small business technology usage

Windows 7 Will Reach End of Life in January 2020


Written By: Devon Humpert

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Well … it’s been a good run.

Possibly the most widely-used operating system – Windows 7 – is finally being phased out. On January 14, 2020, Extended Support will end for Windows 7 (Service Pack 1). However, another operating system, Windows Server 2008, will precede Windows 7 to the island of misfit software a day earlier, on January 13, 2020.

So, what does this mean? What happens after Extended Support has ended? I’ll break it down for you.

First, we should distinguish between the two main types of support from Microsoft: Mainstream and Extended Support.

Mainstream Support

Mainstream Support is the first phase of the product lifecycle. At the supported service pack level, Mainstream Support for products and services includes:

  • Incident support (no-charge incident support, paid incident support, support charged on an hourly basis, and support for warranty claims)
  • Security update support
  • The ability to request nonsecurity updates

Note: Enrollment in a maintenance program may be required to receive these benefits for certain products.

Both Windows 7 and Server 2008 have been out of Mainstream Support since January 13, 2015.

Extended Support

The Extended Support phase follows Mainstream Support for business, developer, and desktop operating system products. At the supported service pack level, Extended Support includes:

  • Paid support
  • Security update support at no additional cost
  • Nonsecurity-related updates require Extended Hotfix Support to be purchased (per-fix fees also apply)

Extended Hotfix Support is not available for desktop operating system consumer products. More details are available here.

Note: Microsoft will not accept requests for warranty support, design changes, or new features during the Extended Support phase.

  • Extended Support is not available for consumer, consumer hardware, or multimedia products.
  • Enrollment in a maintenance program may be required to receive these benefits for certain products.

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What happens next?

Now that we have that out of the way, allow me to break this down so it’s a little easier to understand.

While Windows 7 is in Mainstream Support, Microsoft will provide full support, updates/patching, and will release quality of life (QOL) improvements such as changes to user interface, performance tweaks, etc. Most Microsoft products stay in Mainstream Support for three to five years.

Once in Extended Support, Microsoft will support your software, but only for a fee. However, even if you are in the Extended Support phase, it does not guarantee you support, as you may have noticed above in the notes, “Enrollment in a maintenance program may be required to receive the benefits for certain products.” Once Extended Support has ended, Microsoft’s solution for any problem regarding these operating systems will essentially be, “upgrade your operating system.” Even if you are willing to pay, these agreements are reserved for large enterprises with thousands of PCs and a large checkbook.

But that’s just the beginning. The need to upgrade isn’t only because Microsoft won’t provide tech/incident support for your operating system, it’s because they won’t patch it either. If you noticed, January 14, 2020, is on a Tuesday. This happens to fall on the infamous Patch Tuesday for that month. Simply, this means that after that date, Windows 7 and Server 2008 will no longer receive security updates and patching, so any security flaws found or left behind on January 13 will not be patched. If you leave these machines on your network, you could be leaving a door open for a slew of cyber threats.

Start planning for upgrades now

So why are we bringing this up now? January 2020 isn’t as far away as you think. Some users may not have any systems with these operating systems, while others may have hundreds. Just like any other business expense, you don’t like the ones that come unexpectedly. The time to start planning and budgeting your upgrades is coming up fast.

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