Computers are not something we replace very often. While smartphones often have a lifespan of around two to three years, a computer often lasts over five years. If it's decent enough, it can last for 10 years after the first purchase. But a lot of people also tend to never upgrade this hardware.

A study conducted by Kaspersky concluded that at least 22% of Windows users are still using Windows 7, an operating system that was released in 2009. Unfortunately, the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mantra doesn't apply to computers. In this article, we're going to share some reasons why using old versions of Windows in 2021 is a bad idea.

Older Windows systems will no longer receive updates

Old Windows 95 computer with Microsoft Word

Windows 7 and Windows XP are two versions of Windows that are very close to my heart. But if I went on a nostalgia trip and used it on an older system, I would probably want to keep that system off the internet.

The problem with old and discontinued Windows versions goes beyond installing newer software. The real problem is that Microsoft has already cut support for these systems, a process known as "end-of-life".

Windows XP reached the end-of-life in 2014, Windows Vista reached the end-of-life in 2017 and Windows 7 in 2020. Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 will also reach this stage in 2023 and 2025 and "mainstream" the Support for Windows 8.1 has already ended.

This means that if a critical vulnerability is encountered for Windows XP and 7, you will not receive updates to fix it. Windows 8.1 and 10 will face the same problem for the next few years, and you can bet that viruses come out and take advantage of these problems.

However, there are rare instances where Microsoft breaks its own rules when a vulnerability is bad enough. For example, Microsoft is known to have released Meltdown and Specter patches for Windows XP. But for the vast majority of purposes, Microsoft considers Windows XP and Windows 7 to be old platforms that they no longer support.

In all respects, Microsoft wants you to upgrade to a newer version of Windows. There are ways you can get more life out of your old Windows installation, such as: B. by installing antivirus software to close the gap left by discontinued security updates. However, we do not recommend going this route as these solutions will only get you so far.

Other problems can also bring your PC to a standstill, such as: B. common browsers, programs or even device drivers that stop support for your system. For example, the last version of Chrome to run on Windows XP is Chrome 49, while the latest version of Chrome available at the time of writing is Chrome 93, with Chrome 94 coming soon.

Related: Chrome 93 Has Arrived: The Best New Features To Try

So if you're using a system with an old version of Windows, an upgrade should already be on your cards.

What about corporate PCs?

Computer in the office

But what if your PC is used in a corporate environment? Microsoft gives users a bit of headroom to upgrade in these specific scenarios, knowing that upgrades in this area are considerably more difficult.

But that too has a limit.

With Windows 7, special editions of the operating system are still being updated. Volume licensed editions of Windows 7 Professional and Enterprise will receive security updates through January 10, 2023 through OEMs. Windows Embedded Standard 7 will receive updates through October 10, 2023 and Windows Embedded POSReady 7 will receive updates through 2024.

Related: Windows 10 Will Be the Next Windows XP: 4 Reasons Why

In the case of Windows XP, this extended support is already gone. While the main operating system was no longer supported in 2014, some editions used in corporate environments, such as Windows Embedded POSReady 2009 (based on Windows XP Professional), were updated to 2019.

However, at the time of this writing, all editions of Windows XP are fully unsupported.

If you happen to be using one of the still supported Windows 7 versions on your corporate system, you are probably fine for the time being. However, be prepared for an upgrade soon. If you are using a version of Windows XP, you should upgrade immediately if you can.

Newer versions of Windows do pretty well with older software support. So, if your business is using old software, you should usually be able to start it on Windows 10 or Windows 11.

If you absolutely cannot update a system right now, looking into some antivirus software to strengthen your system could also be an option (I would even call it an absolute necessity). Still, you should really look into upgrades and, if possible, deploy a newer solution.

Alternative upgrade paths for older PCs

Vintage PC turned off

There are many scenarios that you may not want to upgrade to Windows 10. Perhaps your system is just too old to run properly, or you just don't like the changes Microsoft has made to newer versions of Windows. That is completely understandable.

But that's still not a good reason to stick with an old version of Windows. In fact, it's a sign that you should choose between alternative operating systems.

Microsoft used to have options for these legacy systems. Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs, a special edition of Windows XP for low-end hardware, was supported like normal Windows XP until 2014. This was followed by Windows Thin PC, a light version of Windows 7 that Microsoft will only support until October 2021.

Instead, you could consider a Linux fork. Light Linux forks are readily available to breathe new life into an old system when system specifications are the problem. They are very barebones, but should be able to run on your old system with no delay or slowdown.

Some of these forks are Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Arch Linux, and Zorin OS. You should definitely check out our selection of lightweight Linux distributions to learn more about these options.

If you're just using the internet and maybe want to run Android apps, Chrome OS also has forks to turn your old system into a Chromebook. Neverware's CloudReady and FydeOS are two options to consider. They're based on the latest version of Chromium OS (the open source project that Chrome OS is based on) so you're sure to have the best web experience, and they're lightweight too.

What about keeping Windows 10 after Windows 11 was released?

Windows 11 PC with Snap

You will likely be fine if you decide to stick with Windows 10 after the 11 release. Windows 10 will continue to be supported alongside Windows 11 as soon as the new operating system comes out.

In fact, Microsoft is still planning to release Windows 10 Version 21H2 for the unsupported PCs left over from the Windows 11 update (which will be provided as a regular update for users with eligible PCs).

However, the days of Windows 10 are numbered and Microsoft plans to get away from it at some point, which means that everything we have said in this article will apply to you at some point.

Related: Is It Worth Upgrading to Windows 11?

Support for all editions of Windows 10 will end on October 14, 2025, while Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC users will receive support until 2029. That means you have a little over four years to eventually move on.

It's not yet clear whether Microsoft plans to keep feature updates out even after 21H2 is released. So while we're seeing 22H1 or even 22H2 (maybe as minor updates), we don't expect Microsoft to release any more feature updates until 2025.

You will be fine now. However, do not hold onto your seat for too long.

Do not use discontinued software

We just made a few arguments against using older versions of Windows and older software in general. System updates are annoying, but in an ever-changing online world, they're more important than ever. They keep you safe online and keep your important files and information safe from potential threats. On unsupported systems, there is no way to leave some of these shields on.

Ultimately, however, the decision is yours. But time is pressing on your old Windows 7 installation and unsupported software doesn't age well, so we urge you to finally consider the upgrade you've been putting off for so long.

Windows 11 logo over combined Bloom Dark and Light background images

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About the author

Arol Wright
(9 articles published)

Arol is a tech journalist and staff writer at MakeUseOf. He has also worked as a news and feature writer at XDA-Developers and Pixel Spot. Arol is currently studying pharmacy at the Central University of Venezuela and has had a soft spot for everything to do with technology since childhood. When you're not writing, you can find him either deep in his textbooks or playing video games.

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