cyber security small business
Windows 7 Professional

Can I still run Windows 7?

Since Windows 7 reached its end of support by Microsoft on 14th January 2020, we have still seen several systems running Windows 7 so what does this mean?

When Microsoft develop software, they release bug fixes, patches and new features which help maintain their software.  These help to protect your data from vulnerabilities which are discovered and in some cases are used to steal or encrypt and hold your data to ransom.

Microsoft do provide a Windows Extended Security Updates (ESU) and they charge from $25 per device and the ESU charges double each year so continuing to use Windows 7 and Windows 2008 Server will become very expensive.

How can I tell if I am running Windows 7?

There are a few ways yo check if you are running Windows 7:

If your PC is switch off then when you turn on you should see the initial start screen:

Windows 7 startup
Windows 7 Start screen
Windows 10 startup
Windows 10 Start Screen

If your PC is already on then Look at the Start button, if it is a round, then your a likely to be running Windows 7 and if its squared, then you are likely to be running Windows 10.

windows 7 start button
Windows 7 Start Button
windows 10 start button
Windows 10 Start Button

You can also check by following Microsoft’s instructions

What are the risks?

According to the UK Government cyber security breaches survey 2020, almost half of businesses (46%) and a quarter of charities (26%) report having cyber security breaches or attacks in the last 12 months. Out of the reported 46% attacks, 19% have experienced losing money or data.  39% required new measures and had to divert staff time due to business disruption.  For the 26% of charities; 56% had negative impact and 25% had material outcomes. 

These attacks have also increased from the previous years as new vulnerabilities have been found.  The WannaCry ransomware attack infected over 200,000 computers in May 2017 and was the result of an unpatched vulnerability that was available from March 2017.  It is estimated that 98% of the infected computers were running Windows 7.  If you have Windows 7 currently and a similar cyber attack occurs, this affects you.  You would only get the patch if you are paying for the extended support.

Cost of a data breach?

Where businesses have faced breaches, the average cost of the cyber security breaches have experienced in the past 12 months is estimated to be £3230. For medium and large firms, this average cost is higher, at £5220. 

This also does not include damage to reputation or fines which could be imposed by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO).  British Airways was fined £20m for failing to protect the personal and financial details of more than 400,000 of its customers.  

Applications will no longer run on Windows 7

Microsoft is now advising that they will no longer support Office 365 ProPlus on Windows 7 for free, so either the programs will no longer start, features will be unavailable (such as Multi Factor Authentication) or you will be charged for support. 

Many software vendors such as Adobe and Sage are beginning to announce their products will no longer support older operating systems such as Windows 7, Windows 8 and even the early versions of Windows 10.

You may also find that hardware devices such as printers no longer have drivers available that support Windows 7.

What is stopping you from upgrading to Windows 10?

Lots of businesses were sceptical due to their experience with Windows 8 and the love for Windows 7 and concerns over privacy with Microsoft’s Cortana.  Recent updates have improved provided several privacy settings switches so these can be adjusted to ensure you are protected.  Cortana can be hidden and some of the default applications can be removed via some free scripts from third parties. 

Surprisingly, some businesses are not aware that Windows 7 has reached the end of support life. 

Many businesses IT budgets are limited and they will only purchase new equipment when the old equipment refuses to start and will struggle on sometimes even with broken screens or a device that will take 20 minutes to start, so they use that time to make their tea in the morning. 

What does Windows 10 provide?

Here are a few enhancements that makes the migration worth the effort:

Security

Windows 10 is more secure that previous desktop operating systems.  These include hardware biometrics and Windows Hello which can authorise logins using your face, fingerprint, or PIN.

Windows includes advanced threat protection, malware protection and trusted hardware.   This provides a good level of protection even without a third party antivirus product. 

Secure boot

Windows Secure Boot requires that any programs that begins as the operating system starts, needs to be signed off by both Microsoft and the hardware manufacturer.  This is a mandatory feature which prevents rootkits.

Disk encryption

Bit locker can encrypt your local disks to secure your data in case of theft.

Faster Start-Up

Windows 10 launches faster that Windows 7, even on the same hardware.  Applications will also load faster.  For gamers a new 3D engine provides improved performance from graphics processors (GPUs)

Seamless User Experience

Windows 10 has the same core on all devices which makes it familiar and easy to use.  The start button which was missing from Windows 8 is back with improvements over Windows 7, no longer will you need to fill the screen trying to find an application, a resizable and searchable menu makes finding applications easier to use.

Touch Screen mode

Windows 10 has enhanced the touch screen mode to all users to work quickly. 

Regular update releases

Microsoft released Windows 10 in July 2015 to Enterprise clients.  Windows 10 Home and Professional versions were not released until April 2018.  Microsoft version updates every 6 months.    These releases are supported for 18 & 30 months.

VersionServicing optionAvailability dateOS buildLatest revision dateEnd of service: Home, Pro, Pro Education, Pro for Workstations and IoT CoreEnd of service: Enterprise, Education and IoT Enterprise
20H2Semi-Annual Channel2020-10-2019042.6302020-11-102022-05-102023-05-09
2004Semi-Annual Channel2020-05-2719041.6302020-11-102021-12-142021-12-14
1909Semi-Annual Channel2019-11-1218363.11982020-11-102021-05-112022-05-10
1903Semi-Annual Channel2019-05-2118362.11982020-11-102020-12-082020-12-08
1809Semi-Annual Channel2019-03-2817763.15792020-11-17End of service2021-05-11
1809Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted)2018-11-1317763.15792020-11-17End of service2021-05-11
1803Semi-Annual Channel2018-07-1017134.18452020-11-10End of service2021-05-11
1803Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted)2018-04-3017134.18452020-11-10End of service2021-05-11

Still running Windows 7, what can you do now?

If you currently have Windows 7 on devices, then you have some options:

Stay on Windows 7

If you have a business-critical application which does not run Windows 10 or you have no budget available then you have the following options:

Risk it?

If your device is not connected to the network and you never plug any usb sticks, then you could risk it.  However, you are likely to be accessing email, Internet or copying files from other devices – plan to replace/upgrade. 

Pay for Extended Support Updated

As stated earlier, this may be costly in the long term and will only delay the migration.

Windows Virtual desktop on Azure

Microsoft 365 or Windows 10 Enterprise allows you to run Windows 7 and Windows 10 virtual desktops in the cloud.  Windows 7 ESU are included for free for 3 years (from Jan 2020 to Jan 2023).  Note: Windows Virtual desktops are not free, they require Azure AD Services and CPU/Memory/Storage is charged each month depending upon usage. 

Migrate to Windows 10

The upgrade from Windows 7 is the best option for most businesses in the longer term.  So how can you do this?

Upgrade your hardware

If you are replacing your PCs on a 3 or 5 year cycle then the new hardware will normally come with Windows 10.  You also do not have to buy brand new equipment.  There are some great deals on refurbished hardware available and they will often come with a Windows 10 (refurbished) license. 

You will also benefit from faster performance from the CPU/RAM and Disks in the new system – check our previous article.

Upgrade the current hardware

If your Windows 7 hardware is less then 3-5 years old then the original device may have been supplied with a Windows 10 license and the manufacturer may have supplied both Windows 7 and Windows 10 media. 

Most HP/Dell/Lenovo (and other hardware suppliers) use digital licensing which is stored in the BIOS on the motherboard.   This is read by Windows 10 during the installation and can automatically activate the software.

Microsoft Windows 10 image can be downloaded using the Media Creation tool.  This will allow you to upgrade the current hardware and most applications which are currently installed will work after the upgrade. 

If your devices are more than 5 years old, you may wish to replace the hardware anyway.

Finally

There are many reasons why small and medium businesses continue to run older software such as Windows XP, Windows 7 or Office 2010 and do not have the time to work out if they can upgrade without a huge cost.  However, relying on old equipment may cost more in the long term if you affected by a cyber-attack. 

Let us help you identify which machines are still running Windows 7 and we can help you to upgrade.   Should you need assistance please contact us and we can discuss your migration project.