If you’re keen on tech then you probably upgraded years ago, but it seems one in four PCs are still running Windows 7. If you’re the unofficial help desk for friends and relatives who are slow to upgrade, it’s time to sit them down for a talk.
Sticking with Windows 7 doesn’t just put them at risk of viruses exploiting security flaws in Windows. All their favourite applications will also stop releasing new versions for Windows 7, meaning they miss out on security updates as well as new features. For example next year Google will stop supporting its Chrome browser on Windows 7.
You can’t rely on your antivirus software to keep you safe forever, as the major antivirus makers will also eventually stop releasing updates for Windows 7. Businesses which still rely on Windows 7 can pay Microsoft extra to keep getting updates for a while, but it’s really time to start planning the move to Windows 10.
Windows 8 was released back in October 2012 so, if your computer is still running Windows 7, it’s probably at least seven years old. Computer years are a bit like dog years, meaning that old computer is coming up on retirement age and it’s time to buy something new running Windows 10.
If you’re running Windows 8 and you’ve updated to 8.1 then you’re safe for now, as security updates will continue until January 2023.
Many Windows 7 users held off on Windows 8, as Microsoft tried to foist a tablet-style interface onto desktop computers, but the tech giant learned its lesson so it’s pretty easy to find your way around if you buy a new computer running Windows 10.
If you’re determined to hang on to your old computer for a bit longer, it’s still possible to upgrade to Windows 10 for free; although you’ll want help from someone who knows their way around computers.
Your old computer needs to meet a few minimum requirements, such as a 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and a graphics card which supports DirectX 9. If it doesn’t make the grade, it’s time to put it out to pasture.
It’s possible that you might still rely on expensive software or hardware which only works with Windows 7, like my friend Jane who still needs the ancient Windows XP to run the software for her Brother embroidery machine.
If that’s the case, buy a new Windows 10 computer and run Windows 7 as a virtual machine; basically an application which believes it’s a real standalone computer. Install all the latest Windows 7 security patches, then disable its internet access and use it sparingly. Remember, friends don’t let friends use Windows 7.
Adam Turner is an award-winning Australian technology journalist and co-host of weekly podcast Vertical Hold: Behind The Tech News.