Is it time to stop using Windows 7?

Windows dual boot

Markus Nitschke

Markus Nitschke, Head of Windows at Microsoft Deutschland

A high-ranking Microsoft Deutschland employee has stirred up a fair bit of conversation with the publication of a recent blog post recommending users switch away from Windows 7.

Markus Nitschke, head of Windows at Microsoft’s German arm, said in a blog on the official Windows Deutschland website that Windows 7 ‘can no longer keep up with the increased security requirements’ needed of a modern operating system.

‘It does not meet the requirements of modern technology, nor the high security requirements of IT departments,’ said Nitschke in an interview published on Microsoft TechNet, which we ran through an online translator.

Nitschke also confirmed that support for Windows 7 will be ending at the 10-year mark of its lifespan. That’s in three years time. Not too surprising seeing as basic support for Windows 7 ended two years ago. ‘Since then users still receive all the important security updates, but no new functionality,’ said Nitschke. ‘Windows 7 was developed for the wireless world of the late 2000s.’

‘Windows 7 is based on long-outdated security architectures,’ Nitschke continued. He warned that, three years before the complete end of support, corporate users should start setting aside time to make the transition to a newer operating system. In three years’ time when support expires he warns that, ‘companies and users who trust Windows 7 with their sensitive data are faced with enormous dangers’.

Windows 10 reviewed – what’s new in Microsoft’s latest OS?

Why now?

It’s easy to forget that Windows 7 is actually not just once, or twice, but three-times dated as a Microsoft OS. Windows 10 is the latest version. However, there was also the far less popular Windows 8.1 and disastrous Windows 8 before that. It may feel like this warning has come out of nowhere. But, after seven years, Windows 7 just isn’t all that new any more.

With the technological landscape moving faster than ever, companies are evolving their products at an unprecedented pace. This means it’s only natural that hacks and cyber attacks will advance along with them. Shorter product cycles mean more people potentially getting left behind. More people getting left behind means greater scope for viruses, malware and more.

Three years may sound like a long way off, but it’s important to bear in mind that that is the absolute final point at which anybody with a computer should be using Windows 7 from a security perspective. Naturally Microsoft recommends you upgrading before then while there’s still no rush or imminent threat. Considering how poorly received the end of support for Windows XP was, it’s certainly an understandable approach. After all, Windows XP was more than 13 years old when support ceased for good.

Should you upgrade?

It’s easy to look at this announcement through a cynical lens. Microsoft is of course running a business, and it’s also adopted some controversial tactics to get people to switch over to Windows 10, whether they wanted to or not. Since the end of the free download period Windows 10 installations have plateaued, and obviously Microsoft won’t be happy until 100% of PCs are running it.

However, it would be churlish to dismiss this as a money-making tactic. Nitschke’s quotes above are damning, and when you consider the position of the person they’re coming from, they clearly weren’t spoken lightly. This isn’t a matter of having access to some new gimmick, or making your computer run faster. This is a matter of security on a top-to-bottom level. Perhaps companies and business users should be more concerned than others. However, for the average user at home you should heed Microsoft’s warning.

Do you have to rush home and download your copy of Windows 10 right now? No, but that doesn’t mean you should just forget all about it, either. Earlier this month Windows 10 surpassed Windows 7 in terms of market share for the first time in its 18 months of existence. Windows 7 will start to see less and less attention from Microsoft until total support ends in 2020. We believe that Windows 10 is already an equal, if not superior, OS in almost every respect.

Should you buy a new computer?

The cost is certainly something to consider – £100 is a substantial fee. If your computer or laptop is already starting to creak a little it may be worth waiting a year or so and then simply replacing your machine with a new Windows 10 model. If you would be purchasing a new one anyway it would be silly to buy a copy of Windows 10 right now.

Windows 7 is still a solid, functional OS. However, while you may not have to upgrade right now, there’s certainly no real reason not to either. It will be for the best eventually.

More on this

All-in-one PC reviews – if you’re upgrading your computer see our verdicts
Mac OS vs Windows 10 – advice on choosing the right one for you

Software updates – it’s not just your PC that could get left behind

29 replies

  1. M$ should be careful what they wish for here.

    Some large businesses may have only recently moved onto W7 from XP – they might not relish the prospect of having to upgrade every few years, at the whim of M$, and so might take the plunge and move to alternative desktop operating systems. As a lot of corporate IT now involves large databases, accessed by desktop PCs as intranet terminals, so there is probably no longer any great need for those PCs to be running Windows at all.

    For home use, I think the position is somewhat similar. Which? reports often show that the “best that money can buy” PCs are made by Apple and also that “great value” PCs are available running ChromeOS. For many home uses, Android tablets and ipads are also viable alternatives to Windows based PCs.

    Personally, I upgraded my home PCs from XP, Vista and W7 to Ubuntu linux a few years ago and find that adequate for my needs. Ubuntu is free software and can therefore be installed on as many home PCs as I like, without the need to faff about with licence keys and product recovery discs. Its frequent security upgrades also seem to install much more quickly and conveniently than do their Windows counterparts.

    1. Agreed about Linux and its variants. I installed Linus Mint a while ago and it is actually a breath of fresh air. It is just surprising that Which, as a specialist Consumer voice, didn’t see fit to mention this free (as in no money), powerful and well supported alternative.

    2. Any large IT department that has just finished rolling out Win7 is not doing a great job. Asking to replace every 7 years is not un-reasonable and I think the security gains outweigh the downsides. Its not that hard to migrate.

      Win10 is pretty good, I’d say the best since Win7 and I’d advise anyone using Win7 to either upgrade, or, as others have said switch to alternatives such as Linux (for the more experienced), Mac (for the ones with a bigger budget) or ChromeOS (for those with lighter needs).

    3. I have twice tried upgrading my PC from Windows 7 to Windows 10 – but both times our network immediately ground to a halt and web pages took minutes to load. We live in a rural area and get a speed of around 2 Mb – so any slowdown is very noticeable. Needless to say, I will be sticking with Windows 7 for as long as possible unless Microsoft solve this network speed issue.

    4. I converted my own and my wife’s PCs to Linux Mint five years ago. Used with LibreOffice it meets all of m wifes requirements.

      It is about time Which? looked at Ubuntu and Mint operating systems plus LibreOffice for word processing and spreadsheets, and Thunderbird for email.

      They should also look at the Dell laptops that come with the Linux Ubuntu operating system installed.

    5. After reading some of the comments about lack of hardware support in Windows 10, users should consider using Linux Ubuntu or Mint. The hardware compatibility is extremely good, and support for ‘old stuff’ is a point of pride.

      Further, if someone wants to try Linux, it is easy to test it from a live disk (which will be slow, but will confirm any required features) or to install it in a virtual PC on your existing setup by using Virtualbox. Virtual box creates a special file which allows any OS to be run inside another.

      I run Windows XP and 10 in Virtualbox under Linux Mint 18.1 with the Cinnamon desktop.

    6. I didn’t upgrade to Windows 10 when it was free based on the Which? review. Shouldn’t the reviewers have taken into consideration the security aspects of continuing to run Windows 7? Then perhaps I might have made a different decision.

  2. A number of your statements in your report are, at the very least, questionable. “Earlier this month Windows 10 surpassed Windows 7 in terms of market share for the first time in its 18 months of existence.” Really? Every single OS market share report I’ve read in the past 3 weeks is saying that Windows 7 has about 48% of the desktop OS market, and Windows 10 about 24%. https://www.netmarketshare.com/operating-system-market-share.aspx?qprid=10&qpcustomd=0 is typical but by no means unique.

    “We believe that Windows 10 is already an equal, if not superior, OS in almost every respect.” – On what basis do you “believe” that? I use 7, 8.1 and 10 on a number of different machines on a very regular basis, and my experience is that 8.1 is by far the worst, and that 7 is better than 10 in most areas – it’s faster, loads quicker, gives far more options w.r.t. updates, considerably fewer update problems, better start menu functions, etc, is more stable and reliable, and has a far, far bigger range of printer drivers embedded and available. If you’ve got 8 or 8.1, by all means upgrade to 10 now, but my advice is to wait at least two years or so before considering replacing 7 with 10.

    “…you may not have to upgrade right now, there’s certainly no real reason not to either. It will be for the best eventually.” Yeah, right! Like upgrading from 7 to 8 was! Not! There’s every reason not to upgrade – 7 ain’t broke, so don’t pay M$ to fix it – for a couple of years or so anyway!

    1. Hi Bluto,

      The figures you linked to are global, and include what tech companies would refer to as ’emerging nations’ such as South America, South Asia and China. In these countries consumer technology is still catching up – in fact a large portion of the user base is still on Windows XP, even. In the UK and the USA, however, W10 has overtaken W7.

      We said that we believe that W10 is superior, or at least equal, to W7 because it is just that – a belief. If you find that W7 suits you better as an operating system then that’s of course totally fine. Our point is that whether people like it or not, the idea of upgrading is something that they will have to consider in the next couple of years, as you even say yourself. Security is a top priority for any OS and its user, so for someone as high up at Microsoft as Nitschke to come out and say what he said, we felt that it was a topic that needed to be discussed.

  3. Went for the free Windows 10 upgrade when it came out … has been ok for most of this time – but increasingly crashing (Stopcode stuff) on almost a daily basis … So it’s not just Windows 7 that is out-of-date ….

  4. There ARE alternatives, which it is surprising a consumer oriented doesn’t seem to see fit to mention. I have installed Linux Mint on a couple of old laptops that would have otherwise been scrapped and am quite impressed. Not only doe s one get an excellent operating system, with a user interface as pleasant as Windows 7/XP, one also gets a complete suite of Office type software – Word processor, spreadsheets, email, presentation tools, etc – all for free and all maintained. Not only that but there is no guy from Microsoft in a dirty mackintosh following you around.

  5. Saw an advertising folder pertaining to your Windows 10 free booklet. I’m struggling with Windows 10 since dumping MS Vista last November. I’m sure your booklet
    would be helpful.
    I have been a ‘Which’ member for many years.
    Kind regards

  6. Many home users and businesses will have Hardwear such as dedicated film scanners, flat bed scanners for larger format films that the manufacturers nor Microsoft are releasing up dated drivers for these devices to run on Windows 10.
    I have two home laptops one that still runs Windows 7 so my film scanners can still be used, if there are to be no updated drivers how many of these scanners are going to end up in landfill. Additionally these items are not made anymore.
    Maybe it’s time to move away from Microsoft to an operating system or manufacturer who thinks about the end user.
    I had a very competent XP laptop…..That a friend was very grateful to receive and still uses today, it was replaced by a Windows 10 laptop…..Which while being a good operating system…. Unfortunately doesn’t support the hardware I have and use.
    If Microsoft want everyone to move to Windows 10 they must provide up to date drivers so these poriforals to still be used.

    1. That’s interesting. I find my old but still appreciated Nikon Coolscan runs very well in Windows10, though it required much driver tweaking to be recognised Windows 7. I also keep an ancient iMac to hand should I need it for this scanner.

  7. Preferred older versions of software do not work on Windows 10, personally I would go back to XP like a shot. Not all home users want to be fast or in the zone or always uploading music. Leave us alone!

  8. I tried to upgrade my 3 laptops to W10 but W10 refused to install because my machines, one is only 3/4 years old, couldn’t run it.
    I also bought a new machine with W10 on it, but I rarely use it because there are too many things that either don’t work, like Active sync over a USB cable to sync my phone with OUTLOOK or are too difficult to work with because the Twassocks at MS think I should work in an unintuitive way, apart from the horrible START menu with all those tiles flashing around and wasting screen space.
    It’s much more difficult to connect to a wireless network if things don’t go smoothly because all the nuts and bolts are hidden away. I’ll stick to W7 until my machine breaks and if MS haven’t come up with a more user friendly and less Apple like OS by then I’ll get a UBUNTU machine.

    1. You can still sync Outlook with your phone on W10 in a more user friendly manner. There are plenty of 3-rd party software on the market that can sync Outlook data with smartphones. I’m using Akruto to sync calendar and contacts with my Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7. The “bad” thing is that there’s no USB syncing and you will have to use your Wi-Fi router.
      As for Metro UI, you can install a few tweaks to get a W7-looking interface on W10. Hope this will make you use your new machine more often.

  9. Back when Windows 7 was about to be released I built a new PC which I wanted to use as a Home Theatre PC and which was equipped with a TV Tuner card. I don’t have my own TV and my computer serves as a TV, which can record programs and even cope with 2 channels at once. I also have all my music on my PC so have no stereo/HiFi system. I bought the retail version of Windows 7 Home Premium for that PC.

    In June 2016 I upgraded the Motherboard/CPU/RAM/Graphics Card and boot disk to a much faster SSD – in short it’s a new PC by and large. I tried upgrading the OS to Windows 10 (for free) and this lasted less than a day before I put Windows 7 Home Premium back in place. Microsoft’s latest and greatest OS doesn’t even have Windows Media Centre (to fully support my TV card) anymore and there’s no option to pay extra to get this feature officially. I’ve upgraded my HP Stream 7 and 8 tablets to Windows 10 and that is a better OS compared to their original Windows 8.1 setups on these devices but sorry, as far as for HTPC use, Windows 7 wins hands down. Until such time as Microsoft develops a new OS which keeps this important functionality, I’ll be sticking with Win 7 for my HTPC.

    Oh and no, the third party alternatives are nowhere near as good as Windows Media Centre IMO and since they’re not made by Microsoft and built into Windows, the process isn’t seamless. Only Microsoft can fix this – if only they’d choose to do so! Please keep up Which.

  10. It is high time that MS and others, cottoned on that v v many of us just want a simple straightforward OS without impossibly exotic and largely irrelevant “extras”.
    There is no reason why an OS of this type cannot be made secure, probably more easily than the flaky over-hyped fancy ones it is continually putting out.
    I have a relative reasonably well up in the MS hierarchy but it does not endear MS and its sneaky unsought upgrades which have ruined my enjoyment of computer use.

  11. Surely once Microsoft stop producing security updates for Windows 7 there will be lots of companies and individuals who continue offering them, some even for free. I for one will not change to 10 but will wait to see what comes out nearer the 3 years time.

    1. If the XP model is anything to go by, 3rd party security software will continue to be produced.

      In principle, only M$ have access to the operating system source code for W7, so only they can release patches when security flaws are discovered.

      Whilst M$ may be keen to nudge users onto W10, they will have to accept that nudging users away from W7 won’t necessarily lead everyone in that direction.

  12. Almost any linux runs smoothly on a machine which can run W10.
    By using a virtual machine from any supplier any version of Windows OS can be loaded for those programs which need it but without the fear of the real machine being bricked by malware. The “snapshot” feature used intelligently can be almost a full logging system.
    For those who know how it can be sandboxed if necessary.

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