Saying goodbye to Windows 7 isn’t easy, but you must

One in five Windows users is still using Windows 7. That’s one too many. It’s time to move on.

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Listen, I get it. Windows 7 has worked really well. After the Vista fiasco, you were so happy to get a decent version of Windows. You dodged the Windows 8.x sinkhole, and, boy, were you glad! Then, you thought about Windows 10, but 7 just did the job so you stuck with it, and then you felt vindicated because of Windows 10’s dodgy upgrades and patches. Now, today, Jan. 14, 2020, Windows 7 has reached its end of life, and either you’ve upgraded to Windows 10 or you’re working on another Windows 7 alternative like Chrome OS, macOS or Linux, right?

I mean, you’ve moved on. Right?

Oh, no! What’s this!? According to the most accurate survey of who’s running what on the internet the running totals of the U.S. government’s Digital Analytics Program (DAP) — on Jan. 9, five days before Win7’s end of life, 19% of Windows users were still using Windows 7.

People, people, people. It’s time to switch. Even the simplest update scenario, upgrading to Windows 10, takes a minimum of three hours. Moving your data and applications to Windows 10 can take anywhere from hours to days. It’s long past time to move. If you want an alternative operating system, it will take you even longer.

Of course, many companies are simply retiring their old PCs and replacing them with newer models running Windows 10. That’s the easiest way forward. But, as DAP’s numbers show, lots of people still haven’t made the move.

Indeed, just as in a lame action movie with a bomb countdown, as the clock ticks to zero on Windows 7, I’ve met some people who don’t plan on updating at all. Shudder!

They tell me they’ll be fine if they just keep updating their antiviral software. No! Just no! Where to begin?

First, antivirus (A/V) programs only protect you against known malware. There’s a lot of new trouble coming along every day. A/V programs don’t have a great track record of keeping up with the newest and nastiest malware. One of the best, Microsoft Security Essentials, dies on the same day as Windows 7 — today, remember? Windows Defender Antivirus? It was never available on Windows 7 and it’s sure not going to be ported over now!

Second, as former Firefox developer Robert O’Callahan and Google Chrome’s security chief Justin Schuh have pointed out separately, there is a lot of rotten code in A/V programs. In fact, many developers see A/V programs as more harmful than helpful. That’s because to protect a system they get so deep into it they can also be easily used as an attack vector.

Let’s also not forget that if something goes wrong and you call for help, it’s doubtful that you’ll get a helping hand for troubleshooting problems on an obsolete operating system.

Last, but not least, when new security holes are found in Windows 7 — and they will pop up — you’ll be wide open to attacks.

If you really, really must keep running Windows 7, I can only suggest you run it on a virtual machine (VM) without networking on another operating system. I recommend using Oracle VirtualBox on Linux Mint. It’s what I use for dodgy operating systems. That way you can still run your old apps and be relatively safe.

Of course, the really smart thing to do if you refuse to leave Windows 7 is to bite the bullet and pay for Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU). If you can get it.

First, it’s only available for those with Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Enterprise or Windows 7 Ultimate. Windows 7 Home? So sorry, you’re out of luck.

If you have a small business, you can get ESU, right? Sure! That is, Microsoft claims you can get it via a Microsoft cloud service provider (CSP). In practice, users are saying CSPs don’t want their business. They don’t want your custom because if you only need 30 or fewer ESU units, they can’t make a profit.

The bottom line is Microsoft really wants you to move off Windows 7 to Windows 10 right now. I know, I know, Windows 7 still works and it’s going to be a major headache to upgrade or migrate, no matter what you do. It always is. Nevertheless, the time has come. Move off Windows 7 today or feel a lot of pain tomorrow.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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