Column: Ignoring that OS (or software) update is risky

Q: Is it safe to continue using Windows Vista?

A: Operating systems aren’t something that most users think about, but the reality is you engage with your operating system every time you use your computer.

This essential interface becomes very familiar, and changing to a new one often evokes a visceral response, which is why we see so many people clutching to their old familiar versions of Windows.

Microsoft realized how much of a deterrent this was for millions of its users each time they released a new version of Windows, so they made a change.

The last version of Windows

With the release of Windows 10, Microsoft proclaimed that it would be the last version of Windows ever.

It’s not that they’re going to abandon the Windows platform; they just plan to deliver Windows “as a service” much like how we get updates to our browsers.

Windows is no longer the primary “cash cow” for Microsoft. So for now, once you’ve installed Windows 10, the updates will be free for as long as you’re using the same computer.

In this model, changes will occur incrementally, so users don’t have to contend with deciding whether to switch to a new unfamiliar interface.

Vista end-of-life

Microsoft actually stopped mainstream support for Windows Vista on April 10, 2012, but continued what they called “extended support” until April 11, 2017.

When they ended mainstream support, they were simply saying that they would no longer be creating any enhancements or new features.

Extended support continued to provide the all-important security updates, which has now ended.

Risks of continuing with Vista

If the internet weren’t such a prominent component in daily computing, continuing to use Vista would be a lot less risky.

In fact, if you have a computer that has no way to connect to the internet, there’s no reason you can’t continue to use Vista.

Hackers know all the backdoors and security holes in every piece of software ever created. From this point on, when a security hole is discovered in Windows Vista (and now there’s more incentive for hackers to find them), Microsoft will not be developing a fix or patch for the hole.

If you’re a small business, not only are there major security concerns, depending upon your line of work, but also there may be compliance risks and major incompatibility issues with newer programs.

Windows Vista was originally released in January 2007, when the internet was a very different place.

The safeguards built into Windows 10 are exponentially better at defending your computer against today’s threats, so as painful as it may be, upgrading isn’t a question of “if” but a question of “when.”

It’s not just Windows

Security risks exist in virtually every program you use, so using really old versions of any software puts you at a higher risk of being exploited.

Popular programs such as Microsoft Office are a constant target of thieves and hackers, because they know most people don’t think about updating them nearly as much as they do their operating system.

So it’s important to update or remove old programs if you’re no longer using them.

Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question on Facebook or Twitter.

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