Windows 7 has gone “End of Life”: What should your business do about it?

  1. Hourglass
    Huw Bendon

    Huw Bendon UKBF Newcomer

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    9 |

    RIP Windows 7.

    On 14 January 2020, Microsoft closed the door on Windows 7 for good. That means no more software updates, no more security patches, and no more technical support for the old operating system. 

    The termination is officially named ‘End of Life’, and comes almost eleven years since it was first released. Now, if one of the estimated 200 million PCs still running Windows 7 belongs to your business, you might feel some relief that you’re not so alone. 

    But that said, above all, your biggest concern should be what to do next to maintain a secure system. 

    What happens when operating systems grow old?

    Wouldn’t it be great if the computers we used stayed young and fresh forever? Unfortunately, that’s just not how technology works. 

    Malware attacks and other types of virus are growing in sophistication all the time. Given the chance, they can find and exploit any holes in any computer software.

    We saw it most prominently in the WannaCry hack in 2017. It affected the NHS particularly badly. Unpatched PCs that still ran the defunct Windows XP were hit with ‘ransomware’. This is a type of malware that locks down a computer or its data and then demands money from the user to unlock it again. The WannaCry attack was serious enough for Microsoft to step in and release a patch for Windows XP, despite it already being End of Life. 

    A more recent and unusual case is the RobbinHood attack on Windows 7, 8, and 10. This is a type of ransomware that uninstalls the anti-virus software from the target computer. Then it sneaks in unnoticed and locks down the user’s data. A ransom for money follows.

    That’s why computer companies periodically release security updates and patches to cover up these holes. Microsoft, for example, sends new security patches out every month to be automatically installed by Windows Update. But every month, malware criminals will examine the patches for new holes. It’s like a never-ending game of cat and mouse. 

    So while Windows 7 no longer has Microsoft’s support, that doesn’t mean it will suddenly stop working. A better analogy might be to see it as a leaky ship, where the holes are no longer being fixed.

    Of course, in this GDPR era, being hacked could land you in hot water with the regulators and your customers as well as the cyber criminals.

    What can Windows 7 users do?

    It can be tough to get everything right the first time when budget and resource is taken into account. But if you are still running Windows 7 in your business, finding a solution should move up your to-do list.

    The first step, really, is making sure any computers in your business using Windows 7 are fully up to date. Run Windows Update, and let it do what it can. Then, given the associated risks, it would make sense to implement a plan for replacing Windows 7 as soon as you can.

    Microsoft advises that the best way to stay safe is by using Windows 10. They also say while it is possible to install Windows 10 on an old machine, they don’t recommend it. However, if currently this is your only real option, it’s better than nothing as long as your computers are powerful enough to run it. 

    As you assess your options, you’ll need to consider the most cost-effective transition for your business needs. If your budget can’t handle brand-new hardware but your existing hardware can handle a Windows 10 upgrade, that could be your way forward. 

    But bear in mind, if you’re planning to buy new hardware in the not-too-distant future, you might want to consider bringing that date forward. A new Windows computer will already come with Windows 10 preinstalled, at no extra cost. You don’t want to pay for it twice.

    It is worth pointing out that Microsoft is offering a business-only extended updates service. But you have to pay for it on a per-device basis and it is not cheap. It may be an option, but is unlikely to be the sensible way forward for most businesses.

    Some more quick wins

    Is there anything else you can do when an instant upgrade isn’t available? Do as much as you can to avoid exposure to malware. In reality, that may seem impossible, but there are precautions that can help.

    Make sure your employees are well trained in cyber security best practice. Never click the links that come in suspicious emails. This is one of the most common ways for ransomware to get in. Spam and phishing emails were responsible for 67% of ransomware in 2019.

    Is all of your other software patched and up to date? Internet browsers are perhaps the most important. Google has already said it will continue to support Chrome for Windows 7 for at least 18 months. This gives small businesses some space to manoeuvre. 

    Good anti-virus software and a solid firewall is a must, and should help keep the risks to a minimum. Although remember, no security software in the world can patch the holes in an operating system.

    Last of all, make sure everything valuable is backed up externally. This may give you a lifeline to restoring your data, instead of paying the pirate’s ransom.

  2. Perfect Windows

    Perfect Windows Contributor

    108 47
    It's important to note that, notwithstanding what Microsoft say publicly, if you upgrade from a validly-licensed W7 to W10, you are not charged. This may not last forever.

    Also, if you start the operation from within W7 you have the opportunity to upgrade while leaving programs and data unaffected; before anything is changed it'll tell you programs that aren't going to work after the upgrade. (You should still backup your data before upgrading - and you should be doing it as a matter of course anyway!) Download the W10 image, burn it to a DVD and get cracking.

    All-in-all it's around two hours to upgrade and eradicate your support fears.
    Posted: Feb 21, 2020 By: Perfect Windows Member since: Mar 7, 2011
  3. Financial-Modeller

    Financial-Modeller Contributor

    1,150 441
    Is using the current Operating System rather than the ten-year-old version really a topic for discussion?
    Posted: Feb 21, 2020 By: Financial-Modeller Member since: Jul 3, 2012
  4. Ray Newman

    Ray Newman Contributor

    147 31
    My other half, an accountant, has everything set up just how she likes it on Windows 7 and is a bit peeved at being forced to change.
    Posted: Feb 21, 2020 By: Ray Newman Member since: Dec 13, 2018
  5. Bob Morgan

    Bob Morgan Contributor

    1,195 384
    How much does Microsoft pay for us to 'Test Drive' and 'Debug' their software for them?
    Posted: Feb 22, 2020 By: Bob Morgan Member since: Apr 15, 2018
  6. Training 4 Your Business

    Training 4 Your Business UKBF Newcomer

    2 2
    I agree with Perfect Windows. Upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10 should be your first option. If the free upgrade is still on offer, this really is a “no brainer”. If your PC has an i5 processor or higher, it should run Windows 10 without any problems.

    If your computer is older, consider converting it to Linux. Versions of Linux like Linux Mint or Lubuntu are perfect for older computers and can give them a new lease of life. There is a bridge program called Wine that enables you to run your favourite Windows apps on Linux, too. Best of all, Linux is open source and free to download.
    Posted: Feb 24, 2020 By: Training 4 Your Business Member since: Feb 19, 2020
  7. Ian J

    Ian J Factoring Specialist Verified Business ✔️
    Full Member

    6,786 2,375
    Instructions and download are here
    Posted: Feb 28, 2020 By: Ian J Member since: Nov 6, 2004
  8. Perfect Windows

    Perfect Windows Contributor

    108 47
    We've just upgraded to Windows 10 and we'll be on it until it reaches its end of life, 14th October 2025. For all I care Microsoft can produce three more version of windows in the lifetime of Windows 10 support but we won't move to them. Why? Because some other fools were happy to upgrade early to W10 and found all the bug, bugs that have now been fixed. Until October 2025 that means no more updates, no more disruption. So, in 2025 we'll be using a ten-year-old operating system that is well-tested and safe and we'll be forced to upgrade again.
    Posted: Feb 28, 2020 By: Perfect Windows Member since: Mar 7, 2011
  9. Justin Smith

    Justin Smith Contributor

    2,021 258
    It isn't just the cost of the software and possibly a new PC, not even having to get used to a new version of windows. The biggest pain in the **** is having to move all your data and programmes across (and that's assuming they all work). Similarly, all PCs get slower as they get older and clogged with stuff. Reinstalling windows is the best way to regain much of that speed, but it's an absolute PITA, which is why most people never do it, instead they waste time and money on all these "cleaning" programmes which, in my experience, never work anyway .
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2020
    Posted: Mar 13, 2020 By: Justin Smith Member since: Jun 6, 2012
  10. bodie007

    bodie007 UKBF Newcomer

    31 5
    The screen nag keeps reminding me to upgrade - will have to soon.
    Posted: Mar 21, 2020 By: bodie007 Member since: Jul 4, 2008