Windows 7 is in its dying days

Image: Windows 7 flag in mono with gradient
By Tom Bestow on

Before you read this Windows 7 blog, I would like to mention that on 12th March 2019 in London, we are hosting a free half-day seminar where you can join your peers to learn how Microsoft 365 can help you manage your desktops and devices. Therefore, if you work for an organisation with more that 250 employees, please do click below to reserve a place. 

SEMINAR: Managing desktops & devices in Microsoft 365

Windows 7 support ends in 2020

Windows 7 is in its last year of support from Microsoft. The extended support final date is January 14th 2020 and after that, no more patches will be developed by Microsoft. Of course, it comes as no surprise that Windows 7 is still one of the most used operating systems in with the world with a share of 40.86% according to NetMarketShare. In fact, it was only in December 2018 that Windows 7 was surpassed by Windows 10.

One of the more interesting statistics regarding operating systems is that Windows XP and Windows 8.1 are tied at around 4.5%, despite support for Windows XP ending in 2014.

With less than a year to go before the patches stop, a few questions immediately spring to mind.

Why is Windows 7 still used so heavily?

There are many reasons why Windows 7 has retained high use:

Cost

Upgrading every device in your business from Windows 7 to Windows 10 can be costly, as a new Enterprise subscription would need to be purchased. At the very minimum most companies would need to purchase a Windows 10 Pro license for each device.

Legacy Software

Your company may run legacy applications for important business functions. These applications may be out of date, out of production or out of support, meaning support on Windows 10 is not a certainty. If upgrades are available, it often leads to a domino effect of back-end servers, databases or infrastructure changes being needed, creating a rather daunting task for your IT team and increasing costs.

It Still Works

There’s the famous saying “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. Windows 7 still works and thanks to years of patches and fixes, is viewed as a reliable, sturdy operating system by many now. Many people would argue that changing users to Windows 7 may degrade the user experience with an unreliable operating system.

What will happen if we don’t upgrade?

Given how Windows XP’s support was extended (to 12 years of support rather than 10) by Microsoft due to the amount of use it still had, some are speculating that Windows 7 is likely to receive the same treatment. However, holding out for a release from Microsoft announcing the extension leaves less and less time to plan for the end of support date being upheld.

There are some important considerations for what could happen if you don’t upgrade.

Security concerns

The number 1 concern for you would be the increased chance of exploits and security issues once the patches stop. Moreover, the likelihood of an exploit being found increases every day after the patches stop.

Software incompatibility going forward

As new software updates and applications are developed they are often focused on the current in-support operating systems. This means that any future software will be potentially unsupported on Windows 7.

Why you should upgrade

Even if the end of life date for Windows 7 is extended like XP’s was, you should still look to upgrading as soon as possible. There are plenty of compelling reasons to upgrade as well.

Security

Windows 10 provides a host of advanced security feature right out of the box, many of which may have required additional 3rd party software in the past. Biometrics, PINs (Windows Hello), Device Guard, Application Guard, Windows Defender and BitLocker to name a few. All of these add up to a robust enterprise grade level of protection across the device. If you would like to see a full comparison, Microsoft have a PDF available here.

Features

Windows 10 provides many new features for users when compared to Windows 7. Things like Edge, MDM Windows 7 Intune support ends as well (see here for more information), Windows Hello and all the security features listed above.

With Windows 10 as a Service you can be sure to get the latest features as well and when combined with testing groups and managed updates, the risk of a patch breaking everyone in the company goes down significantly.

How you can upgrade

Windows 10 is easy and flexible in its deployment methods. The available choices and options make it difficult to justify not upgrading.

SCCM

The conventional approach of deploying an image to a computer either via Network or USB drive using SCCM works just as well as it did with Windows 7, if not better. Windows 10 allows you to perform an in-place upgrade on compatible devices, including Windows 7, allowing you to keep the documents unchanged during an upgrade process. You can read here for more details.

If you are worried about the upgrades Windows 10 goes through, resulting in a new task sequence needing to be created each time, have no fear. The sequence within SCCM can simply have its install.wim file replaced with a version pulled from the latest release media.

Windows Autopilot

One of the more exciting and easy methods to roll out Windows 10 is via Windows Autopilot. This allows users to enjoy the unboxing experience of a new device. When connected to the internet, AutoPilot automatically provisions and enrols the devices when you sign in. No IT intervention required. You can read more about it here.

Conventional in-place upgrade

Upgrade media is available on Microsoft’s website at the moment and can walk the user through an in-place upgrade via an ISO or direct executable. In-place upgrades are the recommended approach to move to Windows 10 and is a tried and tested method through the initial free upgrade period that Microsoft provided.

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