Windows 7 stalwarts face a difficult choice today as their favoured Windows OS reaches the end of support. Coinciding with patch Tuesday, after today your Windows 7 OS will no longer receive software updates which help protect your PC from the latest threats. Businesses can pay Microsoft if they want to continue getting updates for Windows 7 Professional or Enterprise versions (for up to three more years). However, for most home users, Microsoft's cat and mouse software updating game with hackers ends today, with respect to Windows 7.
On its support bulleting page, Microsoft says it is ending Windows 7 support after 10 years "so that we can focus our investment on supporting newer technologies and great new experiences". Microsoft has been encouraging Windows 7 users to plan their migration to newer OSes for quite some time and it specifically recommends "that you move to Windows 10."
If you stay put and continue to utilise Windows 7 for your everyday online activities there are obvious dangers. "Running an unpatched machine means that the flaws in the code will never be fixed and as exploits for those flaws become known and widespread, your chances of being successfully attacked grow very rapidly," Rik Ferguson, VP of security research at Trend Micro, told the BBC. Furthermore, the National Cyber Security Centre, which is part of the UK's intelligence agency, GCHQ, recommends unsupported devices be replaced or upgraded ASAP, especially if they are used for online banking or other sensitive activities.
Those Windows 7 PC users that are somehow unaware of the end of support will start to see full screen nags from tomorrow. There have already been various other upgrade notification programs, which quite recently extended to Windows 7 Pro users, even though this wasn't supposed to happen.
At the time of writing, online browsing activity tracker StatCounter indicates that nearly 27 per cent of all Windows users it tracks are Windows 7 users. That is a lot of people active online using the older OS, and one might expect there are a lot of other Win 7 systems that are in use that aren't tracked by this source.
In the run up to today it has been observed and commented on by many a tech site that it has still been possible to upgrade authenticated Windows 7 systems to Windows 10 for free by downloading and using the Create Windows 10 installation media tool. Once downloaded, run the tool and select 'Upgrade this PC now'. I can't confirm this upgrade path is working today, but it is worth a check if you are so inclined.