The deadline has come and gone—on Jan. 14, 2020, Microsoft officially ended support for the Windows 7 operating system. The company will no longer provide bug fixes, critical security patches, updates, or other support.1
Considering the number of PCs worldwide still running Windows 7 or older versions—about 200 million or 1 in 5 PCs, according to estimates from ZDNet’s Ed Bott2—the conclusion of Windows 7 mainstream support should be cause for concern. Here’s why:
- Security: Now that the support deadline has passed, if a new software bug or security vulnerability is discovered in Windows 7, Microsoft is no longer required to release a patch to fix the issue on the unsupported operating system. The result: Companies still using Windows 7 are at greater risk of cyberattacks, hacking and malware.
- Functionality: Companies using Office 365 ProPlus on Windows 7 will continue to receive security updates, but will not receive Office feature updates as long as their devices remain on Windows 7. Think about the number of improvements and new feature announcements that were made at Microsoft’s Ignite 2019 conference—companies still running Windows 7 will not be able to take advantage of many of them.
- Keeping up with the competition: Sticking with Windows 7 and sacrificing security and functionality creates a ripple effect. An organization’s ability to compete can be diminished—most notably in terms of attracting and retaining both employees and customers.
Considering the number of PCs worldwide still running Windows 7 or older versions—about 200 million, according to some estimates—the conclusion of Windows 7 mainstream support should be cause for concern.
OS migrations are always complicated efforts, but moving to Windows 10 is different. Windows 10 marks the beginning of a new servicing model, “Windows as a service,” which provides security and reliability fixes at least once a month, plus smaller feature updates two times per year. Here are some of the considerations:
- Choosing releases and managing update cycles. Among the key first steps in a Windows 10 migration is gaining a solid understanding of “Windows as a service,” which requires organizations to change the way they approach deploying updates. It will take time and help from experts for business leaders to determine what works best for their organization—and to learn how servicing branches, deployment rings, feature updates, quality updates, out-of-band updates, Patch Tuesdays, and B, C, and D releases all work together. In response to public requests, Microsoft published a primer on its monthly Windows 10 quality update servicing cadence and terminology.
- Testing, running pilots, and gathering feedback. Ensuring the applications people rely on are compatible with the new version is critical. In previous Windows versions, this kind of testing was one-and-done. With continuous servicing of Windows 10, it will be an ongoing process.
- Staying user-focused throughout the process. Communication, training and support are critical to ensuring Windows 10 migration success—before, during and after the migration and updates. Business leaders must let employees know what changes are planned and when they will roll out, how Windows 10 could change their work processes, and where they can get training and support. Notable differences between Windows 7 and Windows 10 include the return of the Start menu, the new Microsoft Edge browser, and numerous changes to settings.
Migrating from Windows 7 to Windows 10 is a major undertaking—planning rollouts, running pilots and testing, deploying the new OS, and training users can take six months to a year to complete. Proper planning, including finding a migration partner to accelerate the process, is critical to project success. Organizations must take action now.
 For companies that have not yet migrated, Microsoft offers a “last-resort” option, which will provide paid Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) through January 2023 on a per-device basis, with the price increasing each year. Windows 7 ESUs will be available to Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Enterprise users with volume-licensing agreements, and will be discounted for users with Windows Software Assurance, Windows 10 Enterprise or Windows 10 Education subscriptions. ESU are also available for Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, SQL Server 2008, and SQL Server 2008 R2. ESU are not available for Office 2010. See: “Frequently asked questions about the end of support for Windows 7.”
 In a Jan. 7, 2020, article, ZDNet’s Ed Bott examines Windows usage stats from the US government’s Digital Analytics Program, Microsoft, Gartner, and others. Bott estimates that roughly 200 million PCs worldwide are still running older Windows versions, mostly Windows 7—which lines up with the government’s website traffic estimate that nearly 1 in 5 visitors who use PCs are running Windows 7. See: “It’s 2020: How many PCs are still running Windows 7?” by Ed Bott, Jan. 7, 2020, ZDNet.
Jen is an award-winning journalist who writes about workplace productivity and technology for Vitalyst. She believes in the power of using plain language, especially when writing about technology, and lists “achieving and enabling clarity” among her life goals.