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Windows 7 Is No Longer Supported: What Does This Mean for Your Antivirus Software?

Windows 7 has been a popular choice of operating system (OS) since it was released way back on 22nd July 2009. That popularity led to thousands upon thousands of cyber threats being developed, making antivirus for Windows 7 absolutely essential. And that was when Microsoft were actually supporting the Windows 7 OS themselves.

Fast forward to January 14th 2020 and Microsoft has completely discontinued Windows 7 and withdrawn all support for the OS. This makes using the operating system a very real risk and, even if you're using a robust antivirus software for PC, ESET would strongly recommend updating to a newer OS.

As experts in cybersecurity, we're going to talk you through everything you need to know about Windows 7, why it's a serious security risk and what you can do about it.

 

Why did Microsoft end support for Windows 7?

When Windows 7 was first launched in October 2009, Microsoft made a 10 year commitment to update and support the operating system. Mainstream support actually ended in January 2015. At this point, they announced that there'd be no new features or wholesale updates and that any warranty claims would no longer be valid.

A further five years later, in January 2020, Microsoft announced that all support would cease. At this point, a mighty one in four Windows machines were using Windows 7, so the amount of support they'd have been supplying was undoubtedly high. The reason they gave for withdrawing this support was so they could "focus our investment on supporting newer technologies and great new experiences". Essentially, they were diverting time to newer projects, which makes sense as Windows 7 is several operating systems out of date.

However, this is where the problems come into play. No support means that any flaws or exploits identified by hackers and cybercriminals won't be fixed.

 

How a lack of support impacts your PC's security

So how does this absence of support actually affect your Windows 7 PC? The main problem is that Windows 7 will no longer receive security updates.

In addition to this, it means there's no technical support from Microsoft for a PC operating Windows 7. No technical support means they won't be able to help you with any problems you have with the day-to-day running of your Windows computer. Additionally, and slightly less serious, is that over time certain programs may no longer work, such as Backgammon or the Windows Media Center.

As highlighted above, the main problem is the lack of new security updates for Windows 7. This means that if a hacker or cybercriminal finds a flaw they can exploit, and creates new viruses or malware to target it, Windows won't provide an update or patch to prevent it from happening again. Essentially, any computer that's running Windows 7 will be open to all malicious attacks that have been designed to take advantage of any flaws found since Windows discontinued their support.

As Windows 7 is still used by so many people, and it's known that Microsoft isn't offering support, there are thousands upon thousands of threats being developed specifically to take advantage of any exploits that are found. Any users running Windows 7 need to do something about it, and their best option is to upgrade their operating system.

 

The effectiveness of antivirus software for Windows 7

As you can see, if you continue running Windows 7, there's going to be a much greater risk from viruses and malware. An antivirus software will help, but there'll be a limit to how effective it will be. This is usually the part of the article where we tell you that ESET will protect your computer, but in terms of Windows 7, we'd recommend that you upgrade your operating system in addition to getting antivirus software. Here's why:

  • Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) users – if you're still just relying on the MSE platform to protect you, it's even more important that you upgrade. A free antivirus software like this has always only offered basic protection. While MSE still receives updates, the platform will no longer be updated and the updates won't be specific for Windows 7. This means that you'll only be protected from general attacks and not those aimed at the Windows 7 exploits.
  • Third-party antivirus & ESET users – unlike Microsoft, most third-party antivirus softwares, including ESET, won't be dropping their Windows 7 support. This means that our own antivirus, malware detection, password manager and machine learning can still protect your Windows 7 from both known and emerging threats. However, and there is a however, the level of protection can't be guaranteed. With so many flaws and attacks coming in to target Windows 7's exploits, it can be difficult to block them all.

In short, if you want to keep using Windows 7, then an antivirus software like ESET is the bare minimum you should be using. You'll need to educate yourself on spotting phishing attempts, how to deal with ransomware, use a password manager, consider investing in a secure VPN and keep any antivirus you do use completely up to date.

If you can, though, you really should upgrade to Windows 10 or another new OS to guarantee defence against malware attacks, ransomware protection and computer viruses.

 

How to upgrade your operating system

The most logical route is to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10, the current iteration of the Microsoft Windows OS.

It's worth noting that while the offer of a free upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10 has technically ended, in 2016 no less, it's something the company still usually offers – so you may be able to activate a Windows 10 licence when you upgrade from Windows 7, or even Windows 8.1.

Once you've got a licence sorted for Windows 10, upgrading is fairly simple.

 

Upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10

  1. Back up all your data (documents, files, apps etc) – Windows has a backup functionality, but your antivirus can help with cloud backups.
  2. Make sure you have enough space for the download
  3. Download Windows 10 – be sure to download it from the Microsoft site to ensure you're downloading the latest version. Do that here.
  4. Click 'Download Tool Now' to run the application
  5. Follow the instructions
  6. Select 'Upgrade this PC Now'

Upgrading is that simple. Double check that your computer can run Windows 10 before you download an upgrade; if it can then you're good to go.

 

Get ESET antivirus software today

Whether you choose to upgrade to Windows 10 or stick with Windows 7, ESET antivirus offers comprehensive protection. Our antivirus software suite offers award-winning anti-malware protection, ransomware defence, anti-phishing and real-time protection using machine learning. We offer completely cloud-based cybersecurity software, designed with the user in mind.

What's more, you can sign up for a free antivirus trial today and experience just how good our suite of antivirus products is in action.