What Does the End of “Extended Support” for Windows 7 Mean for My Home and Office?

Widows 7 logo with a semi-transparent red circle and line over itThere are options available to keep your current operating system without serious security risks, but they may be more expensive than upgrading.

On 22 October 2019, the Windows 7 operating system celebrated its tenth birthday. Originally released in 2009, over the course of its ten-year life Windows 7 became the most widely adopted modern operating system, even after the follow-up release of Windows 8 in 2012. It owes its reputation for stability and security in large part to Microsoft’s continued support, through frequent downloadable updates. In January of 2020, though, Windows 7 left the “extended support” period, and there will be no future automatic updates.

Since its original launch in 2009, Windows 7 has been one of the most common targets of viruses and other malware, due in large part to its broad success. Windows 7 users have benefitted in the past decade from Microsoft’s consistent updates, which were sent out to patch up any newly discovered vulnerabilities. Without regular updates, Windows 7 will become less and less secure as time passes, and more exploits are discovered by malign actors.

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Windows 7 Enterprise and Professional edition users have the option of extending their software lifespan by contacting Microsoft to enroll in their Extended Security Update (ESU) program, but the per-device fee will increase every year. 2019-2022 ESU add-ons for a single Windows 7 Professional license will cost $350. Over the three-year ESU period, many companies might end up spending more than the cost of new devices and licenses, without the added benefits of upgraded hardware.

Table showing cost of extended Windows security updates

For most enterprise users, purchasing three years of the ESU program would be an inefficient choice from a cost perspective, although shorter-term usage of the program may be helpful during the device and software migration period.

In the next few articles, we’ll examine some of the choices involved in making that migration as secure, time-efficient, and cost-effective as possible, as well as the major risks (both to efficiency and security) and how to avoid them. The new year brings new challenges with it — and for many companies that may include migrating to new devices and software — but in the long-term, device and software migration is a wise investment.

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