If you are a Windows 7 user, your deadline is near: Windows 7 officially exits support on January 14, 2020, so it’s very almost the time you need to upgrade to Windows 10.
“End of support” means that your Windows 7 or Office 2010 software will no longer receive updates, including security updates, according to Microsoft.
If you’re a consumer, there’s really no other option than upgrading to Windows 10. If your PC is part of a Windows 10 Professional or Enterprise volume license, joined to a domain, your business may be willing to pay Microsoft one device per device fee to maintain support for 2020. But it’s only an option for business PCs, not everyday users.
What to do after Windows 7 support ends
At this point, you have several choices:
- Ignore the deadline, including any pop-up warnings you may have already received.
- Buy a new copy of Windows 10 ($ 140 from Microsoft ) and install it.
- I hope the free upgrade flaw still exists.
- Buy a new Windows 10 PC and migrate your existing files to the new machine.
Note that these options also apply to Windows 8.1, which support ends in 2023.
Option 1: Risk your entire PC
We would not recommend the first option: completely ignore the deadline. Essentially, at least as far as Microsoft is concerned, your PC will simply cease to exist. Antivirus software, applications, utilities, games, and other third-party software still work. But Microsoft will not upgrade any of its browser software, and if a vulnerability is discovered for Windows 7, it will not be fixed. There will be no technical support for Windows 7. You are alone.
An exception? Oddly enough, it’s Office. If you subscribe to Office 365 and run Windows 7, you will still receive security updates for Office 365 for the next 3 years, until January 2023. But you will not receive any new Office 365 Characteristics, which are one of the reasons to buy Office 365. Office 2010 and newer standalone Office suites will also be “supported”, but only if the issue is specific to Office and not the interaction between Office and Windows 7. In this case, you are stuck.
Second option: buy a new Windows 10 license
Second, you can upgrade your existing PC with a new Windows 10 license.
At one point, upgrading to Windows 10 was as simple as clicking a button and signing up for the free upgrade. Unfortunately, that window closed – maybe. That means paying $ 200 for Windows 10 Pro, or $ 140 for Windows 10 Home (which increased from Microsoft’s original price of $ 120 when it first launched). This will allow you to purchase a USB drive with Windows 10 software installed, which you can then insert into your PC and perform the necessary upgrade.
Option 3: upgrade to Windows 10 for free
The may be a third option. Microsoft gave Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users an entire year after launching Windows 10 (until July 31, 2016) to upgrade to Windows 10 for free, and then until the end of 2017 to use a assistance flaw to access it. However, Microsoft has apparently never shut down Windows 10 upgrade servers, according to ZDNet reporter Ed Bott. So you can end up getting by: you may be able to go from Windows 7 to Windows 10 for free!
If you have a Windows 7 PC, simply visit the Windows 10 download page and download the upgrade tool to your PC. (You will need to accept the terms of the license.) Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic and Home Premium will be upgraded to Windows 10 Home, while the other Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate editions will be replaced by Windows 10 Pro.
You can either upgrade locally to upgrade to Windows 10 directly on the PC, or download the tool to a separate USB drive (with at least 8 GB of free space) or to a CD- R or rewritable DVD. This last option will allow you to upgrade multiple PCs.
Note that you will still need a valid Windows 7 license for the tool to work. If for some reason Windows does not detect the license on the machine, you may have to enter it manually. You may need to dig up the old Windows 7 license key – our license key tutorial can help here, especially the section on using the Magical Jelly Bean key finder. You can also have the license key hidden on a sticker on the laptop or desktop. (The product key must consist of five sets of letters and numbers, formatted like this: xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx)
Make sure you save everything you don’t want to lose: documents and photos, at a minimum. This means copying these files to a backup hard drive, DVD or the cloud. This is a “better prevent than cure” scenario: by default, Windows keeps apps, settings, and files when you upgrade your system to Windows 10. (You can also back up your files in Windows 7 and restore them later in Windows 10.)
We cannot say how long the process will take. Downloading the tool and the necessary files, and perform the upgrade, and possibly by downloading additional patches, it’s a good idea to allocate at least an hour to the process, maybe more. The process will also be complicated by the speed of your broadband connection and whether your PC uses a spinning hard drive or an SSD.
Once the process is complete, it’s time to check the status of your files: have your photos been kept? Your documents? This is where you may want to copy the files you have backed up, if they are not there. Check applications, including antivirus programs, to make sure the license keys are still intact. It’s also a good time to familiarize yourself with how to set up a new Windows 10 computer and how to customize your PC, just to be sure you’re getting the most out of Windows 10.
If you’re upgrading to older hardware, Windows 10 may run slower than Windows 7, simply due to the increased load on your processor and hard drive. Resetting your PC can help you: click on the search field in the task bar at the bottom of the screen, then type reset or reset my PC. This will bring you to the Recovery menu in the settings, where you will have the option to reinstall Windows again. This may help improve performance, but it will also take even longer to complete.
Option four: buy a new PC
The fourth option is simply to buy a new PC, with fully updated hardware. Chances are you’re buying a much faster processor, a better graphics processor, and possibly a super-fast SSD storage drive. If you’ve been following our PC Black Friday and Vacation offers, you’ve probably seen some fantastic deals on new PCs. The good news is that PC manufacturers and retailers are likely to let PCs continue into the New Year. We also have a frequently updated list of the best laptops we’ve tested, as well as the best inexpensive laptop deals on Amazon and Best Buy, to help you with your purchase.
If you buy a new computer, you can take advantage of our tutorial on setting up a new Windows 10 computer and customizing your PC. To this we would add a third step: how to migrate your content from your old PC. Laplink offers help here: if your new PC has an Intel chip inside, the company offers a free copy of the venerable PCmover software to help you move your files from one machine to another.
At the end of the line? When Windows 7 officially exits support on January 14, 2020, this PC will be at risk for malware attacks that Microsoft simply won’t fix. Microsoft’s attitude to the transition ranges from gentle reminders to more frightening and scary warnings, and the language Microsoft uses to remind users that it’s time to upgrade is unclear. Nevertheless, with the free time we hope you have during the holidays and the looming deadline – the time to migrate from Windows 7 to Windows 10 is now.