Is Microsoft already killing off Windows 7?

It sure looks like it’s regretting promising 18 more months of support for Windows 10’s biggest competitor.

windows 7 bagpiper
Eloy Alonso/Reuters

Believe it or not, gray-with-age Windows 7 gained market share in March and April 2018. Even now, Windows 10, which arrived not quite three years ago, is running on only 39.3% of all Windows PCs, compared to Windows 7’s 47.3%.

I believe it. Month in and month out, one of the most popular articles I have posted on the internet tells you how to still get Windows 7 legally. Hint: Windows 7 Pro SP1 OEM edition on Amazon is going for $199.

Why not? It’s no secret: A lot of us still prefer Windows 7 to Windows 10. (The less said of Windows 8.x the better.) And Windows 7 extended support won’t end until January 14, 2020.

Well, I’ll tell you why not. Microsoft seems to be slowly but surely strangling its tech support for Windows 7.

For example, as Computerworld’s own Woody Leonhard, recently pointed out, “Win7 and Server 2008 R2 have gone through months of problems with networking in general, and apoplectic network interface cards in particular.”

Come on, Microsoft! You’re not Apple, where it seems as if every iOS update has fits with Apple’s own hand-picked Wi-Fi hardware. You’re better than this.

What’s that, Woody? The May Windows 7 networking patch bug “is different from the previous two months’ bugs?” OK. I stand corrected. Microsoft really is sucking dead gophers through rusty Chevy tailpipes when it comes to Windows 7 networking updates.

But, if I’m being honest, Microsoft has long had its share of bad updates and patches with all its operating systems, not just Windows 7.

You may also have noticed that your Windows 7 patches have been putting on weight. It’s not your imagination. Ever since October 2016, Microsoft started releasing Windows 7 patches that included all the previous months’ patches.

True, if you’re using WSUS (Windows Server Update Services), you’re golden. But if you use Windows Update or Windows Update for Business, you’re stuck with the fat updates.

There are two problems with this. First, those patch rollups are heading to 300MB to 500MB in size. That’s a lot of bandwidth for, say, a remote office still using 3 Mbit/sec. DSL. Second, since every month’s plump patch package installs every fix since October 2016, if any patch breaks something, anything, the entire rollup fails and — well, you get the picture.

But what’s really ticking me off today isn’t any of those. They’re old news. No, the real annoyance is that, with a year and a half of Windows 7 support yet, Microsoft staffers will no longer be answering Microsoft Community forum questions about Windows 7.

I don’t know about you, but I know lots of people who go to those forums for help. Other visitors to the forums can still try to help you, but you won’t be seeing anyone with a Microsoft ID offering aid. Thanks, Microsoft. Thanks a lot.

Oh, and by the way, users of Windows 8.1, 8.1 RT, Internet Explorer 10, Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, Surface RT, Surface 2 and Office 2010/2013? You’ll no longer see official forum support either.

And this just in, also from Woody Leonhard: “Even though Microsoft says it’s supporting Win7 until January 14, 2020, if you have an older machine — including any Pentium III — you’ve been blocked, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Seriously? Seriously!

An eagle-eyed AskWoody denizen, DAVe3283, noted that prior to June 15, 2018, the June Monthly Rollup article KB 4284826 and the Security-only article KB 4284867 no longer promised that “Microsoft is working on a resolution and will provide an update in an upcoming release” for older systems.

Sometime on or after June 15, the June KB articles for both the Monthly Rollup and the Security-only update were modified to remove the “Known issue” and its resolution All of the prior KB articles were also changed to include this bit of advice: “Upgrade your machines with a processor that supports SSE2 or virtualize those machines.”

Yes, I know, there can't be that many people still using Pentium III or older CPUs, but I know several of them. Would it really be that hard to keep supporting these chips for another year and a half? After all, Microsoft has already done it since Windows 7 rolled out.

So, yeah, Microsoft, this all looks to me as if you’re already abandoning Windows 7 even though we, your users, haven’t. I know it ticks you off that you’ve fallen short of 1 billion Windows 10 installations (that was how many you promised there would be in two to three years back at the Build developer conference in April 2015). For those of you counting at home, Microsoft said at this year’s Build that Windows 10 was on “nearly 700 million” devices.

What’s a 300 million shortfall between friends?

Seriously, though, Microsoft, some of us aren’t going to move from Windows 7 until it’s officially dead. Making it harder on us to run it successfully in the meantime is not doing you any favors.

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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