Microsoft to withdraw support for Windows 7 in January 2020: how to stay safe online

Thousands of Windows computers could be vulnerable to hackers, IT experts have warned.

Friday, 8th November 2019, 12:39 pm
Updated Friday, 8th November 2019, 12:39 pm

Microsoft plans to withdraw support for its Windows 7 operating system by the end of January 2020, in spite of the fact that the software is still used on around 38 per cent of personal computers.

This means that, while the system will still work, security patches, updates and technical support will no longer be available.

Computers still using Windows 7 could be left vulnerable to exploitation from hackers, like those behind the 2017 Wannacry cyber attack.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Windows 7 will stop being supported by Microsoft in January and could become susceptible to cyber attacks (Photo: Shutterstock)

There is also a risk that software that is being developed now will not work on machines that are still running Windows 7, as new products like future versions of Microsoft Office will not be developed to work on older operating software.

Wannacry cyber attack

In 2017 the Wannacry ransomware was used in a cyber attack that affected 300,000 organisations which still used Windows XP operating software.

Among those that fell victim to the attack was the NHS, which had to spend £92 million in working to fix the problems caused.

What can you do?

Some personal computers will be able to upgrade to the newer version of Windows - Windows 10. Support is expected to be withdrawn for this software in 2026.

However, this solution will not work for everybody, as some older computers may only support Windows 7.

Another option is for companies to move to a cloud-based system, where files and data are stored online rather than on machines local to the business.

Windows 7

The Windows 7 operating system was released in 2009, less than three years after Windows Vista – the software Windows 7 was intended to replace. While Windows Vista was unpopular with computer users, Windows 7 was generally well received, and praised by critics as a major improvement.

Just six months after its initial release, over 100 million copies of Windows 7 had been sold worldwide. It still remains the most used Microsoft software in some countries, but later product Windows 10 has become more popular across the board.