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Column: Windows 7 ‘end of life’ options

Q: What are my options when Microsoft discontinues support for Windows 7?

A: Windows 7, which was released in 2009 — when the internet was a very different place — will no longer be supported for free starting Jan. 15.

For most people, the best course of action is to migrate to Windows 10, which will provide you with ongoing security updates.

Extended security updates option

If you’re one of the millions running either Windows 7 Pro or Enterprise, Microsoft is offering an Extended Security Updates program, which you can pay for on an annual basis.

If you have specialized software or devices running on Windows 7 Pro, you can purchase the extended support through January 2023.

Microsoft’s previous operating system extended support options were very expensive, but this one is a lot more affordable and is priced on a per-device basis.

The first year will cost $50 per device; the second year, $100; and the third, $200. This is simply being offered as an extended transition period for those with special situations. These fees don’t make much sense for consumers; it’s designed to give businesses three more years to figure out how to transition away from old hardware and software.

If you plan on exercising this option, you must do it from the beginning, as you won’t be given the option to buy in years 2 and 3 if you didn’t join the program from the start.

Upgrade or replace

You probably remember hearing that Microsoft was offering free upgrades to Windows 10, but that ended in 2016.

If your computer is fairly new and can meet these requirements, you can buy Windows 10 for $139.

If you go this route, you’ll have to decide whether to do an in-place upgrade or wipe everything off and install it from scratch. The second option, often referred to as a “clean install,” is generally the preferred method, because it will ensure the highest performance once the install is completed.

Clean installs, however, are more work — you not only will need to backup all of your critical data, but also will need to make sure you have all the downloads or program disks to reinstall your programs.

If you choose to purchase a new computer with Windows 10 preloaded, you’ll have the luxury of keeping your old system running until you get the Windows 10 system working the way you want it. This approach is the best option if your computer is older or has been experiencing problems.

Don’t wait until the last minute

No matter your situation, I’d highly recommend that you begin formulating your transition plan well in advance of the “end of life” date next January.

One of the biggest reasons so many people have avoided upgrading to Windows 10 is because they don’t like the “new” Windows look and feel. If that’s your reason, you can actually do quite a bit to make Windows 10 look and act like Windows 7.

The unplugged option

If you want to continue to use Windows 7 but not pay Microsoft for extended support, you can safely do so as long as you disconnect the system from the internet.

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

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