The clock is ticking on replacing Windows 7

Mainstream support for Windows 7 stopped in 2015, but with extended support and therefore security updates for Windows 7 due to end in January 2020, the minds of many IT support professionals are focussing on what they need to do to update or replace older systems.

We all know that unpatched older systems represent a risk. The WannaCry attacks of 2016 were largely made possible because organisations were running old Windows XP systems. Hopefully, the lessons learned from that will ensure that when Windows 7 support ends, there will be few old systems still around.

Windows 7 has stayed remarkably popular, only being overtaken by Windows 10 at the start of 2019. [1] Even so, this leaves around a third of Windows systems still on Windows 7. Of course, Windows 8 systems need to be coming under the spotlight too, with extended support for that OS due to finish in 2023.

A recent survey [2] reveals that more than half are preparing to migrate to Windows 10 this year and the figures around the world are similar. But moving to Windows 10 is not the only option, there are other routes that can be taken.

Alternative strategies

In recent years, a great deal of enterprise IT has shifted to the cloud. That means the need for a Windows desktop system is, in many cases, greatly reduced. Businesses are therefore beginning to look at other options.

Desktop-as-a-service is one possible route, where a virtual desktop is run from the cloud. This makes for easier administration and enhanced security as it ensures everyone is running the same version and changes can be rolled out to everyone quickly.

Another option is thin clients. These are low powered computers that are used simply to access data and applications stored elsewhere. Thin clients are effectively the new generation of the dumb terminals used to access the mainframe applications of the past. They deliver more functionality, however, along with benefits for the business in terms of security and manageability.

Many cloud applications are now browser-based and therefore accessing them doesn’t necessarily need a full-fat Windows system.

Legacy applications

One of the most significant problems when looking at updating systems lies in legacy applications. Very often, these are designed only to run on Windows. Since Windows 10 is designed to be backwards compatible with Windows 7, running these apps shouldn’t be a major problem. However, this doesn’t give developers the incentive to update their systems to take advantage of newer and more flexible architectures.

From a user perspective, Windows 10 doesn’t represent a radical change compared to 7 or 8, so there should be minimal need for retraining. It may be necessary to upgrade hardware, however. Although Windows 10 runs quite well on some older machines, many companies will want to look at future proofing their investment by upgrading endpoint hardware at the same time.

Final lifeline

For larger companies that are struggling or reluctant to make the switch from Windows 7, Microsoft does offer the lifeline of continuing support – at a price. Charges are per machine and will increase the further past the end of support date you go. Organisations that push things right to the final, yes-we-really-mean-it-this-time, end of Windows 7 support date of January 2023 will end up paying a lot of money to stick with the old OS.

It therefore makes sense to tackle the issue of switching from Windows 7 sooner rather than later. Even if that means facing the prospect of updating or replacing legacy systems, or moving to a completely different desktop environment.

Cloudworks are a Microsoft Gold Partner and experts in migrations and upgrading businesses from legacy systems to the latest Microsoft products. We have supported numerous companies with just 10 users to over 30,000 users on using Microsoft cloud products and security. If you’d like to know more – please call us on 0115 824 8244 or email us at