If you are working on a computer running Windows 7, you have no doubt been made aware that support for that operating system ends on January 14, 2020. What does that mean? Well, for one, it doesn’t mean your laptop will stop working. However, if you continue using that machine after January 14th, you will become increasingly vulnerable to technical and security risks.
Technical risks stem from new or evolving technology that Windows 7 won’t be able to support. For example, if you have to replace your printer, you might find that there are no printer drivers available for Windows 7. Microsoft isn’t going to be providing any, and peripheral manufactures aren’t required to ship Windows 7 drivers with new equipment. These problems are real, but unlikely to affect you, at least in the near term.
Security risks are a much larger concern. Despite having been around for years, people are still discovering vulnerabilities with Windows 7. As they exploit these vulnerabilities in the future, Microsoft won’t be issuing updates to patch the holes. It’s not clear if third-party products like BitDefender (the anti-malware software I use) will continue providing updates, either.
The answer, as much as you may not want to go there, is Windows 10. I run machines running Windows 7 and Windows 10, and they are both stable, reliable platforms. They have their differences and frankly, there are features in Windows 7 that I like better, but that doesn’t change the facts – Windows 7 is not going to be a viable platform in a few months. There are some other issues with switching to Windows 10 that you might have to prepare for:
Non-compliant software – Perhaps, in addition to not upgrading Windows, you didn’t upgrade software products like Office, or Adobe or other less common products. Some of those programs will not work properly under Windows 10 – some might not even install successfully. In that case, you will need to buy a new version of that software.
Non-compliant hardware – Less likely than software, it’s possible that you have an older printer, scanner or other device for which Windows 10 drivers were never produced. There is almost nothing you can do about this.
Data – What about all your stuff? You can reinstall software on a new computer, but you still need your files. The easiest way to move these is to transfer them to a new Windows 10 computer via a USB external drive. You can, as one reader commented last week, remove your existing hard drive and install it in an apparatus that will make it available as a USB drive. You can also transfer to and from a cloud-based storage location like OneDrive, but a USB drive will be much faster.
What if you like your current machine? What if it’s not that old and is still working well. Can you upgrade to Windows 10?
The short answer is yes. The slightly longer answer is yes, but… The ‘but’ is how you define upgrade. If you are contemplating what is known as upgrading-in-place, i.e. running a program on your current machine that will change the operating system from Windows 7 to Windows 10, good luck. This didn’t work well in the initial upgrade period, in fact, I had to revert to Windows 7 after a barely successful Windows 10 upgrade. The smarter approach would be to let Windows 10 wipe the computer and install itself as a fresh operating system. That means you have to reinstall your software and backup and replace your files and data.
I intend to take both options. I plan to obtain a new laptop running Windows 10 and upgrade my current Windows 7 laptop to Windows 10. My current laptop required Windows 7 for programs I ran at work. It’s not that old, and it runs very well. In retirement, I plan to work between two locations in our house, and it will be nice not to have to lug the machine with me. The software I use for writing (Microsoft Office) can be installed on several machines, and the files I work on are stored in the Box (cloud) – moving from machine to machine is easy.
This will require the purchase of a copy of Windows 10 ($200) and a backup device. I would need the backup device regardless (and it’s a good thing to have). I purchased a Western Digital Passport backup drive with 2 TB of storage. It was on sale at BestBuy several months ago. You can actually get larger drives today for less than I paid. In fact, Amazon has 4TB drives for about $100.
Whichever route you go, the destination is clear. We (Windows 7 users) should all be on Windows 10 by mid-January. If you have any questions, ask them in the comments below. I will do my best to answer them.