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Security updates for Windows 7 finally end, users urged to upgrade

Users have been urged to update to more modern operating systems, such as Windows 10 or 11

Microsoft has announced it plans to cease security updates for Windows 7 beginning Tuesday 10 January.  

The move will see users of Windows 7 Professional and Enterprise editions go without vital security protections unless they switch to a more recent operating system (OS), the company confirmed in a recent update.  

In addition, the company confirmed that support for Windows 8.1 will also end on Tuesday.  

Microsoft officially discontinued support for Windows 7 in January 2020. However, customers still using the legacy operating system were granted some security provisions as part of the company’s Extended Security Update (ESU) programme.  

A key factor in continuing security support, Microsoft revealed at the time, was to provide users with “additional time” to transition from Windows 7 to supported operating systems such as Windows 11.  

“But, during that time, as long as the device is still running Windows 7, Microsoft 365 won’t receive any new features updates,” the firm said.  

The tech giant said that in order to “maintain the reliability and stability” of devices, it strongly recommends users upgrade to more modern PCs capable of running Windows 11.  

Users can upgrade to Windows 10 as an alternative. However, the tech giant warned that support for this OS will end in October 2025.  

“Most Windows 7 devices will not meet the hardware requirements for upgrading to Windows 11, as an alternative, compatible Windows 7 PCs can be upgraded to Windows 10 by purchasing and installing a full version of the software,” Microsoft said.  

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“Before investing in a Windows 10 upgrade, please consider that Windows 10 will reach its end of support date on 14 October 2025.” 

Windows 7 officially launched in October 2009 and the operating system still caters to a significant global user base.  

At present, the OS runs on around 11% of all Windows systems globally. Reports from January 2021 suggested that Windows 7 was still used on nearly 100 million devices, highlighting its popularity despite the series of more modern options available to users.  

Security considerations 

Joey Stanford, VP of privacy and security at Platform.sh, said the end-of-life (EoL) announcement has been long-awaited and as such, businesses should view upgrades as imperative to prevent security risks.  

“While it might feel like an easy option to ignore the announcement, any system left operating on Windows 8 exposes a business to a significant amount of risk,” he said. 

“In August 2020, the FBI issued a warning to the private industry that cyber criminals were specifically targeting Windows 7 systems following its end of support. Ignoring the EoL date isn’t an option,” Stanford added.   

Counting the cost of upgrades 

While Microsoft advises businesses to upgrade devices as frequently as possible, Stanford warned there are inherent burdens associated with this process, including the potential costs of upgrading. 

"It’s not a simple case of 'auto-update' for everyone,” he said. “Those late to the party will be forced to bypass Windows 10 and go straight to 11, a much newer and more expensive OS that some won’t have the hardware to support.” 

“Unfortunately, many businesses still have a heavy reliance on legacy systems including those that operate in the industrial industry and banking sector. These industries put their digital faith in systems that struggle to be updated and can’t handle being switched off for updates. Without a plan for EoL this can become a big security risk.” 

A recommended approach for businesses to curtail costs when upgrading to Windows 11 is to upgrade in waves or plan to commit budgets towards future upgrades.  

This does vary depending on the number of machines businesses run and the current spec of devices, however.  

To assess upgrade readiness, Microsoft’s Endpoint Manager allows businesses to better understand how compatible the organisation is when embarking on upgrades.  

The Endpoint Manager tool provides users with insights into which devices meet Windows 11 hardware requirements  

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