Jeff Werner writes: " I’ve read numerous reports that one can still upgrade to Windows 10 for free, despite that highly-publicized offer expiring way back in 2016."
Q: I recently received a message from Microsoft saying that as of Jan. 14, 2020, they will no longer support Windows 7, the operating system on my laptop (Yes, it's that old). I opted not to update to Windows 10 when it was offered free because of all the bad reports. It goes on to strongly recommend buying a new computer with Windows 10 on it instead of upgrading your existing computer. I'd appreciate any thoughts you could share about this development.
– Brenda S., Fort Walton Beach
A: This development should not come as much of a surprise to anyone who is a regular reader of this column. After all, I’ve harped literally for years about keeping your software current, and about the risks of trying to keep older hardware running well past its prime. A quick peek into the column archives shows this topic mentioned very early-on in the column’s life (Geek Note: I.G.T.M. No. 32, Feb. 28, 2008) and countless times since. The sunsetting of Windows 7 is just one more incident in a tremendous line of planned obsolescence that helps to keep the giant wheels of Microsoft grinding ever forward.
In case there’s any doubt in anybody’s mind about what is meant by the phrase “no longer support Windows 7” let me offer some clarification. When Microsoft withdraws support for a product, it does not mean that every computer running it will suddenly stop working, or otherwise lock-up. Your computer will continue operating as it always has, although as I recall when they obsoleted Windows XP, the OS began to pop-up a dialog upon boot warning that you are running an obsolete operating system. Annoying, perhaps, but tolerable. The “support” that will no longer be offered includes security updates, patches, and perhaps even online support. If you think that’s no big deal, then I suggest you need to pay more attention to news releases about issues that compromise Windows’ security. In just the last couple of months there have been multiple zero-day issues, which are security issues that are detected, for which there is no known fix, but which can be immediately exploited by attackers. Some of these affect all versions of Windows, including those that Microsoft has chosen to retire. Of course, Microsoft will work to release fixes for the currently supported versions of Windows, but has little reason to release patches for obsolete versions. Having said that, a few of these threats have been so insidious that Microsoft took the extraordinary step of patching even obsolete versions. Don’t count on that happening though. When Microsoft says it is retiring a platform they’re serious.
I don’t quite know what to make of Microsoft’s recommendation for you to purchase a new computer. If this is mere boilerplate that is present in all of these notifications, it is a bit odd indeed. However, if Microsoft has some level of knowledge of your system’s configuration (and in this time of mass information harvesting, that wouldn’t really surprise me) perhaps they’ve made the determination that your present computer isn’t capable of running Windows 10. It is logical to assume that a new system will run better and more reliably.
Although the thought of a new computer can be quite alluring, it makes sense at least to try Windows 10 on your current computer before moving on. I’ve read numerous reports that one can still upgrade to Windows 10 for free, despite that highly-publicized offer expiring way back in 2016. Check out this article over on ZDNet that will tell you how: TinyURL.COM/IGTM-0630.
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