my Office products still work the same on 10? Or will I need to update Office as well? I am just so used to using 7 that I shudder to think that I will have to learn the differences with 10. It ain’t broke so why fix it?

    • Absolutely. I’ve got office 2007 and 2010. Both work flawlessly. Well the 2 apps that I use. Word & Excel. I would assume all the other apps in the package would also work fine. I’ve had a fiddle with OneNote and really? People actually use this? I find it to be a piece of useless junk. YMMV.

      • OneNote is included with Windows 10 so you would automatically have the latest version. I find it useful for taking notes and setting myself reminders.

    • Versions newer than Office 2003 will work on Windows 10. I’ve heard from some people that 2003 will work on Windows 10 but others had mentioned that it stopped working. Unless you really need the features that only MS Office offers, you might consider switching to Libre Office. Unless you need full document layout compatibility, Libre Office will probably do everything you need.
      Can I Use Office 2003 with Windows 10?
      Is OpenOffice a Viable Alternative to Microsoft Office?

    • FWIW my Word 2003 is working fine on Win 10. The only difference is that for some reason I’m prompted to accept the EULA every time it opens.

      • Maybe you need to run it one time as Administrator to accept the EULA. I had to do that with another piece of software. One time as Administrator to get all the settings saved and then after that just ran it regular and my program worked fine.

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