Microsoft ended support for Windows 7 on 14th January 2020. If you’re still using Windows 7, and many people are, you might have seen a large warning message popping up on your screen telling you about this before it happened. In a nutshell, Microsoft are no longer sending out updates to Windows 7. However, if a huge security flaw is discovered now that support has officially ended, they might still decide to relent and release a one-off update to fix it. After all, Windows XP support ended a long time ago, yet when a major security problem arose they still fixed it. The reality is that people are still using old versions of Windows, and Microsoft knows that, but it would be unwise to rely on them fixing serious security problems now that support has officially ended.
Windows XP was very popular, then Windows Vista arrived and it was not so well received. After that came Windows 7, which a lot of commentators thought was pretty good, but that was followed by Windows 8 and 8.1 which were both rather painful to use. After that came Windows 10, which is supposed to be constantly updated in a never-ending cycle. Unfortunately Windows 10 often breaks during major updates, and users are left in a complete mess. I’m not a fan, as you can probably tell, and when I have to use Windows to do useful work offline, I usually still opt for Windows 7. However, I don’t use Windows 7 for surfing the Internet now that official support has ended, even though visiting well-known websites may still be reasonably safe.
Many users are wedded to Windows and can’t imagine using anything else, not because it’s good, but because it’s the devil they know rather than the devil they don’t. If you’re going to stick with Windows and your computer isn’t powerful enough to run Windows 10, you’re going to have to take the risk of not getting any new security updates, upgrade your computer, or buy a new one. However, if you’re not joined to Windows at the hip, you might be interested in installing Linux, which is free, has long-term support, and is very easy to update. You can even have Linux and Windows 7 installed alongside each other on the same computer. Then you can use Linux for browsing the web, sending and receiving e-mail, and many other functions, and use Windows if you have a program that you really need to run, but will not work under Linux. Having said that, a large number of Windows programs can run under Linux! Feel free to get in touch if you are worried and would like some help or advice.
In the few months leading up to the end of support for Windows 7, many hackers have been keeping a low profile and not taking advantage of any new loopholes that they’ve found. If they’d used those loopholes, the hackers’ activities might have been detected, and then Microsoft would have closed the loopholes. However, many hackers have waited until the support for Windows 7 ended, and now they’re able to exploit the loopholes in the knowledge that these weaknesses will probably never be fixed. As always you’ll need to backup your data regularly in case of attack.
New versions of Windows are not written from scratch. A lot of the code in a new version will be exactly the same as in previous versions. If someone finds a security flaw in Windows 8, 8.1, or 10, there’s a chance that the same flaw might also exist in Windows 7. If a vulnerability is found in Windows 8, 8.1, or 10, it will only be fixed in those versions that are still supported, which doesn’t include Windows 7. However, when the vulnerability becomes public knowledge, criminals will probably check to see if it exists in Windows 7, and if it does they’re bound to take advantage of it. Future public disclosure of fixed loopholes in supported versions of Windows will give the baddies clues to possible flaws in unsupported versions. The bottom line is that official support for Windows 7 has now ended, so the dangers of continuing to use the system have increased significantly.