Despite the advanced notice that Microsoft was to end its extended support for Windows 7 operating system (OS) on January 14, 2020, many businesses still choose to stick with it. Their reasons for doing so can range from the practical (no money to upgrade the computer to run a newer OS) to the potentially dangerous (“it’s working okay, so why should I change it?”)
It’s easy to procrastinate if things are working as they always have, but the reality is that businesses around the world began to see and experience unexpected, and sometimes unexplained, effects of the end of support on their Windows 7 machines.
As a managed IT services provider (MSP), we warn our Toronto-based clients about the cybersecurity risk of staying on this OS (which we will discuss below), but we also want to alert them to the fact they place their business at risk when they don’t update their systems to the latest OS. Here are some examples of stories we’ve experienced in our own customer base as well as stories we’ve collected from around the web:
Greater vulnerability to cyberthreats
Declaring Wndows 7 “End of Life” (EOL), Microsoft no longer provides security patches for Windows 7. It’s no surprise, then, that more malware now targets the OS. According to the 2020 Webroot Threat Report, there’s been a 360% increase in exploits targeting Windows, with most of these targeting operating systems that are out of date.
In a machine still running Windows 7, malware programs can settle in any of these four directories: %temp%, %appdata%, %cache%, and %windir%. These bad programs can run in those locations and cause the machine to perform poorly, exfiltrate data from it, encrypt data and lock users from it, or do whatever nefarious thing these were made to do. Moreover, thanks to their weaker defenses, PCs running old operating systems can suffer three to six malware infections, especially when employees introduce malware to networks via their personal devices.
Newer Microsoft operating systems have greater requirements than Windows 7, and Windows 10 in particular can’t be handled by older computers. Business owners would have to undertake a sizable capital expense to upgrade their devices — a course of action that many either avoid or can’t afford to take even if they wanted to. With this weighing on their minds, they receive pop-ups like this:
This pop-up is by far the effect most experienced by our clients still on Windows 7. While some users may just find the pop-up to be annoying, others may attempt to do something about it, placing their computer and their data at risk.
Line of business applications no longer work
Most businesses are reliant on software programs such as accounting apps and customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. Whatever these may be, they have to be compatible with the OS of the machine they’re running in.
Many software publishers have strongly recommended upgrading to Windows 8 or higher, with some stopping support for app versions that run on Windows 7. Other vendors won’t make new releases available for Windows 7, with some of them even going so far as to let their old apps stop working entirely.
Users who believe that online versions are viable workarounds may have a rude awakening. Many of these would only work on the latest web browsers — and these browsers won’t run on machines made or purchased in the Windows 7 era.
Computers that refuse to shut down
In a yet-to-be-explained development, Windows 7 users suddenly found that they didn’t have permission to shut down their own PCs. This is alarming, to say the least, since it’s easy to think that malicious parties have taken over control of their machines. Fortunately, this was not the case as many solutions and workarounds were able to solve what appeared to be a programming bug. However, as of this writing, there is no single definitive fix for this issue, and its cause remains a mystery.
Black wallpaper bug
Ironically, Microsoft’s last update for Windows 7 introduced a bug that replaced users’ wallpapers with a completely black screen. Initially, the tech giant said that it’ll only fix the bug for organizations that pay for Extended Security Updates. However, Microsoft recently had a change of heart and released a fix for this issue last February 7, 2020.
Scammers pose as Windows 7 EOL technical support
When Microsoft announced that Windows 7 EOL would be on January 14, 2020, that meant there would be no technical support for the OS from that day forward. Nevertheless, perhaps due to lack of awareness or wishful thinking that Microsoft still ought to provide assistance, many Windows 7 users are being duped by scammers who pose as Windows 7 technical support.
Some scammers fool users into paying them for Windows license updates and repairs for supposed bugs, while others trick users into granting them remote access into their systems. Many fraudsters use fear tactics such as calling employees and telling them that their computers will stop working unless they upgrade.
Our experts at XBASE can help you upgrade to Windows 10 while keeping in mind these very important aspects:
- Hardware requirements – Old PCs might not be able to handle Windows 10 and may have to be retired.
- Software requirements – Old applications might no longer work with the new OS and would have to be replaced with newer versions.
- Data backups – The risk of data loss during the transition towards Windows 10 must be mitigated by having a backup process in place. Data kept in to-be-retired computers must be classified according to relevance so that only those deemed important will be backed up and migrated to new data storage. Furthermore, new data will be produced during this transition period, so a system of creating redundancies between old and new operating systems must also be put in place to ensure a smooth migration.
- User experience – The new ways of doing things may be a drastic departure from what staff members are used to. Unfamiliarity and resistance to change may adversely hamper operations, so nip these two in the bud with the following:
☐ Windows 10 training – Employees who’ve spent years using Windows 7 will most likely need help learning how to use the new OS.
☐ Advocates – Get Windows 10 enthusiasts and early adopters to help out those who are having problems with the OS.
☐ Windows 7 skin – Design-wise, Windows 10 looks very different from Windows 7, so you have the option to make the former look more like the latter to help Windows 7 users ease into the new OS.
It is extremely important for the safety and performance of your business that your company discontinues the use of Windows 7. If you wish to make this switch but don’t know where to start, call our experts at XBASE. Our Exponentially Better™ IT services will help your organization and your users take full advantage of your new OS.
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