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Microsoft ending support for Windows 7: how to make the switch to Windows 10

Nothing lasts forever, and Windows 7 is no exception. After 10 years, Microsoft will soon cease security updates for the operating system

Microsoft ending support for Windows 7: how to make the switch to Windows 10

Are you among the just over one in 10 Which? members still using Windows 7 on your computer? If so, time is running out for you to make your mind up about whether to upgrade from Windows 7 or to buy a new PC: Microsoft will stop supporting it in January.

That means no more feature updates and, crucially, no more security patches, leaving your computer vulnerable to threats and hackers. But fear not – we’ll help you move on from Windows 7 without the headaches.

Below, we run through some of the key questions surrounding the switch from Windows 7 to Windows 10.

Which? Computing Helpdesk – tame your tech

Majority of Which? members using Windows 10

In a survey of 1,013 Which? members in July 2019, 13% said that they were still using Windows 7 on their main home computer (either desktop or laptop).

Yet more than half of members have already shifted to Windows 10, the latest version of Windows. Following the disastrous Windows 8, Windows 10 has improved considerably in recent years. Windows 7 users are advised to upgrade as soon as possible.

If your laptop or desktop is too long in the tooth to handle Windows 10, then you might need to buy a new machine.

Your Windows questions answered

Why is Microsoft stopping support for Windows 7?

Microsoft has traditionally launched new versions of Windows every few years, retiring old code and software architecture in favour of newer, safer methods. Now, more than a decade after launching Windows 7, Microsoft is retiring the operating system.

The tech giant has pledged that Windows 10 is ‘the last version of Windows’: there won’t be any new versions. All you have to do is keep your computer patched with the latest updates and you won’t ever have to move to ‘Windows 11’ or ‘Windows 12’. That’s because Microsoft wants as many people as possible on the current, most up-to-date codebase rather than continuing to support old versions.

Here’s how long each version of Windows has lasted over the years:

  • Windows XP 12 years 6 months
  • Windows Vista 10 years 3 months
  • Windows 7 10 years 3 months
  • Windows 8 3 years 3 months
  • Windows 8.1 9 years 3 months
  • Windows 10 Indefinite support

Do I have to buy a new computer?

Not necessarily. Check the Microsoft website to see whether your existing computer can handle Windows 10. If not, you’ll need to look at upgrade options.

If you’re truly wedded to your old PC (some 1% and 2% of Which? members, respectively, still use the creaking Windows Vista OS and Windows XP OS), you should ensure it isn’t connected to the internet and be careful what files you access via a USB stick.

You might be able to upgrade free of charge – it depends on how your version of Windows 7 was licensed.

Thinking of buying a new laptop to replace your old Windows 7 computer? Check out our expert laptop reviews.

What about moving files and programs?

The most important thing to do before upgrading your system – and generally, in fact – is back up your data. You might need to reinstall some programs after you upgrade your system, so make a note of your product keys for software such as Office.

Will my printer and other devices work if I move to Windows 10?

This depends on the age of your printer, scanner or other devices. The manufacturers try to keep the drivers up to date with the latest version of Windows, but any change can result in older kit no longer working. Check the manufacturer’s website of your device to see if there’s any information available before updating your system.

Our rigorous tests help us uncover the very best printers, whether you’re got a hefty budget or you’re trying to keep costs low. Consult our expert printer reviews for our verdict on machines from Brother, Canon and HP.

What alternative do I have to Windows?

You could join the 18% of Which? members who own an Apple Mac laptop or desktop and use macOS rather than Windows. However, Macs tend to be pricey, so you might want to consider a Chromebook instead. These laptops run Google’s Chrome OS, which is more stripped back and simplified than Windows, but runs well on cheap machines. Some 1% of members use the Linux OS, which is more compatible with older hardware, but isn’t suited to the novice computer user.

Should I upgrade to Windows 8.1 or 10?

Microsoft at present supports two versions of Windows: 8.1 and 10. However, there is little point in upgrading to Windows 8.1 as Microsoft will stop supporting that on 10 January 2023.

As with previous versions of Microsoft’s operating system, there are several editions of Windows 10 available. The most relevant for home users is likely to be Windows 10 Home. Windows 10 Pro has some additional features, but these are mostly geared towards business users.

Features new to Windows 10

New features include fingerprint and facial recognition for added security and easier login, as well as compatibility with new kinds of ports, including USB-C and Thunderbolt.

Windows 10 also comes with Windows Defender, which activates if you have no antivirus program running or if your antivirus is out of date or faulty. Find out which malware-busting tool is best with our antivirus software reviews.

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