Windows 7 leaves mainstream support, so what does that mean for you?

By Joe McNerney | Field Technician | TechSolutions, Inc.

In the last few months, you may have heard that as of the middle of last month, Windows 7 is no longer being supported by Microsoft, but that is not the whole story. Microsoft does have a fairly complicated software support lifecycle, but rest assured, there is some method to the madness, so let’s dig a little deeper to get the rest of the story.

January 13, 2015 was an important date for the Windows 7 operating system, however, it did not mean the end of it altogether. Technically speaking, Microsoft ended Windows 7 “mainstream support” last month. That means two important changes for Windows 7. First, Microsoft will no longer release significant new feature requests or design changes to the operating system. “Design changes,” as defined by the software giant, include any modifications to the operating system outside of critical stability fixes or security patches. Second, the Windows 7 support process provided by Microsoft’s Technical Support department has changed. They will no longer provide free incident support for Windows 7 issues. Basically, there will be no more free support phone calls to Microsoft about Windows 7 problems, and warranty claims for Windows 7 will no longer be honored. All said, these are significant, but not very noticeable changes for the everyday Windows 7 user.

One key fact to keep in mind is that Windows 7 will continue to be maintained in what is called “extended support” until January 14, 2020. This means that Windows 7 computers will receive security patches, security hotfixes, and critical updates for nearly 5 more years! Clearly, this is not the end of Windows 7. Microsoft is mimicking the Windows XP lifecycle, which officially ended last April, with the Windows 7 lifecycle. The extended support period being offered for Windows 7 is about the same length of time they kept Windows XP in extended support. The end of extended support represents the end of life for the operating system and literally translates to Microsoft stopping the release of security fixes and critical updates that keep a computer safe from many new viruses, hackers, and vulnerabilities. Regardless, 2020 is a long way off and the Windows 7 operating system is still an excellent alternative to what is now an unsupported computer running Windows XP.

Purchasing a new computer preloaded with Windows 7 is the best way to move to a computer running that operating system. Retail versions and standalone licenses of the software are no longer being sold through official channels; however, most PC vendors such as Dell and HP continue to sell new business- class computers with Windows 7 Pro preloaded, and those computers are a favorite of both standard users and power users.

Even with the “love it or hate it” Windows 8 and the new Windows 10 on the horizon, Windows 7 continues to be the workhorse for businesses of all sizes. Furthermore, with extended support continuing for another 5 years, it will most likely maintain that lead position for another year or two.