Microsoft famously called Windows 10 a “service” rather than an operating system, and now it seems they’re thinking about their older software in the same way. In a new blog post, Microsoft writes:
“As previously announced, Windows 7 extended support is ending January 14, 2020. While many of you are already well on your way in deploying Windows 10, we understand that everyone is at a different point in the upgrade process.
With that in mind, today we are announcing that we will offer paid Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) through January 2023. The Windows 7 ESU will be sold on a per-device basis and the price will increase each year. Windows 7 ESUs will be available to all Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Enterprise customers in Volume Licensing, with a discount to customers with Windows software assurance, Windows 10 Enterprise or Windows 10 Education subscriptions. In addition, Office 365 ProPlus will be supported on devices with active Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) through January 2023. This means that customers who purchase the Windows 7 ESU will be able to continue to run Office 365 ProPlus.”
What this means is that starting in January, Windows 7 users will no longer receive security updates or patches, effectively leaving their computers and data vulnerable to hackers and malware unless they pay the monthly fee.
Over 40% of all computers in the world run Windows 7. This potentially leaves huge amounts of data exposed and ripe for exploitation. The fact that Microsoft is willingly exposing their Win7 users to risk despite them making up such a huge portion of computer users worldwide is disappointing, but not entirely surprising.
It should also be noted that being able to pay for your security is an option offered only to Windows 7 Professional users who have Volume Licensing (a.k.a. big businesses that buy the software in bulk for their office). Small businesses and individual users don’t even have the option to buy their security.
For these users, their data is at risk unless they switch to a newer operating system, which Microsoft hopes is Windows 10. Windows 10 is no longer a free upgrade, being offered instead for $139 on Microsoft’s website. Windows 8 is also no longer for sale if for some reason you were thinking about getting that instead.
It will almost certainly be more affordable to just bite the bullet and buy Windows 10 instead of paying the monthly security fee. The exact pricing has so far not been announced, but Microsoft has announced that the price will increase every year. (Hooray.)
Thankfully, Windows 10 is itself a solid operating system. While Microsoft has received criticism for updating the OS automatically, prioritizing their updates over user control, it is a sleek and functional operating system. It is significantly more user-friendly than Windows 8, so longtime Windows 7 users shouldn’t have too hard of a time adjusting if they choose to upgrade.