Microsoft will discontinue support for Windows 7 on 14 January with a final security update. Honestly, it's not a big surprise - the deadline has already been set since 2012. However, a good quarter of all users still work on the popular operating system.
Compared to many of its predecessors and successors, Windows 7 enjoys a good reputation in the online community. The operating system is considered to be comparatively stable, user-friendly and secure. That shall be over now: After the end of support, it is strongly discouraged to continue accessing the Internet with Windows 7 devices.
"Like a trip to the tropics without vaccination" - this is how the use of online services by outdated operating systems can be described quite aptly. Without continuous security updates, the tools are vulnerable to online malware of all kinds - and even current browser versions are potentially no longer supported.
Windows 7 users are therefore in urgent need of action. A glance at a whole range of options shows that this does not necessarily have to do with the purchase of new hardware:
1. free update to Windows 10 for private customers
The comparatively easiest way is only available to private customers: Microsoft provided a free update for Windows 7 customers when Windows 10 was launched. Officially, the time frame for the update has expired, but it still works for private customers. Companies are explicitly excluded from this option.
Microsoft's Extended Security Update (ESU) program allows companies to purchase a three year grace period during which the most important security updates for Windows 7 continue to be delivered. The ability to make use of ESUs is strictly bound to business customers and is open to companies that have purchased volume licenses, for example. SMEs do not necessarily have to be left out in the cold: they shall be given the opportunity to book the update extension for individual computers - at least if they have been using the "Professional" or "Enterprise" versions so far.
The extended business support can be extended each year for a further year if costs increase. Customers who make use of this solution receive individual installation keys, which must be renewed after one year. But ESU is by no means a long-term solution - after three years it is finally over. Technically, the successful use of ESU support is linked to the installation of various updates, which must already be installed on the computers.
Microsoft does not want to make its ESU program truly attractive to business customers. The IT giant is probably speculating on the purchase of a completely new computer equipment with the latest operating system. Windows 10 doesn't enjoy such a good reputation as Windows 7, but an end of support is not foreseeable at the moment. This should be reason enough for many business customers to take a closer look at the new acquisition alternative at least once. Companies that work on quite old computer equipment will not be able to avoid the purchase of new devices if they want to stay with Windows. Therefore, it is definitely worth testing in advance whether the devices used are at all suitable for the current Windows operating system.
If you don't want to make it that easy for Microsoft sales strategists, you might already be looking for alternatives. Linux & Co should be worth more than just a glance, especially for small companies. Linux Mint is a free open source product, which is also attractive for users switching to Linux: Many proven Windows functions also work here and even the desktop design is not so different from the Microsoft flagship. Security support is guaranteed until 2023. If you are not sure whether you want to make the switch, you can start Linux Mint from a USB stick or an external hard drive without any problems and test it first.
Even if several million users find it difficult to get rid of their familiar operating system, by January 2020 at the latest there will be no choice: with the end of the security updates, Windows 7 will in fact be history. Microsoft's ESU offering is at most a temporary solution until 2022. By then Windows 7 should have completely disappeared from all business computers - and a worthy successor should have been established.
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