As the adage goes: all good things must come to an end. That’s especially true in the fast-paced tech world, where great hardware and software can quickly become outdated. It’s why no-one uses the groundbreaking original iPhone anymore, while the value of classic consoles is purely nostalgic.

It appears the same can be said of Windows 7. Microsoft’s desktop operating system launched in 2009 and will soon be three major versions out of date, but that hasn't stopped plenty of people from still using it.

According to StatCounter, around 16% of all current Windows PCs were running Windows 7 in July 2021. Some these devices are likely to be inactive, but that still leaves a significant amount of people using software that hasn’t been supported since January 2020.

This is extremely dangerous. Not only is Microsoft not releasing any more software updates for Windows 7, it’s also not patching any security issues or providing any tech support. For the vast majority of people, this simply isn’t a risk worth taking.

Paid Windows 7 updates only available for companies

The refusal to ditch Windows 7 doesn’t make sense to most of us, especially as you can still upgrade to Windows 10 for free. However, some people have legitimate reasons for sticking with the 12-year-old operating system.

For many companies, upgrading to Windows 7 isn’t worth the hassle. The software itself might be free, but the migration process certainly isn’t. Some employees may also need support when presented with a new operating system, and not all current apps and programs will still work.

In this scenario, Microsoft is continuing to provide annual updates and patches for Windows 7 to companies. This is through what’s known as the Extended Security Updates (ESU) program, although the last of these is set for 2022.

Windows 7 Extended Security Updates
Image: Microsoft

Extended Security Updates are only officially available via licensed providers, and can’t be bought by private users or small businesses, even if running Windows 7 Pro. Patches that claim to bypass these restrictions can be found online, but we can’t comment on their safety or effectiveness.

No reason for most people to stick with Windows 7

Objectively, there’s little justification for sticking with Windows 7 and refusing to upgrade to Windows 10. The hardware requirements for both operating systems are almost identical, updating is free for most people and the user experience on Windows 10 will be relatively familiar.

However, there is some older hardware that won’t run Windows 10. If you happen to be using one of these devices, it’s probably time to upgrade. Software compatibility is a more legitimate concern – not all Windows 7 apps will run smoothly on Windows 10. But both are relatively rare, so we’d encourage you to persist with the upgrade process if you experience issues.

Most of the time, Windows will automatically recognise the components and drivers that you already had installed. You may need to download some new ones or manually update them, but all the basic functions will work immediately.

If there are any drivers that your PC no longer recognises, you should be able to find them via the VOGONS Vintage Driver Library. It’s also worth checking the manufacturer of your device for service and support pages – many old drivers will still run without issue on Windows 10.

For software, it’s even easier. Windows 10 has a built-in compatibility mode, with helps run programs that wouldn’t usually work. Just type ‘compatibility’ and open the relevant option in Control panel. You can then choose the affected app and (hopefully) iron out any issues.

Windows 10 Compatibility Troubleshooter

How to get Windows 10 for free

If you’re still running Windows 7, there’s an easy way to update your device without paying a penny. The Windows 10 ISO was only meant to be available for a year after the OS launched, but it’s still available as of 2021. For more detail on how to upgrade using this method, see our dedicated guide: How to move from Windows 7 to Windows 10.

Can you upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 11?

Technically, yes. Most older devices won’t meet Windows 11’s updated hardware requirements, but there is a way to get around the need for a TPM 2.0 chip and minimum RAM/storage options.

However, the need for a recent Intel/AMD/ARM-based processor may prove to be a sticking point. You’ll also have to reinstall a clean version of Windows 7 on your PC before attempting the upgrade.

Even if you’re able to bypass these limitations, Windows 11 won’t be designed to work on this older hardware and so may not run smoothly.

A version of this article was originally published in German on our sister site, PC-Welt.

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