Windows 7 is one of the best things Microsoft ever released. The much-adored operating system wooed back users who reviled the disappointing Windows Vista, and it remained a comfortable refuge during the even bleaker Windows 8 era.
Even today, with Windows 10 fixing Windows 8’s worst mistakes and standing as a superb desktop operating system of its own, a legion of vocal PC enthusiasts swears by Windows 7. Why? Because it stays out of your way, and it just works.
Until January 14, 2020, when Microsoft ends Windows 7’s extended support. Windows 7 is dead.
Your PC will keep operating, of course. Microsoft isn't literally pulling the plug on your devices. But Windows 7 won’t receive any more updates or security patches, meaning your PC will also be very vulnerable to all those nasty malware programs garnering headlines seemingly every day. If you keep using Windows 7—and over a quarter of all computers run it, per NetMarketShare (go.pcworld.com/ nmkt)—you’re on your own, and the Internet can get nasty.
We can help you stay as safe as possible, though.
STICKING WITH WINDOWS 7 IS NOT AN OPTION
Seriously: Switch away from Windows 7 by whatever means necessary. That’s our underlying recommendation. Sticking with Windows 7 was understandable before; now it’s a liability. With no security updates and a still-vast market share, Microsoft’s operating system will be a big, juicy target for hackers.
We recommend migrating to Windows 10 if you’re able to, and have a guide explaining your Windows 10 upgrade options (go.pcworld.com/10up). If you perform only basic tasks on your PC—email, web surfing, and documents—then Linux is a viable, user-friendly option these days. We’ve got a Linux beginner’s guide (go. pcworld.com/lnxg), too, and better yet you can try it for free with no risk to your main Windows 7 installation. You can probably still upgrade to Windows 10 for free (see page 103), too.
But if you need to bide some time before making a switch, here’s how to keep Windows 7 as safe as possible.
DON’T USE INTERNET EXPLORER
A lot of malware gets delivered via browser vulnerabilities, and a lot of those will be aimed at Windows 7 now that it’s wide open to attack. Microsoft’s ending support for Internet Explorer too, and you definitely don’t want to run an insecure browser on an insecure operating system.
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