Microsoft’s support for Windows 7 ends today. This is by design: Microsoft provides at least a decade of support for its operating systems, split into two distinct types. Windows 7, the successor to Windows Vista, hit RTM status on July 22, 2009 and general availability on October 22, 2009. Microsoft thus supported Windows 7 for just over its minimum 10 years. That includes a service pack (in March 2010) and a Platform Update (in February 2013). Microsoft ended Mainstream Support on January 13, 2015, and now Extended Support on January 14, 2020.
And yet, Windows 7 is the Microsoft operating system that millions do not want to upgrade. Just like Windows XP users, who shunned Windows Vista, Windows 7 users shunned Windows 8. Only once Windows 10 showed up did the real upgrade cycle begin, helping sell PCs along the way. And in another similarity to Windows XP, even though most consumers have moved to Windows 10 many businesses still cling to Windows 7.
In September 2019, when Windows 10 passed 50% market share, Windows 7 had 30.34% market share. Windows 7 has continued to decline slowly, capping off last year with 26.64% market share. Nonetheless, having one in four computers running Windows 7 still translates to hundreds of millions of computers running a decade-old operating system.
What end of support means
Microsoft’s Mainstream Support includes free incident support, warranty claims, fixes for non-security and security bugs, plus design changes and feature requests. Extended Support consists solely of security updates. In other words, Windows 7 is dead in Microsoft’s eyes.
If you continue to use Windows 7, your computer will still work, but it will become more vulnerable to security risks and malware. Software and hardware manufacturers will be even less likely to make products that work with the operating system, opting to focus on more recent versions of Windows.
For over a year now, Microsoft has been warning Windows 7 users about the January 14, 2020 date. Now that it’s here, security updates are no longer available for Windows 7, at least not for free. You may, however, be able to purchase Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESUs).
Regardless, Microsoft plans to start showing a new pop-up notification to Windows 7 users tomorrow. From the KB4530734 support article:
Starting on January 15, 2020, a full-screen notification will appear that describes the risk of continuing to use Windows 7 Service Pack 1 after it reaches end of support on January 14, 2020. The notification will remain on the screen until you interact with it.
This notification will show up on the following Windows 7 editions: Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate. If you have purchased Windows 7 ESUs, your computer is domain-joined, or it’s in kiosk mode, the notification will not appear.
For an overview of other important upcoming dates for Microsoft’s desktop operating systems, check the Windows Lifecycle page. The next major end of support date is for Windows 8.1, on January 10, 2023. If you’re still on Windows 7, you could move to Windows 8.1, but you should jump straight to Windows 10.