Windows 7 support has ended, on 2020-01-14
. Basically what this means is that if you're still using it, you should probably stop using it, or patch it with ESU, or do something else to stay protected.
In this post we'll be going over some of the options you have, including:
- Upgrade to Windows 10.
- Switch to a Linux distro such as Ubuntu.
- Switch to a Mac, if you don't like the above.
- Modify your system to allow ESU patches.
- Unplug your Windows 7 computer from the Internet.
- Keep using your Windows 7 computer as-is and risk malware.
- Stop using desktop computers entirely.
We'll also go over some ways to stay secure, regardless of which of the above you choose.
LinusTechTips also has a great video on this topic, you may wish to check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFHBBN0CqXk
Upgrade to Windows 10
For many people reading this post, this is your best option.
Upgrading to Windows 10 is the only option that guarantees you can keep using all
of the latest software and playing all
of the latest Windows games. Many newer games, especially VR games, only support Windows 10 (and not Windows 7 or 8.1).
There is still some choices you can make of which version and edition of Windows you want. Windows 10 has various editions, including Home, Pro, Education, and Enterprise. Enterprise gives you the most control over your system, while Home gives you the least control over it, and Pro is somewhere in-between. Enterprise is not typically available to consumers, you have to go through a business. Education has the same feature set as Enterprise, but it is licensed for schools.
If you are in school, you should see if you are eligible for a license for Windows 10 Education. If not, see if you have a way to obtain a Windows 10 Enterprise license. If not, you can very likely upgrade your Windows 7 or 8.1 installation for free
. If none of those options work for you, and you need to pay for a new license, the Pro version is preferable to the Home version.
Aside from installing and activating manually, you could also just buy a new computer that comes with Windows 10.
The main downside to upgrading to Windows 10 is that it gives you less control over your system, with features such as auto-installing apps (not a problem on Enterprise and Education editions), forced updates, Cortana, and vastly more "telemetry" services. Even if you hate spying, Windows 10 still may be your best option simply due to the advantage of running all the latest AAA games.
Microsoft provides an official way to download Windows 10 here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10
If you need help installing a newer version of Windows, check out this guide: https://www.reddit.com/techsupport/wiki/windowsinstallation
Switch to a Linux distro such as Ubuntu
These days, Linux distros are truly a great alternative to Windows. Linux is very stable and secure, and does everything an average user wants, whether that be Facebook or writing essays. If you are a gamer, Linux has thousands of native games and many more are available via Proton, you can play the majority of games on Steam on Linux with no hassle.
If you play games with heavy DRM or anti-cheat, or play VR games, or frequently use Adobe products, Linux may not be a good option for you. But even if you do play those games or use those products, you also have the option of dual-booting, so that you can have both Windows and Linux installed at the same time. This post doesn't go too much into detail on Linux, since the below links are already great resources.
Most importantly, Linux is 100% free, so you can give it a try without any risks, and switch back to Windows whenever you wish.
For more information about switching to Linux, see this post on the Linux gaming subreddit: https://www.reddit.com/linux_gaming/comments/edaq0s/guide_migrating_to_linux_in_2020/
When you are ready to install Linux, check out this guide: https://www.reddit.com/techsupport/wiki/linuxinstallation
If you'd like a more concrete guide, this PDF focuses specifically on setting up Ubuntu for gaming, including setting up drivers, Steam, and more, with a focus on dual-booting: https://github.com/aaronfranke/Linux-tools/raw/masteubuntu-only/qsg.pdf
Switch to a Mac
This is the only option that requires
you to buy new hardware, since MacOS only runs on Macs, and will not run on a non-Mac PC. Macs are great systems overall, they are very secure and are a favorite option of many developers and businesses.
The downsides of Mac are that it is expensive, and if you are a gamer, that it runs vastly fewer games. These days, Mac is a worse choice for gaming than Linux is.
Modify your system to allow ESU patches
Microsoft is selling Extended Support Updates
for Windows 7 users who can't upgrade for whatever reason. This is aimed at businesses, but you can still get ESU for Windows 7 Professional edition. The cost of ESU
is $50 for the first year, $100 for the second year, and $200 for the third year. If you can't afford this, there may be unofficial methods to obtain these updates.
Disconnect your Windows 7 computer from the Internet
This is a fairly simple option that doesn't need too much explanation. If you unplug your computer from the Internet, you can't get viruses from the Internet. As long as you don't pass around infected USB flash drives, then you are pretty much immune from viruses if you aren't connected to the Internet. Of course, for many people, this makes your computer unusable.
Keep using your Windows 7 computer as-is and risk malware
This is a terrible option, since it's very insecure to do this. This option maybe isn't too bad if you don't have any sensitive data whatsoever on your machine, and it's an option worth mentioning, but this option is not recommended.
Stop using desktop computers entirely
If you don't like newer versions of Windows, or Linux distros, or Mac, you need to be on the Internet, and you don't want to be insecure, then the only* option left is to stop using desktop computers entirely. For a lot of people, this is an unacceptable option, but many people can get away with living in the modern world only using phones and tablets, so it's worth mentioning.
Also, Chromebooks are great if you don't need to do anything on your computer except for browsing the web.
How to stay secure on any system
No matter what you choose, there are plenty of ways to stay secure online.
Blocking ads helps a ton due to malvertizing. The browser extension uBlock Origin (Chrome
) does a great job at blocking ads. Additionally, it's a great idea to get a hosts-file adblocker
or a Pi-hole
to block ads before they even get to your system in the first place.
The browser extension HTTPS Everywhere (Chrome
) will automatically redirect you to the secure version of a website, if there is one. This is a simple and easy way to improve your security while browsing the web.
If you are running Windows of any kind, getting an anti-virus is generally a good idea. One of the most commonly recommended ones is Malwarebytes Anti-Malware
. A really nice feature of Malwarebytes is that it can run alongside other anti-virus software, so you can use Malwarebytes regardless of if you already have an anti-virus.
Don't forget that these can also be installed on smartphones, not just your desktop PC!
You should do something to stay secure. Whether you switch to a newer version of Windows, switch to a Linux distro such as Ubuntu, switch to a Mac, unplug your computer from the Internet, or throw it away, they all result in you staying more secure than if you continue to use your computer as-is. And once you've decided what system you're going to use, there are many ways to make it more secure.
If anyone has any suggestions on how to improve this guide, feel free to leave a comment below!