How To Prepare Your Business For Windows 7 End Of Support
When Windows 7 was first released in 2009, it was widely praised for improving performance and fixing a number of nagging issues with its predecessors. Many organizations were slow to abandon Windows XP for ME or Vista, but when Windows 7 was released, they finally upgraded to take advantage of the new operating system’s enhanced performance, stability and features.
Now nearly 10 years and 2 major Windows releases later, there are millions of computers still running Windows 7. According to StatCounter, Windows 7 was still running on 33.78% of all Windows PC’s globally as of April 2019.
However, after January 14, 2020, Microsoft will no longer push bugfixes and updates to these computers, leaving them vulnerable to malware attacks and other security threats. These updates also include new versions of drivers, so Windows may not function as reliably with new hardware once support officially ends. Businesses hoping to avoid any potential issues should begin preparing now to transition away from Windows 7. Here are 5 tips to help with that transition.
1. Document all Hardware and Software
While IT inventory management is more common among enterprise-level companies, even small and medium-sized businesses will benefit from complete documentation of the hardware and software the organization uses. A major business-wide operating system upgrade project is a perfect time to adopt this practice if it isn’t already in place.
Each computer’s hardware should be cataloged with particular attention paid to chipset, processor, RAM, and disk size. If any non-integrated peripherals are installed, such as a separate graphics card, those model numbers and specs should be recorded as well. These numbers will have to be checked against the minimum hardware requirements for any new operating system, including Microsoft’s Windows 10.
The same goes for all installed software currently in use by the company. For each machine, record the software title, version, and license key. This information will be crucial to ensuring all programs the organization requires will be available once a new operating system is installed. In some cases, this process may reveal out-of-date software versions or software that has itself reached End Of Life, in which case an upgrade or replacement for that title may be necessary to avoid future problems.
2. Confirm Compatibility and Continued Support
With Windows 7 sales having ended several years ago, it’s conceivable that some of the older computers within an organization still using the aging operating system may have hardware or software that is no longer supported by their own manufacturers. For example, Nvidia has ceased releasing driver updates for several generations of its graphics cards using earlier CUDA versions, which means that upgrading the operating system on these machines may cause issues unless the graphics card is upgraded as well. It may be possible to upgrade many Windows 7 machines seamlessly to Windows 10 after purchasing the appropriate license, but this is a good time to consider replacing any particularly dated hardware to avoid any driver incompatibilities or future hardware support concerns.
The Windows 10 upgrade process on an existing Windows 7 machine is simple and avoids the need to re-install most existing applications. However, it’s worth mentioning that Microsoft recommends purchasing new PC’s in order to take full advantage of the operating system’s features. This process, including the transfer of data and software, installation, and the cost of the new hardware itself, can be significant for small and medium-sized businesses, so management will have to consider the decision to purchase new machines carefully. Fortunately, with a clear picture of the organization’s current hardware and software inventory as described above, it can be an informed decision based on hard data.
3. Back up Everything
Most IT managers and executives already know how important it is to maintain backups of all critical data, but there are additional concerns that can go overlooked in this scenario. While data and documents may normally be backed up during an operating system upgrade, if something goes wrong, rolling back a machine with an OS that is at End Of Life might prove difficult. By creating a complete image backup of the primary disk on the computer being upgraded, everything can go right back to the way it was by restoring the drive in case any problems arise.
4. Get Extended Security Updates
Microsoft knows that many organizations will need more time to make the transition away from Windows 7, and those businesses don’t want to be exposed to security vulnerabilities due to lack of updates. To that end, Microsoft is offering a paid Extended Security Updates program for Windows 7 Professional and Enterprise which will last through January 2023. The goal is to help companies make the transition to Windows 10—not to help them put off the inevitable, so the security update service won’t be cheap, and the price will double each year.
5. Upgrade to Microsoft Windows 10
For any business already using Windows-based machines, the simplest path forward ahead of Windows 7’s end date is to upgrade to Windows 10. Experts recommend this transition as the path of least disruption because the learning curve for users will be minimal and most up-to-date software is likely to already be compatible. Unlike the difficulty many users faced with transitioning to Windows 8, the Windows 10 interface is remarkably similar to Windows 7, and most users will make the switch with ease.
As long as an organization’s software is up to date, it will very likely be compatible with Windows 10 without any need for new licenses or upgrade costs. This is an important advantage over any consideration of other operating systems, as this would almost certainly require selecting and purchasing all new software tools. If most of the organization’s work is done with cloud-based services, this may not have a significant impact, but most businesses still using Windows 7 are likely to stay with Microsoft products and infrastructure.
Start Planning Now
As the January 14, 2020 deadline approaches, many businesses will be forced to make the transition away from Windows 7 or else risk exposing their organization to potential security threats. While the task may vary in complexity depending on the age of the relevant computers and the software used, it’s all manageable with careful planning.
Although there is a safety net available in Microsoft’s Extended Security Updates program for companies that can’t make the transition in time, the most important step any business still relying on Windows 7 can take now is to start planning right away for the upgrade to Windows 10.
Outsource IT can help with this critical transition to Windows 10 and also provide ongoing support and security. We can work with your team, or provide a totally handsfree implementation. We can be involved at any stage of the process, and provide recommendations for a safe and smooth migration. Contact an Outsource IT account manager for more information.