When Windows 7 came out 14 years ago, it was considered better than its predecessor, but it still had issues. Vendors were unprepared, key drivers were missing, and few end users and IT administrators liked UAC (first introduced in Windows Vista).
With its lifespan ending this month after 10 years of support and three more years of Extended Security Updates, many users and admins are refusing to continue. (Many argue that Windows 7 was their favorite operating system, and say Microsoft will never make another platform like it.)
If we want “old code” to be more secure, we should now have few security issues left to fix on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. But last week’s Patchday release addressed 42 vulnerabilities for Windows 7, including 25 elevation of privilege vulnerabilities.
While I’ll admit that both Windows 10 and 11 drive me a little crazy at times, one thing I don’t miss about Windows 7 is the installation and patching issues. I find it much easier to do a repair install on Windows 10 – or even a fresh install of Windows 10 or 11 – than on Windows 7.
On Askwoody.com I am often asked to document how to get Windows 7 fully patched from SP1, which means dealing with hundreds of updates. Because I’ve lived this process for so many years, I cringe when I have to relive it. Keep in mind that Windows 7 and 8.1 are the last operating systems to offer non-cumulative security updates (along with a monthly security and non-security bundle). Since then, Microsoft has hardened and changed the Windows update servicing stack to no longer support SHA1, making Windows 7 clean install a painful process.
However, there are still options for Windows 7 users, including 0patch, to monitor and check for future security issues. 0patch plans to continue providing targeted updates for Windows 7. But don’t sugarcoat the fact that Windows 7 will be increasingly difficult to maintain and use, as will making sure you have a backup software vendor that supports it.
I again urge users (you know who you are) to move to a supported system with a modern web browser that can better protect you. Websites and cloud applications are often used by attackers to gain access to your data. So think long and hard about how you access the Internet. An Android tablet or even an iPhone has a more protected browsing environment than an older unpatched Windows operating system.
If you plan to continue using Windows 7 after its end of life, I have to ask: what are you doing now to protect and isolate your computer? For Windows XP, I often set up a null proxy in Internet Explorer so it couldn’t come online after it went out of support. Here’s how:
Open Internet Explorer (IE) and click Tools. Select Internet Options and click the Connections tab. Click LAN Settings. Check “Use a proxy for your LAN” and then enter a wrong IP address to prevent your system from surfing the Internet. Click OK twice, close and reopen IE. Now do the same for other browsers on Windows 7.
Conclusion: Change can be difficult. But too often we forget what we had to deal with on our technology journey. You can’t just patch and fix an operating system to make it more secure. Almost 14 years after its release, Windows 7 is leaving support quiet need patches. And in February it will take even more.
Windows 7 had a long run; don’t endanger yourself because of it.
Finally, I’d like to hear from you directly: What exactly did you like about Windows 7? What did you not like? I have prepared an open poll that you can respond to here.
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