Oh, yes, you should! Even though some news sites claim that the end of mainstream support doesn’t really affect Windows 7 customers, the truth is that if you still have this five-year-old OS running in your network, you might run into problems soon.
Latest posts by Michael Pietroforte (see all)

Today ends the mainstream support of Windows 7. That’s a good thing. A bad thing is that some news sites downplay the importance of this date. For instance, Neowin claims that this just means no new features will be added to Windows 7. Well, I haven’t seen a noteworthy new feature for Windows 7 for quite a while. It is a truly outdated operating system.

Windows 7 - A truly outdated operating system

Windows 7 - A truly outdated operating system

However, the main point about this date is not that Microsoft will no longer extend the functionality of this legacy OS, but that non-security hotfixes will no longer be available for free. This is why January 13 is such an important date for businesses that run Windows 7 and don’t have a Software Assurance agreement. You now have 90 days to purchase the extended hotfix agreement. That’s right—from now on, you have to pay if a Windows bug crashes your computers because Windows 7 has become incompatible with a third-party application or driver.

Of course, you still get security updates for Windows 7 during the extended support phase, which ends in five years. I suppose that is the main reason why many Windows 7 admins don’t really feel an urge to upgrade to Windows 8.1 with its unloved Start screen. And, if you have Software Assurance anyway, you can just stick with what you know for the next five years. This means that many admins will work with one and the same operating system for 10 years!

I know there are IT pros out there who like it just that way, and, to be honest, I never understood this. Information Technology is one of the fastest-changing fields, and I always assumed that if someone decides to work in IT, he or she must have a truly forward-thinking attitude. Of course, many of those admins would never admit that they are against progress. Usually, they would claim that Microsoft’s latest operating system just isn’t better than its predecessor, or, in some cases, they would even say that the new Windows version is worse. Of course, that’s the perfect excuse to just stick with what you know.

These kinds of arguments are as old as Windows. I first became aware of them when Windows 95 was released. And when Windows 2000, Windows Vista, and, most recently, Windows 8 came out, we had the same discussions all over again. It also always ends the same way. The naysayers are forced to adapt to the progress and suddenly wholeheartedly embrace the new features that they had been bashing before. Of course, if you then address the topic, they would always deny that they ever were against a certain enhancement, which is understandable from a psychological point of view because they somehow have to make sense of their own actions.

I think many IT pros totally underestimate the new functionality that comes with every new Windows version because of the complexity of the topic. Think about it. Hundreds of the best-paid engineers work on a new operating system for years, and then a few former English graduates come along who are now badly-paid computer journalists and claim that it is all just rubbish. And the worst thing is that large parts of the IT community then applaud this shallow analysis, which is really bad because IT pros should know better.

The problem is that every new Windows version comes with myriad improvements that most IT journalists don’t even understand. I just had such a case when I noticed how longwinded it is to install the Active Directory module for Windows PowerShell on Windows 7 compared to Windows 8. I bet you have never read a Windows 8 review in one of those popular PC magazines that even mentioned this improvement.

And, of course, this is just one of the innumerable new features that increase the productivity of IT pros and end users. Journalists just focus on the obvious changes, such as the Start screen, and, for some reason that I don’t understand, come to the conclusion that it is a change for the worse—and then recommend sticking with Windows 7 or, even worse, Windows XP. This is like if someone in the 19th century would have claimed that these new automobiles are not really better than horse-drawn carriages because reins are so much easier to handle than steering wheels. (I am sure this argument was used many times.)

I strongly believe that any company that doesn’t always upgrade to the latest available Windows version loses a lot of money because its employees don’t have the best tool to optimize their productivity. That’s why I say: Let’s get rid of what we know! Let’s upgrade to Windows 8.1!

How about you? Are you an IT Luddite or an avant-gardist?

16 Comments
  1. Steve Fuller 7 years ago

    Most IT staffs do not control application software, which is the real driving force of which OS is needed. For example GE Centricity, a very common medical product used by hospitals and doctors offices worldwide, did not approve Windows 7 until December, 2012, 3 1/2 years after introduction.

  2. Steve, I think there are only a handful of applications that still don't run on Windows 8 and if you want my humble opinion I would now trash such an application because a software vendor that was unable to adapt its software to Windows 8 in three years has obviously been left behind. I mean Windows 8 is not Vista where many necessary security-related improvements made it hard for software makers to adapt. In particular in medicine where IT advances like in no other field, you should get rid of a software vendor that only offers its application for an operating system that no longer has mainstream support.

  3. altimar 7 years ago

    Upgrade OS is important. But there's the long learning curve for users, legacy applications, people freaking out while trying to learn and apply it governance and so on.

    In such scenario, sysadmin is the only one really concerned with OS upgrade... so it takes time to fully upgrade all computers (in talking about 10k+ computers )

  4. atilmar, it is true that often not admins but end users, in particular executives, are the culprits. But then it is the job of IT to convince executives that a new OS will boost productivity. And it is not just the features of the OS. Companies with outdated equipment often also have outdated employees because forward-thinking people prefer to work in forward-thinking companies. This affects the entire culture of a company and can cost a company a lot of money in the long rung.

    As to the number of computers, I hear this argument often, but in my view it is wrong. If you have more computers than you also should have more IT staff and better OS deployment tools. You also have more resources to replace legacy apps with modern and efficient software. The only difference is that in large organizations the cultural effects I mentioned above can be even worse in the long run. Such companies literally attract "lets-stick-with-what-we-know people." I have seen this many times in my career. Large companies are the perfect hiding place for such people.

    So if you have many users in your organization who are "freaking out because of learning curves", you might consider changing your job.

  5. Dave N 7 years ago

    Unfortunately, I sit with Steve on this. Some IT staff are in the unenviable position of supporting some [or a lot of] legacy software and systems. I work for a yarn manufacturer and the life of the spinning equipment is 20 - 30 years. Much of the software that runs our existing equipment was written for windows 2000 or windows XP and is in VB 6. Vendors will not update the software. Typically, their stance is that the equipment is end-of-life, so we should get new equipment. You can safely assume that while custom-coding updates to this software--when possible--is expensive, replacing running manufacturing equipment is more expensive still. We are working to make many of the products run on windows 7 [with varying degrees of difficulty], but getting some of them to run on windows 8 is impossible.

    We have approved an update that is quoted at $8k+ [which is reasonable, imo, for the 4 PCs it will run on], but have to decline estimates that are in the tens of thousands for specialized testing systems, and we will have to segregate those from the network and sit on them for a long, long time.

    It is a love/hate position here. I am rolling out Surface Pro 3s, office 365 and business onedrive to some users, and helping others limp along windows XP systems or *just now* get the upgrades approved to move away from a handful of windows 2000 systems. Manufacturing systems software is a pain. I had similar experiences when I interned for a large hospital system. Medical software vendors are absolutely terrible at updating support for their products. That hospital sat at IE 6 for a very, very long time, and only started planning Windows 7 rollouts last year, mostly due to software support issues.

    Windows 7 is still a solid OS, though I prefer 8.1 myself. And windows 7, i expect, will stick around for a very, very long time.

  6. Isabel Dulnuan 7 years ago

    Strange somehow that this news did not make big headlines. Where I work, OS change is every 5 years. Since Vista was fully deccommissioned in 2012 and replaced by Windows 7, we might see Windows 8 roll out by mid 2016. Too frequent a change would be a waste of resources and needs more money for staff retaining.
    Well, that's what I think the change management team might say anyway.

  7. Tim 7 years ago

    When is MS going to learn that the world does not march to their beat? It's supposed to be the other way around. Now yes, there's nothing wrong with 8.1, but the fact of the matter is that 8 got a lot of negative publicity because of Metro and perception is reality when it comes to things like this. MS proceded with their two-faced response of doubling down on Metro, spreading the Metro theme everywhere, while at the same time, quietly upgrading to 8.1 to allow users to bypass Metro. I'm just getting tired of this same old routine of MS releasing a solid product, then a few years later they release a followup that for whatever reason is not received well, but they try every little trick in the book to get you to upgrade including premature end of support dates like this. Most people are waiting on Windows 10. There really is no point in upgrading to 8.1 when 10 is right around the corner. I remember Balmer trying to play the same trick trying to tell people that they shouldn't wait for Windows 7 and that they should upgrade to Vista despite the lackluster reception. It's just not feasible for most businesses to upgrade to every single version as they come out. skipping a version or two is the norm, especially when there were very little differences between many of the OSes. 98 wasn't radically different from 95, XP wasn't radically different from 2000, in fact the only reason most people upgraded to XP from 2000 was simply because of how long XP remained relevant. Vista, 7, and 8 were all relatively similar so if you had one, there really wasn much reason to upgrade to another (well maybe Vista was the exception to this rule)

    I think businesses are quite frankly tired of MS trying to scare-monger them into upgrading to the next OS before the paint is even dry on the current OS. Which is why I'm curious to see how their new upgrade model will work out in Windows 10

    Despite the lack of security updates, I still see tons of offices still using XP when I walk around downtown. I warn everyone I see who is still using XP that they need to upgrade, but the reality is that most won't for at least another year or so regardless of what MS says. It just seems like no one ever told MS about the case of Honey v. Vinegar. They need to give us better reasons to upgrade than scare mongering and forced obsolesence.

    "But then it is the job of IT to convince executives that a new OS will boost productivity." The problem with that, Michael, is twofold: 1) MS doesn't pay me to advertise their products. If you want me to convince management, then MS needs to convince me and they're not always successful at that. The reality is that a lot of shops don't necessarily upgrade to a new OS because they want to, it's because they need to keep pace with other technology. If an application comes out that won't work on your existing OS, that's a bigger motivator of upgrading than say, the feature set of an upgraded OS. If anything, upgrading to a new OS and making sure everything works on the said OS is a huge time and effort commitment, one I'd rather be spending on other, more productive, things. And 2) Let's be honest here Upgrading an OS doesn't magically boost productivity. It's usually things like extra monitors, better written applications, or better hardware that more consistently improve productivity.

  8. Dave, there are certainly cases where a Windows upgrade is difficult. I don’t really know your industry, however, as to my experience in most cases the argument that legacy apps don’t work on the new Windows version are put forward as a pretext.

    I have helped manage many OS upgrades starting with DOS to Windows and you don’t know how often I heard this argument. A closer analysis always revealed that there are indeed alternatives. It is just that the motivation to seek these alternatives is often very low.

    If you work for a manufacturer whose spinning equipment is 20 – 30 years old, you will probably look for a new job soon because your job is going to China or another Asian country. It is all about the culture in a company. Management and staff either accept the challenge of globalization and embrace rapid progress wholeheartedly or they will be out of business soon. Only if all employees have the latest tools, of which the operating system on their computers is just one component, is the company competitive in a global market.

    Isabel, I would reply to your change management team if they also calculated the costs of lost productivity if employees work with outdated tools? In 2016 Windows 10 will already be available and Windows 8 mainstream support will end 1-2 years later. Windows 8 will be an outdated operating system soon. Actually, there is already huge difference when it comes to productivity if you compare it to Windows 8.1

    Tim, >> When is MS going to learn that the world does not march to their beat? It’s supposed to be the other way around.<< Nope!!! Someone has to lead and who if not Microsoft should lead when it comes to Windows upgrades? Do you really want to march to the beat of the naysayers? No, thanks!

    Like many IT pros you totally underestimate the boost in productivity that any new Windows version brings. The differences are always huge although they are not obvious. After all, you start Word and Excel with a double click just like in all previous Windows version, right?

    The reason why many don’t see the huge changes is because once they move to a new Windows version, they learn about the new features only over a long period of time. Sometimes it takes years until they discover a new useful feature. Often new Windows features make new features in third-party applications possible. In all those cases users don’t attribute these new features that improved their productivity to the upgrade. The really silly thing is that all this only strengthens their let’s-stick-with-what-we-know attitude because the more they learn about their operating system the more they love it.

    The reason why I am 100% sure that any Windows version boosts productivity has to do with my work. It differs significantly from the work of other IT pros. I am testing software in different environments all day. It’s my job. When a new Windows version comes out, I am switching back and forth between the different versions all the time and that’s why I notice how huge the differences are actually are.

    Thus, I understand very well where this wrong assessment comes from, while experiencing the improved productivity all day. You’ll have a hard time convincing me otherwise.

  9. Babun 7 years ago

    Michael, you say you are 100% sure something boosts productivity in general based on the work YOU do. News flash, productivity is subjective. Also, comparing something as simple as horse carriages and automobiles to IT development makes no sense whatsoever. Real admins need solid arguments, not fluffy cloudy sales stuff.

    Although being a solid argument, I don't think the ease of installing the active directory powershell module qualifies as anything really central.

    Newer tools doesn't mean better tools, and better tools doesn't automatically mean better productivity. Truthfully, productivity is mostly about the human factor.

    What people are interested in are the BIG things, not the little teeny weeny things. Now if there actually were big things that would support your conclusions, I'm sure they would have been mentioned.

  10. Babun, I am afraid you didn’t get the point of my argument. First of all, the boost in productivity I mentioned has nothing to with MY work. I am testing software that OTHERS will use and this kind of work brings me in every corner of Windows, also the ugly ones. Windows 7 has many such ugly corners, and I just mentioned one (PowerShell module installation) that is unimportant for many users, but important for a few users. The point is of course that Windows 8 has a ton of similar features that Windows 7 lacks. If you want to learn more about them, I suggest that you review the blog posts on 4sysops of the last few years.

    Secondly, you make the same big mistake as many IT journalists. You are looking for the one BIG feature in a new Windows version and then draw your conclusions. Although every Windows release had a certain topic (Windows NT was about stability, Windows 2000/XP about Active Directory, Windows Vista/7 about security, and Windows 8/8.1 about touch), these general themes have little do with the success of each of the Windows versions. If you compare Windows with all the competitors it had over the years, there never was one BIG feature that made Windows stand out, it always was the sheer mass that made Microsoft’s OS dominate our industry.

    Best way to understand my point is, if you compare Windows with a black hole. Only a sun that is big enough can become a black hole. It is not the sun’s corona, not its spots, not its magnetic fields, not each of the atoms that it burns that count. All of them count only together, all that really matters is the sun's sheer mass. Only if the amount of mass is big enough will the sun turn into a black hole which will make it rule the entire galaxy. It will swallow more and mass over its lifetime making it bigger and bigger and more dominant. So you see, my argument is not at all about “fluffiness”, it is all about MASS.

    Windows is like a black hole that gets bigger and bigger with every version. Because of Microsoft’s size it can hire an enormous number of the best engineers who add more and mass to the operating system. This is the only reason why no competitor could really challenge Windows over all those years. Most galaxies have only one black hole at its center because it just swallows every possible rival.

    The reason why the post PC movement is losing traction is because more and more users are feeling the enormous gravity at the center of the IT industry. They notice that you can’t do many things with a post PC device that you can do with a PC. It is not one big, single Windows feature that drives them back to the center of our industry. It is the mass of ALL Windows features. For each user it is a different set of features; that is true. Nobody needs them all. No star feels all the gravitational waves that the black hole at the center emits. However, the sheer mass of Windows keeps the entire IT ecosystem spinning around the center of our galaxy. And like before, Windows swallows the features (mass) of its competitors. That's why we have touch as one of the many new features in Windows 8.

    Obviously, Windows 8 is a much bigger black hole than Windows 7 was. And Windows 10 will again gain a lot of mass that will ensure that it continues to rule our galaxy for quite some time. That is my argument.

  11. Kjell 7 years ago

    All the hospitals in Norway still run Windows XP (yes it`s true). I have heard that they might upgrade the OS later in 2015, but who knows. So when I run Win 7 at home i feel like I am in the future.

  12. Kjell, this doesn't really surprise me.I suppose the few private hospitals in Norway have newer operating systems? What I've noticed is that if a doctor has the latest IT equipment he also is quite aware of the latest developments in his own domain. Medical science is developing even faster than IT and the last thing you want is to be treated by a doc with a let's-stick-with-what-we-know attitude. Thus, if you see that a doc is running XP on his PC, you better run!

  13. SHOCDPNEI 7 years ago

    The never-ending march to the tune of impending obsolescence. I don't march to it at all. I weigh up the arguments for myself based on the criteria that is important to ME and that really is the only criteria you can make a judgement on. Your point about the time-saving tip of importing the AD module is a valid one, and adds to any perception of usefulness of a product but doesn't sway it. Factors that interest me are 'What's that? They've improved the network stack? Introduced SMB 3.0? Extended Remote management capabilities and improved Direct-Access?..' and so on and so on. Meanwhile keeping the word 'intuitive' in mind, as opposed to 'innovative'. You can keep innovation if it makes me take 3-4 times longer to find/do something, and pretty colours and a design aesthetic do not cut it for my enterprise tastebuds. Issues of licensing, upgrade path, yes the afore mentioned software assurance etc all come into play. How is it going to play with my legacy systems, existing legacy applications some of which are bespoke.. There are a multitude more of factors, quite divers, that will influence the decision, a simple 'it's time to keep up with the pace' is not going to cut it. It wouldn't, at least not to the stakeholders in my company. We're happily transitioning our Servers to 2012R2 as and when we can, we're slowly implementing Windows 8.1 machines throughout despite the issues we've had with hardware and software (HP and SEP issues, don't get me started..) but I don't see a rush windows 10 anytime soon UNLESS there is a deal maker in it's operation. These are my work choices, home? That's different. bog standard windows 8.1 laptop (With Classic shell), but that's next to several old but functional AMD Athlons, an aging DELL (IKEA coffee table build) 1900 Poweredge and a 1950 which still pump out enough for the several WinXP and Win & VM's I have. (Should I mention a WinFLP box as well) Hell, my DNS Server runs 2K3 on a single remaining Dell Optiplex 280, why? because there's no reason to upgrade it as it's secure and performs it's functions perfectly fine. I have other boxes to 'learn' or 'play' with so why would I spend money needlessly just to remain 'current'. It does kind of apply to your main thrust in the article. To close, we have 1 box non client facing running a bespoke financial app on 2K3. It's physically and logically segregated with no security threats. The application does what it needs to and the last round of MS patches that were applied keep it running. Why spend an additional £10 000 or so to upgrade it if it can continue ad infinitum until the hardware fails or the service demands a change?

  14. SHOCDPNEI, this sounds all very reasonable. I think your main argument is that if I don't need the features of the new version I have nor reason to upgrade. This argument is wrong! Very wrong! It is simply impossible to know in advance which features you really need. You totally overestimate your abilities.

    First of all, Windows is so complex now that you can't know of all the enhancements that come with a new version. What you read in magazines and in Microsoft's documentation is only the tip of the iceberg.

    Second, even if your are a genius and can get an overview of all the enhancements, your assessment if you will need a certain feature or not will be wrong very often. Our IT environments are so complex now that it is impossible to predict how they will evolve. And when you suddenly need a new feature, you often can't upgrade fast enough.

    The point is if you want to give your best at work, you need the best tools available and the newer Windows version is always better than the previous ones. I've come to this conclusion after working in IT for more than 30 years. The things I just outlined happened countless times in my career. No single example you can give me will have the slightest impact on my view. Upgrade now!

  15. Dell 7 years ago

    Michael are you God or something, you seem to have a God complex, everyone else is wrong and you are right ... To quote your self "You totally overestimate your abilities."
    I am working in IT for over 30 years, started building servers and now work as a SAP Consultant for some of the largest companies in the world. I would never presume what is best for other users, I give them what they ask me, I dont tell them they are wrong, and new dose not always mean better and in fact many case have proven to be not better.
    I tried Win8 for work purposes, I stuck it out for a week, I was totally non-productive, simple tasks taking a lot long longer, I could not multitask effectively and the annoying metro action that would randomly execute because of some motion i made with the mouse would drive me crazy. Finding a list of my installed programs a nightmare and also an issue for programs that have extra start options in older start menu that were not desktop icons.
    I used to advice people to use Windows over Linux as a Desktop/Laptop but we have now started to advice people to set up special teams to introduce it in the work environment and have power users educated and trained for the end of Windows 7. I myself now use RHEL OC for my work purposes and yes I did not like it at first, I would still prefer to use Windows 7, but I will take it over Windows 8 and above any day.
    As for the new versus old debate to raise, I disagree, not all new is better, VISTA is prime example as MS quickly dumped it. The car has been around for a long time, has had many technical improvements, but the steering wheel , pedals, doors are the same and in same places, no point in having the steering wheel in the back of the car or under the bonnet.

  16. Dell, God complex? Hmm, I think I will talk with my psychotherapists about it. Interesting theory!

    But it isn't the point about discussions that you are right and the others are wrong? Why else would we discuss a topic if everyone agrees?

    However, it is safe say to say that we have a different consulting approach. I never give people what they are asking for. I tell them what they really need. This is what consulting is all about.

    Seriously, don't upgrade to Windows 8.1. It is a totally outdated operating system. Windows 10 will be available in a couple of weeks and then you should upgrade all your machine as fast as possible!

    Let's get rid of what we know! Let's embrace the future!

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