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Windows 7 end of support: Separating the bull from the horns

No, Windows 7 isn’t dead.

No, you don’t need to buy a Win10 computer. 

No, you don’t need to upgrade.

No, you don’t need to install the latest Win7 patches right away.

No, Microsoft isn’t withdrawing its unofficial nod-and-a-wink free upgrade from Win7 to Win10. At least, not right away.

No, the old Win7 patches aren’t disappearing.

No, your Internet Service Provider won’t kick you off your network for using Win7.

No, we don’t know if Microsoft will release any more free security patches for Windows 7. They did for XP when WannaCry appeared, years after XP went end-of-life, but past performance isn’t necessarily indicative of future results.

No, running Win7 after Jan. 14 doesn’t “put [your] company and staff data at risk, as well as that of suppliers, partners, and customers, because security patches will no longer be available.”

No, your Win7 computer won’t be pwned by the bad guys any time soon, if you exercise even a modicum of common sense.

No, Office 2010 won’t stop working on Win7. In fact, it’ll keep getting patches (on an unpatched Win7!) until Oct. 13.

No, Microsoft Security Essentials won’t get updated. You need to move to a different antivirus. 

Windows eos notify Microsoft

Yes, you need to stop using Internet Explorer. But you likely made that switch years ago.

Yes, you can buy official Win7 security patches – sign up for the Extended Security Updates – but the first year costs $61 per system and you have to jump through a lot of hoops (see Gregg Keizer’s Last-minute answers about Windows 7’s post-retirement patches and Susan Bradley’s Hunting for an elusive Win7 ESU license, paywalled). 

Yes, there are alternative ways to patch Win7.

Yes, if you tell the full-page “Your Windows 7 PC is out of support” advertisement – the screenshot above – to go away (“Don’t remind me again”), it really does go away. At least for now.

Yes, all of your major software – notably including all major browsers – will continue to work with Win7, at least in the short term. Turbotax won’t work next year, but that’s their problem, and it works fine this year for tax year 2019.

Yes, the new “Chredge” version of Edge will run on Win7. Nobody knows how long MS will continue to support it.

Yes, expect a lot more annoying, wildly inaccurate Win7 misinformation from many quarters.

That should cover about 90% of the drivel currently being bandied about regarding Windows 7.

Here’s what Microsoft says about the Jan. 14 end-of-life:

Microsoft made a commitment to provide 10 years of product support for Windows 7 when it was released on October 22, 2009. This 10-year period has now ended, and Microsoft has discontinued Windows 7 support so that we can focus our investment on supporting newer technologies and great new experiences. The specific end of support day for Windows 7 was January 14, 2020. Technical assistance and software updates from Windows Update that help protect your PC are no longer available for the product. Microsoft strongly recommends that you move to Windows 10 to avoid a situation where you need service or support that is no longer available.

Gag me with a RAMDAC. Microsoft hasn’t provided technical assistance for Win7, officially, since January 2015. And the last time we had a useful Win7 software update was… a decade ago? Sure feels like it. Service Pack 1 was released on Feb. 22, 2011.

Just because we won’t get free security patches in February doesn’t mean you should stampede to get the January patches installed now. Nothing’s going away. Your files are still where you left them. Chillax.

Back in 2018, over on AskWoody, we started looking at a Win7 official patch alternative called 0patch. They’ve been “micro-patching” Windows – unleashing specific, narrowly focused fixes for Windows vulnerabilities – since 2016. Mitja Kolsek, CEO of Acros Security and co-founder of 0patch says:

We expect the first micropatches [for Win7/2008 R2] will be issued sometime after the February Patch Tuesday, after we have reviewed what was patched in Windows 7 ESU, and whether any other vulns might affect Windows 7 / Windows Server 2008 R2. 

There are alternatives.

And finally, Yes, you should move to something other than Win7. Eventually.

We take Seven Semper Fi seriously on AskWoody.com. See Susan Bradley’s no-bull FAQ. And Thx @LHiggins.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Google promises to support Chrome on Windows 7 until July 2021

Google is promising to support Chrome on Windows 7 for at least the next 18 months.

“We will continue to fully support Chrome on Windows 7 for a minimum of 18 months from Microsoft’s End of Life date, until at least July 15, 2021,” Max Christoff, Chrome’s engineering director, wrote last week in a post to a company blog.

Christoff touted the post-retirement support as a win for enterprises, which over the last several years have designated Chrome as their workers’ primary browser. He highlighted the management tools Google offered as well as Chrome’s sync skills. “If you haven’t started your move to Windows 10 yet, or even if your organization is mid-way through migration, you can still benefit from the enterprise capabilities of Chrome,” Christoff contended.

That emphasis was no surprise. This week will mark not only the end of support for Windows 7 (Tuesday, Jan. 14) but also the public debut of Microsoft’s refurbished Edge (Wednesday, Jan. 15). Microsoft, which built the new Edge with Google’s Chromium technologies – the same that drive Chrome – has pitched the browser as a better fit for enterprises, based on Microsoft’s long history of management prowess.

It remained unclear on Monday how Microsoft will support its new Chromium-based Edge on Windows 7. Historically, Microsoft has stopped serving browser updates when the underlying operating system exited support. However, Edge on Windows 7 will, like Edge on Windows 10, be updated using mechanisms separate from the OS. Microsoft may continue to support its new Edge after this week on all Windows 7 PCs, not just those in organizations that have paid for Extended Support Updates (ESU).

Google’s pledge to support Chrome on Windows 7 for “a minimum of 18 months” was reminiscent of its support for the browser on Windows XP. Months before that operating system’s April 2014 retirement, Google told users it would support Chrome at least until the following April.

Google ended up supporting Chrome on XP for two years after the latter’s expiration, or until April 2016.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Just because Microsoft sells Windows 7 support doesn’t mean you can buy it

In four weeks, Microsoft will push Windows 7 down a flight of stairs, proving that it thinks the decade-old OS has outlived its purpose and must give way to a sleeker, shinier, newer Windows 10, which, by the way, will live forever.

How humiliating for Windows 7, the OS that once powered 1 billion-plus PCs.

Microsoft has made exceptions, as it often does, for its most valued customers. Enterprises can fork over fees for what Microsoft has tapped as “Extended Security Updates,” or ESU; in exchange they’ll receive patches that repair critical and important vulnerabilities. The ESU program will run for three years, starting in January, in one-year increments. A company that paid for the first year would receive updates through January 2021, at which time it would decide whether to continue another year – for double the price of the previous period – or drop out.

That model, Microsoft has implied, should motivate customers to adopt Windows 10 as soon as possible.

Compared to past instances of OS expiration, like Windows XP’s in 2014, Microsoft has been positively transparent about post-retirement plans for Windows 7. It discussed ESU publicly for one thing, announcing the deal in September 2018 and starting to sell the add-on licenses in April 2019.

Not surprisingly, ESU was to be available only to the larger and largest customers, businesses that obtained Windows via volume licensing. (It’s not so much the squeaky wheel that gets the Microsoft grease, but the biggest squeaky wheels that buy the most lubricant.) Additionally, firms with Software Assurance plans or subscriptions to Windows 10 Enterprise would receive discounts.

Only in October did Microsoft expand ESU to businesses of all sizes. Smaller customers not eligible under the original rules, Microsoft said, were to contact a Microsoft cloud solution provider (CSP), the reseller program authorized to sell ESU licenses to this secondary crowd.

“Starting on December 1, 2019, businesses of any size can purchase ESU through the cloud solution provider (CSP) program,” wrote Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, in an Oct. 1 post to a company blog.

Sounded great. Too bad it wasn’t so.

It may be for sale but that’s doesn’t mean you can buy it

Those who have been trying to purchase an ESU license through a CSP haven’t had any luck.

“At this point, purchasing an ESU license isn’t easy,” said Susan Bradley, a computer network and security consultant, the moderator of the PatchMangement.org mailing list and the contributor known as “The Patch Lady” to the AskWoody.com Windows tip site, in a Monday post to the latter. “Microsoft recommends searching for a CSP through its online database. But most of those vendors are probably not interested in handling one or a few Windows 7 ESU purchases.”

Bradley and Amy Babinchak, a Michigan-based IT consultant and Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional), teamed up earlier this month to work through and document the ESU purchasing process for “businesses of any size.”

In a Dec. 7 status update, Bradley said Babinchak’s usual distributor (Babinchak is a registered CSP) wasn’t “aware of it coming” and pointed out that the searchable list of CSPs – where Microsoft recommends customers start – largely consisted of partners that don’t work with small businesses.

Bradley and Babinchak have so far struck out.

So did Ed Bott, the well-known Windows columnist at ZDNet. On Monday, Bott reported a similar result from his search for an ESU seller to very-small-to-small business.

Bott’s money quote? “Microsoft doesn’t seem particularly interested in taking your money if your business is too small.”

How small is too small?

“Normally, I would prefer not to sell that SKU in small quantities,” said a remarkably candid representative from a CSP that Computerworld spoke with, referring to Windows 7 ESU. The representative asked that their name and the name of their company remain anonymous, not wanting to risk their relationship with Microsoft.

When asked why, the representative was crystal clear. “It has a small margin and it’s not a subscription and it has a manual ordering process [on our end],” the representative said.

As the representative mentioned, ESU is not a subscription: Each year must be purchased separately as each new year approaches. Rather than “touch” the order once – preferable from the sellers’ perspective – they would have to potentially process it three times.

So, where is the tipping point, sell or don’t sell?

“All things combined, it’s not profitable to sell anything less than 20-30 units, at least,” the representative said.

There it is. Just because it’s for sale doesn’t mean you can buy it. Not if your small business is well, small.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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6 Tips for Windows 7 End of Life and Support

Windows 7 end of life draws near. The now-decade old operating system is biting the dust. There are several reasons you might need or want to keep using Windows 7. However, once Microsoft ends Windows 7 support, the operating system will become vulnerable.

Here are six tips for braving Windows 7 end of life, and how to move forward.

1. What Does Windows 7 End of Life Mean?

Windows 7 end of life is as it sounds. Microsoft is switching off all support for Windows 7. After January 14, 2020, all technical assistance and security updates from Windows Update will cease. The Windows 7 EOL also means that all security updates will stop, too.

Windows 7 is an aging, vulnerable operating system. Without Microsoft’s constant updating and security patches, Windows 7 will become an even more vulnerable operating system.

The end of Windows 7 support is a cause for concern for anyone running the fading operating system.

However, it isn’t the end of Windows 7 if you have enough money. Windows 7 Pro and Enterprise have the option to pay $350 to keep Windows 7 alive for three years.

The Microsoft Extended Security Updates program will run until 2023. The program isn’t for everyone, though. Only businesses, professional organizations, and mission-critical computers can apply for the Extended Security Updates program.

When that period ends, those companies must have made provisions to upgrade to Windows 10 (or otherwise).

2. When Is Windows 7 End of Life?

Microsoft announced Windows 7 end of life date a long way back, having “made a commitment to provide 10 years of product support” when it was released way back 2009.

Windows 7 end of life is on January 14, 2020.

3. Can I Keep Using Windows 7?

Of course, you can. Windows 7 won’t suddenly stop working overnight. The Windows 7 EOL date is the specific date support ends. Microsoft cannot force you to stop using Windows 7 remotely.

As above, Windows 7 will no longer receive updates, including security patches. There is another consideration, too. The programs you use on Windows 7 will also stop receiving updates to fix bugs and security holes. Like Windows 7 itself, those programs will continue to work (unless a critical bug appears), but you won’t receive the latest versions.

For many Windows 7 users, the software is a primary reason for persisting with the operating system. The difficulty in finding like-for-like replacements for certain software types is why Microsoft is offering businesses the opportunity to remain on Windows 7 for a little while longer.

Home users do not have the same grace period. Furthermore, there are suitable replacements for most Windows 7 software on Windows 10.

4. Can I Remove the Windows 7 End of Support Notification?

Windows 7 End of Life Message

On March 19, 2019, Microsoft released Windows 7 Update KB4493132. The significance of KB4493132 is that it introduces notifications about Windows 7 end of support to the desktop of those users.

Users remaining with Windows 7 have two options to turn off the end of life notifications.

  1. When the Windows 7 end of life notification box appears, select the Do not remind me again option. The notifications will switch off. If you close the box without selecting the “do not remind me again” option, notifications will continue.
  2. Find and uninstall the KB4493132 update. You will find the list of updates at Control Panel > Programs > Programs and Features > Installed Updates. Browse the list until you find KB4493132, then right-click and select Uninstall.

5. Can I Upgrade to Windows 10 for Free?

Note: If you are considering upgrading to Windows 10, please read section “Should I Back Up Important Files on Windows 7?” below.

The official free Windows 10 upgrade period ended on July 29, 2016. Since then, thousands of users have claimed a free Windows 10 upgrade, from Windows 7, 8, and 8.1. Many systems that never installed the Get Windows 10 program, who then decided to upgrade long-past the end of the official program found their upgraded system fully licensed.

windows upgrade this pc now

The process isn’t guaranteed. I’m making no claims that you can upgrade to Windows 10 for free. But, if you haven’t tried upgrading, it could be worthwhile.

  1. Head to the Windows 10 Download page.
  2. Select Download tool now.
  3. Open the tool and select Upgrade this PC now.
  4. Follow the instructions.

Once the Windows 10 upgrade completes, press Windows Key + I, then head to Settings > About and check your Windows license status under Windows Specifications.

If you find that the process has not resulted in a full license, you can roll back to Windows 7.

Windows 10 Minimum Specifications

There is another consideration to make before upgrading to Windows 10: minimum specifications. Windows 10 minimum specifications are:

  • Processor:1GHz or faster processor.
  • RAM: 1GB for 32-bit or 2GB for 64-bit.
  • Hard disk space: 16GB for 32-bit, or 20GB for 64-bit.
  • Graphics card: DirectX 9 or later.
  • Display:800×600 resolution.

Those are the minimum specs, but your Windows 10 experience will have all sorts of issues. Microsoft designed Windows 10 to run on a huge range of hardware. But the more power you have, the better your experience is. And while a 1GHz processor and 1GB RAM is okay for Windows 7, it won’t cut the mustard for Windows 10.

6. Should I Back Up Important Files on Windows 7?

A regular system backup should always be a part of your personal security routine. A back up is one of the easiest methods to recover your data from unexpected events like a system crash.

With regards to Windows 7, increasing your back up frequency is a great idea. After the Windows 7 end of life date, security updates will cease. Any vulnerabilities found after that date will remain unpatched. If your Windows 7 is vulnerable, your data is at risk. Backing up more frequently mitigates some of the risks, at least, partially.

Check out the easiest and safest ways to back up your files on Windows 7


6 Safest Ways to Backup & Restore Your Files in Windows 7 & 8




6 Safest Ways to Backup & Restore Your Files in Windows 7 & 8

By now, we’re sure you’ve read the advice over and over: Everyone needs to back up their files. But deciding to back up your files is only part of the process. There are so many…
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.

If you’re considering upgrading Windows 7 to Windows 10, back up your files before upgrading. The Windows 10 upgrade process takes care of your files. But you wouldn’t want anything untoward to happen!

Windows 7 End of Support Is Coming

The end of Windows 7 is firmly on the horizon. It is better to prepare now for Windows 7 end of life, rather than start scrambling when January 2020 arrives.

If you think it is time to jump ship, check out the best ways to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10


4 Best Ways to Upgrade From Windows 7 to 10 Before 2020




4 Best Ways to Upgrade From Windows 7 to 10 Before 2020

Windows 7’s end of life is fast approaching. Upgrade from Windows 7 to 10 before January 2020, we show you how.
Read More

before 2020 hits.



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Windows by the numbers: Windows 7 hits the accelerator as support cliff nears

“Friends, users, countrymen, lend me your ears.
I come to bury Windows 7, not to praise her.
The evil that software does lives after it;
The good is oft interred with its bones.
So let it be with Windows 7.”
– Windows 10

Orating the funeral of a venerable predecessor is what Windows 10 does these days. And it’s happy to do so.

According to data published Friday by analytics vendor Net Applications, Windows 10’s share of all personal computers jumped 1.9 percentage points – the fourth consecutive month with gains of a full point or more – to end October with 54.3%. Meanwhile, Windows 10’s portion of the user share of all Windows PCs rose to 62.7%, closing in on the major milestone of two-thirds.

(The percentage of Windows PCs is larger than the percentage of all personal computers because Windows does not power every desktop or notebook. In October, Windows ran 86.8% of the world’s systems. Of the remainder, all but a quarter of one percent ran macOS, Linux or Chrome OS, with Apple’s operating system the largest of the trio.)

As always in the zero-sum struggle for user share, Windows 10’s advance foretold Windows 7’s retreat. In October, Windows 7’s share dropped by 1.3 percentage points to 26.9% of all PCs and 31% of those powered by Windows of one flavor or another. Last month’s decline was the smallest in the last four months, but still represented a 25% increase over the average of the last 12.

There’s no question that Windows 7’s decline has accelerated. Over the last six months, Windows 7 has shed more than 9.5 percentage points, or three-fourths of all losses in the past year. The six-month number was a record for the 10-year-old operating system. And Windows 7 rang up losses of 4.9 points during the past three months, a slightly faster clip yet.

The pace was quicker than XP’s before its retirement. During the same six-month stretch prior to Windows XP’s support expiration in 2014, that OS dropped 8 percentage points, 1.5 fewer than did Windows 7. And in the three months that corresponded to Windows 7’s decline of nearly 5 points, XP lost just 2 points.

Microsoft will retire Windows 7 on Jan. 14, 2020, or in about 10 weeks. The Redmond, Wash. will deliver the final security updates to customers on that date, although businesses will be able to purchase post-termination patches through the Extended Security Updates (ESU) program.

Windows 7: Weaker but not dead yet

Although the last four months have rejiggered the Windows 7-to-10 landscape, the decade-old corporate veteran isn’t about to just lie down and die.

Yes, Computerworld‘s latest forecast – based on the 12-month average – has Windows 7 powering 26.2% of all Windows PCs on January 31, 2020, nearly two points lower than the prediction of only a month ago and 4.5 points under July’s prognostication. But even a year after its departure from public support, Windows 7 will still run an astounding number of personal computers.

In January 2021, Windows 7 should still account for 12% of all Windows operating systems, about one in every eight PCs and equivalent to approximately 180 million machines.

The stubborn remainder may be larger than that. When Windows XP fell off the support list, it accounted for about 29% of all Windows OSes. Two years later – April 2016 – XP had shrunk, of course, but still accounted for 11.9% of all Windows. If Windows 7 follows that line rather than the one now forecast – and remember, the current prediction is based on a very aggressive decline – it, too, would retain a double-digit share as late as 2022.

(Counter-intuitive it may be – one would think users would want to get off an outdated OS as quickly as possible – but historically, operating system declines have slowed after the retirement date has come and gone. The pressure of a deadline has disappeared and users, some of them anyway, may believe in for a penny, in for a pound, and keep running the unpatched software.)

Applying Net Applications’ numbers in crafting projections also brings clarity to another interesting element of the Windows 7-to-10 transition: Windows 10 will soon boast record user share numbers.

By December, according to the newest forecast, Windows 10 will account for 67.3% of all Windows OSes, a fraction that will be larger than Windows 7’s at its peak. In June 2015, the month before Windows 10 debuted, Windows 7 had a 67.1% share of all Windows.

Windows 10 may even exceed Windows XP’s command of the Windows ecosystem. In February 2007, at XP’s highest point in Net Applications’ measurements, the then-six-year-old OS powered 90.6% of all Windows PCs. (That astounding number was possible because XP’s successor – the flop Vista – was late in launching and XP’s forerunners, such as Windows 98 or Windows Me, had been retired or stunk, respectively.)

By the linear projection composed of Windows 10’s last 12 months of movement, the OS – the last Windows, Microsoft has said, with no replacement as they have been traditionally understood – should own 90.8% of the Windows share by March 2021.

Net Applications calculates operating system share by detecting the agent strings of the browsers people use to reach the websites of Net Applications’ clients. The firm tallies visitor sessions to measure browser activity.



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Microsoft starts nagging Windows 7 Pro users about end of support

Microsoft will soon begin nagging users running Windows 7 Professional to remind them that the operating system is soon to be shelved.

“We are now extending the notifications … to Windows 7 Pro[fessional] devices to ensure our customers are aware of the end of support for Windows 7 and can take action to remain productive and secure,” says an Oct. 15 update to a company blog post first published in March.

The original post confirmed that Microsoft would push notifications to Windows 7 systems in the months ahead – reprising a move it made in 2014 prior to Windows XP’s retirement – but at the time, the company said nothing about limiting the on-screen alerts to Windows 7 Home Premium.

Like those earlier nags, the ones showing up on Windows 7 Professional PCs should include a way to reject future notifications and a button that leads users to more information.

The April nag and this month’s nag for Windows 7 Professional were delivered to systems via the update identified as KB4493132. One way to eliminate the nag is to uninstall the update marked as that KB.

As late as July, the support document associated with KB4493132 claimed that the nag would “not install on devices running Professional and Enterprise editions of Windows 7 as well as Windows Server products” because the “update is not applicable for devices in managed organizations.”

The latest nag plan would seem to break that pledge.

However, the Oct. 15 revision to the March post exempts some Windows 7 Professional-powered PCs from the mandate. “Devices that are domain-joined as a part of an IT-managed infrastructure will not receive the notifications,” Microsoft promised.

Windows 7 – all versions, including Professional – will exit support on Jan. 14, 2020, or in a little less than three months. According to data from analytics vendor Net Applications, approximately 490 million personal computers were still running the 2009 operating system at the end of September.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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9 ways to use Windows 7 (safely) when support ends

On January 14, 2020, Microsoft will issue its final release of patches and fixes for Windows 7. After that, there will be no more technical assistance and software updates from the company, unless you have an Enterprise Agreement or Enterprise Agreement Subscription, and then it will cost you plenty.

Naturally, Microsoft strongly recommends that you move to Windows 10 sometime before January 2020 to avoid a situation where you need service or support that is no longer available. But some companies either cannot or perhaps don’t want to upgrade to Windows 10.

Why wouldn’t some people move? For many consumers, it’s a case of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. They have a system running just fine and they will ride it until the wheels come off.

For professionals, sometimes the decision isn’t so easy. Back when we went through the Windows XP end of life in 2014, one group that wasn’t migrating was medical professionals. I noticed everyone from doctors to dentists to optometrists to chiropractors were all staying with Windows XP, and they all cited the same reason: Their patient database software, which was highly vertical and specialized, could not be reinstalled on a Windows 7 machine.

They had to buy a new version to run on Windows 7, and the software was prohibitively expensive, running into five figures. So they kept their PC off the network, did manual backups to external drives, and ran those PCs until they died.

So what’s a company to do? Well, Windows 7 will continue to work, it’s not like Microsoft will send out a kill switch. Your PCs just won’t be protected like they should. There are ways to work around the end of life for Windows 7, some of which require extra work while others require extra diligence.

On January 14, 2020, Microsoft will issue its final release of patches and fixes for Windows 7. After that, there will be no more technical assistance and software updates from the company, unless you have an Enterprise Agreement or Enterprise Agreement Subscription, and then it will cost you plenty.

Naturally, Microsoft strongly recommends that you move to Windows 10 sometime before January 2020 to avoid a situation where you need service or support that is no longer available. But some companies either cannot or perhaps don’t want to upgrade to Windows 10.

Why wouldn’t some people move? For many consumers, it’s a case of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. They have a system running just fine and they will ride it until the wheels come off.

For professionals, sometimes the decision isn’t so easy. Back when we went through the Windows XP end of life in 2014, one group that wasn’t migrating was medical professionals. I noticed everyone from doctors to dentists to optometrists to chiropractors were all staying with Windows XP, and they all cited the same reason: Their patient database software, which was highly vertical and specialized, could not be reinstalled on a Windows 7 machine.

They had to buy a new version to run on Windows 7, and the software was prohibitively expensive, running into five figures. So they kept their PC off the network, did manual backups to external drives, and ran those PCs until they died.

So what’s a company to do? Well, Windows 7 will continue to work, it’s not like Microsoft will send out a kill switch. Your PCs just won’t be protected like they should. There are ways to work around the end of life for Windows 7, some of which require extra work while others require extra diligence.

1. Stop using Internet Explorer 11

Microsoft makes it clear in the Windows 7 end-of-life FAQ that IE is a component of Windows and thus follows the support lifecycle of the Windows operating system it’s installed on, meaning there will be no more fixes to IE 11.

Historically, Firefox and Chrome as well as laggards like Opera, Pale Moon, and Safari, hang on for at least a year when an OS sunsets, offering fixes for the old OS and the new. Microsoft ended support for Windows XP in April 2014 but Google supported it until 2016, while Firefox hung on until 2018. Since so many infections take place via browser exploits, stopping use of IE is a must.

2. Use a top-of-the-line antivirus

Yes, Microsoft has its own antimalware software, Windows Defender, but it is frequently a laggard in tests against other antivirus programs. The antivirus market has resisted the typical market consolidation that comes with a maturation cycle and there remains plenty to choose from. A number of publications, including our sister pub PCWorld, conduct annual tests and make recommendations. This year, PCWorld gave thumbs up to Norton, AVG, and Trend Micro.

The term “antivirus” is most often used to describe these software products but pretty much every decent product is a suite that covers all forms of malware, rootkits and ransomware as well as monitors your browser to block users from visiting known malicious sites and also scanning attachments that come in your email. Windows Defender doesn’t do email protection and has minimal browser protection, so you should be using a full suite antivirus already.

3. Use a VPN

If you have a remote/mobile workforce that frequently uses the public internet through Wi-Fi hotspots they should already be using a VPN, and if they are not, shame on you. Like antivirus programs, VPNs are available as services, with monthly fees, usually metered.

A VPN is a secure connection between your computer and a server, but there is an ISP in between the two. It could be your corporate network or an airport lounge or Starbucks. When you use a VPN, you connect to a server run by the VPN provider, which directs your traffic instead and blocks anyone from electronically snooping.

Because Windows 7 will be at greater risk for compromise, a VPN will be necessary to encrypt and protect all incoming and outgoing traffic.

4. Use a NAS and cloud storage

You want to keep your system properly backed up even if using Windows 10, but a riskier situation calls for greater coverage. Basically, you want a cloud backup for continuous sync and a network attached storage (NAS) device for regularly scheduled backup.

Cloud backup services like OneDrive, Carbonite, MEGA, SugarSync and many more offer constant backup. Click save on a Word or Excel file and automatically in the background your file goes up to the cloud. That’s good for immediate work being generated throughout the day.

The problem with cloud backup services is that they sometimes save only the last version. You may want to roll back to an earlier version of the file. Some of the cloud backups do cover multiple versions of one file; check with each provider when you are shopping around.

That’s where NAS comes in. A NAS can take a snapshot daily or weekly and, if necessary, roll back files to the previous backup. This is especially handy if you have a large amount of data. Cloud backup services are generous but a NAS means terabytes of backup in your own home or office.

So, use cloud backup for incremental and continuous backup and a NAS for larger snapshots stored locally to cover all the bases. And like antivirus protection, this is something you should already be doing.

5. Don’t update apps (with exceptions)

If your environment is stable, then the last thing you want to do is introduce unpredictable changes. You want to update your antivirus, obviously, and your browser. But other updates might break the system. They might rely on Windows 10-only versions of libraries or other components. You want older machines to change as little as possible, especially if they are offline machines.

6. Lock out the installer

Shadow IT remains a constant problem, with people installing their own software like cloud backup, a preferred browser, Spotify, what have you. You can lock down the PC by disabling the installer.

Go to your Start Menu and type in gpedit.msc. This brings up something called the Local Group Policy Editor, unique to Windows 7. Now go to Computer Configurations > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Installer. Scroll down until you find “Turn off Windows Installer.” This will prevent users from installing software on the computer. Double click it and chose Enabled in the pop-up box.

The second option is a Registry edit. In the Run box, type regedit to bring up the Registry Editor. Click down the tree of options to:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareClassesMsi.PackageDefaultIcon

In the right-hand window, you’ll see the path to the Windows Installer, with a zero on the end. That means it is turned on. Click on that line, and in the box that now pops up, change that 0 to a 1. Now it is disabled. Save and close.

Of course, this will also block your antivirus and browser from updating as well, so this solution is for a total system lockdown.

7. Use virtual desktops

Virtual desktops allow users to connect into separate workspaces with a different OS. Windows 10 is the first Microsoft operating system to offer this feature natively, but there are third-party options for Windows 7. They include Microsoft Desktops, DexPot and VirtuaWin, all free programs that bring multiple desktops to Windows 7.

8. Disconnect from the network

It seems an obvious choice in some cases, such as the medical professionals mentioned above. If you are in a situation where the Windows 7 PC does not need network access, then pull the plug if you have not done so already.

9. Consider extended support

Free updates are ending but you can still pay for them through the Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) for businesses of all sizes, starting on December 1, 2019 and running until January 2023. ESU pricing for Windows Pro users starts at from $50 per device in the first year to $200 per device in the third year. For Windows Enterprise users, the pricing goes from $25 per device for the first year to $100 per device by the third year.

In the end, securing your Windows 7 machines past January 2020 comes down to your behavior and you are responsible for your own safety. You have to be more careful about what you do and can’t assume there’s a net to catch you.



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Windows 10 Is Getting Built-In Support for Network Cameras

The Camera app's splash screen logo on Windows 10.

Network cameras have existed since before the Wyze Cam and Nest Cam. They send their data over your local network rather than relying on a cloud service. Now, Insider builds of Windows 10 20H1 have built-in support for these cameras.

These are also known as IP-based cameras, as they send video data over your local area network (LAN) using the Internet Protocol (IP.) Traditionally, you had to use a third-party software package or access a web server running on the camera to access these cameras. Now, get ready for built-in support.

One catch: For now, at least, Windows 10 only supports network cameras that are compliant with ONVIF Profile S. As Microsoft’s Varsha Parthasarathy puts it in a Microsoft blog post announcing the feature, these “are standards-compliant network cameras optimized for real-time streaming video capture.”

If you have a camera that works with Windows 10, you’ll be able to go to Settings > Devices > Bluetooth & other devices > Add Bluetooth or other device. Windows will automatically scan your local network for supported network cameras. Click it to add it to your system.

Once the camera is added, you can use the built-in Camera app on Windows to capture photos, stream live video, or record videos. It will be available to other camera apps on Windows, too.

This feature is only available in Windows 10 Insider build 18995 or newer. This is a 20H1 build, so this feature will likely debut for everyone in Windows 10’s 20H1 update. Microsoft will likely release a stable version of 20H1 around April 2020.

RELATED: What’s New in Windows 10’s 20H1 Update, Arriving Spring 2020

 






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Windows 10’s Phone Calls Will Support All Android 7+ Phones

Placing a phone call from a Windows 10 PC using an Android phone.
Microsoft

Microsoft announced Calls on stage at a Samsung event in August, but this feature is coming for all phones with Android 7 or newer. Part of the Your Phone app, “Calling” is now rolling out to Windows Insiders.

If you have an Android phone, the Calls feature will let you answer phone calls on your PC, initiate phone calls from your PC, access your call history in the Your Phone app, and seamlessly transfer calls between your PC and Android phone while on a call. You can even decline a call from your PC and send a custom text message in response or just send it to voicemail.

All you’ll need is an Android phone running Android 7.0 or newer and a Windows 10 PC with a Bluetooth radio—no specific Bluetooth version number or hardware features necessary, unlike with phone-to-PC screen mirroring.

Eventually, Microsoft says this feature will just work as long as you’re using Windows 10 19H1 (that’s the current stable May 2019 Update) with an operating system build number of 18362.356 or newer. For now, it’s being rolled out to Windows Insiders using the development builds of Windows 10’s 19H2 update, which will likely become stable sometime in October.

This feature was announced in a blog post about build 18999 for Windows 10’s upcoming 20H1 update, expected for release around April 2020.

RELATED: Why Android Users Need Windows 10’s “Your Phone” App






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Intel ships Stratix 10 DX FPGAs with PCIe 4 and Optane support, partners with VMWare

Continuing its evolution in the intelligent, adaptable data center market, Intel just announced its latest series of Stratix 10 FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays), which incorporate a number of new features and capabilities, have begun shipping in limited quantities to key partners. Intel’s new Stratix 10 DX series of FPGAs bring with them support for the company’s UPI, or Ultra Path Interconnect, in addition to PCI Express 4.0 and Optane DC Persistent memory technology.

As data center workloads become more diverse and complex, the use of flexible, programmable FPGA-based accelerators to complement traditional CPUs, GPUs, and ASICs is becoming increasingly more common. Due to the fact that FPGAs can be programmed and tuned on-the-fly for specific algorithms and workloads that may not be well-suited to CPUs or GPUs, their use in burgeoning fields like machine learning and big data analytics is exploding. In addition to accelerating specific workloads, because FPGAs help offload tasks from other compute engines in a system, they also free those engines to perform other operations, and ultimately increase efficiency and compute density.

New high-speed interconnects key to optimizing performance

“Intel Stratix 10 DX FPGAs are the first FPGAs designed to combine key features that dramatically boost acceleration of workloads in the cloud and enterprise when used with Intel’s portfolio of data center solutions,” said David Moore, Intel vice president and general manager, FPGA and Power Products, Network and Custom Logic Group. “No other FPGA currently offers this combination of features for server designs based on future select Intel Xeon Scalable processors.”

An FPGA’s ultimate performance is significantly impacted by the interface bandwidth and latency between it and its host server’s (or servers’) processors, memory, or other integrated accelerators. By incorporating UPI support into the Stratix 10 DX, Intel claims they’ll be able to communicate with up to 37% lower latency (within a future, Intel-based server architecture), with improved overall system performance, thanks to an increased theoretical peak transfer rate of 28GB/second and coherent data movement.

Support for PCI Express 4.0 also doubles the peak interface bandwidth over PCI Express 3.0, which is much more common today. In fact, in data centers where FPGA-based accelerators are most likely to be used, it’s only AMD’s recently-released EPYC 7000 series processors that support PCIe 4 at this point in time. Intel’s current-generation Xeon platform does not support it. A PCI Express Gen4 x16 interface delivers theoretical peak data bandwidth of 32GB/s, whereas a similar PCI Express 3.0 link tops out at 16GB/s.

Support for innovative new memory technologies

Another feature arriving with the Stratix 10 DX family is support for Optane DC Persistent memory. If you’re unfamiliar with the technology, Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory leverages the company’s 3D XPoint non-volatile memory media. 3D XPoint is a relatively new memory type that not only offers significantly better throughput than NAND flash memory, but speedier DRAM-like access times. 3D XPoint also offers higher endurance than traditional NAND flash memory but can scale to similarly high densities. When Intel jointly announced 3D XPoint in partnership with Micron a few years ago, the companies claimed that, at the chip level, it was 1000x faster than NAND, with 1000x the endurance, and 10x the density potential of DRAM.

Thanks to a newly designed memory controller, Intel Stratix 10 DX FPGAs can support up to eight Intel Optane DC persistent memory modules per FPGA, for up to 4TB of non-volatile memory. Being able to keep that much data so close to the accelerator could have major performance implications for big data workloads, which are often limited by bandwidth and latency, as servers shuffle chunks of massive datasets to and from main system memory.  Note, however, that support for Optane DC Persistent memory with coherent memory expansion and hardware acceleration is reserved for some upcoming Intel Xeon Scalable processors. Support isn’t enabled in existing Xeon platforms.

Other features of the Intel Stratix 10 series of FPGAs include 100 GB/second Ethernet connectivity, HBM2 memory stacks and quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor subsystems with peripherals.

Although CXL, or the Compute eXpress Link, open interface standard Intel spearheaded is slated to arrive in 2021, the company believes that adding coherent memory and UPI support, along with Optane DC Persistent memory with its Stratix 10 DX FPGAs and next-generation Xeon platform, will help accelerate adoption of workloads that take advantage of coherent cache and memory access across different processors and accelerators, in advance of CXL’s arrival.

As part of a joint press release, Intel and VMWare have also announced a collaboration to develop coherent FPGA and CPU accelerated solutions for cloud and on-premises customer applications.  Intel is sampling Stratix 10 FPGAs to its key customers now, though volume production has yet to be disclosed.

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Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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