If You Stick with Windows 7

The end-of-support date for Windows 7 (1/14/2020) has passed and you have decided to not upgrade to Windows 10. How can you best protect yourself while still running Windows 7? PC World magazine has a good article about this. It's clearly written and understandable. Go to the PC World article about staying safe under Windows 7. The three most important takeaways are:

Upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10

Last updated: 2020-01-29 08:15

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
1.1. What Will Happen on January 14?
1.2. If You Decide to Upgrade to Windows 10
1.3. Can You Still Upgrade to Windows 10 for Free?
1.4. Minimum System Requirements for Windows 10
2. Preparing to Upgrade to Windows 10
2.1. Cleaning Up Your Hard Drive
2.2. Making the Backup
2.3. Final Preparation
3. Upgrading from Windows 7 (or 8)
A. Appendix A - Upgrading from Windows XP or Vista

1. Introduction

Microsoft has begun reminding users of Windows 7 that support for that version will end on January 14, 2020. What will that mean to you as a Windows 7 user?

1.1. What Will Happen on January 14?

  • Your computer will continue to work just as it has since you bought it or installed Windows 7 on it. However, Microsoft will no longer update Windows 7 if it finds a flaw in the operating system that could make you vulnerable to attack from the Internet.

  • Microsoft will no longer work to improve Windows 7. This is not particularly significant as Microsoft has not made many improvements in the past six years.

  • Because there are still a lot of computers out there running Windows 7, we can expect hackers, knowing that Microsoft will not be fixing flaws, will write new viruses and other malware to attack Windows 7 specifically. One piece of good news: if you currently use Microsoft Security Essentials as your anti-malware software, its virus signature database will continue to be updated.

  • You will not be able to get any free support from Microsoft.

1.2. If You Decide to Upgrade to Windows 10

We have tried to make this a complete guide [1] for a successful upgrade. However, you should know that there are numerous things that can derail it. These things include an incompatible driver, an unauthorized version of Windows 7, computer hardware that will not operate with Windows 10, and more.

Some of these things have a low probability of making your computer unbootable, i.e., it will not start Windows 7 or 10. That is why we emphasize making a USB flash drive from which you can boot your computer and an image backup of your hard drive so that you may easily restore your Windows 7 installation.

We will try to guide you through a process to complete a free upgrade from Windows 7. This works in almost all cases. But occasionally it does not. In fact, there are a few older computers that will not upgrade period, even when the experts say they should. Your alternatives then are to stick with Windows 7 or buy a new computer.

We have also included Appendix A - Upgrading from Windows XP or Vista, but there is not a free upgrade path from those. You will have to buy a copy of Windows 10.

1.3. Can You Still Upgrade to Windows 10 for Free?

When Windows 10 first came out in 2015, Microsoft offered a free upgrade for anyone running a genuine licensed copy of Windows 7 or 8. The free upgrade was supposed to last one year. However, users' experience has been that you can still download Windows 10 and install it successfully using the product key from Windows 7 or 8. We tell you how to find your product key below if you do not have it. So the answer to the question in the title is almost certainly yes.

By the way, if you look on Microsoft's web site today, it will tell you that you cannot upgrade for free.

1.4. Minimum System Requirements for Windows 10

If your computer is running Windows 7 it will likely run Windows 10. We have successfully upgraded computers that are 12 years old. On the other hand, we have had upgrades fail on computers that were just 5 years old. These failures are isolated cases: 99% of computers running Windows 7 will successfully upgrade to Windows 10.

Below are the minimum system requirements as specified by Microsoft, with some comments from us:

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster.
  • RAM (random access memory--your computer's installed memory): 1 gigabyte (GB) for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit. Better to have 4 GB minimum for everything.
  • Hard drive space: 32 GB or larger. This is free space on your existing hard drive.
  • Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 driver. If your computer is running Windows 7 or 8, it meets this spec.
  • Display: 800x600 screen resolution. Ditto.
  • Internet Connection: Internet connectivity is necessary to activate, perform updates, and to download and take advantage of some features. This can be wi-fi (wireless), but everything will go faster if you use an Ethernet cable to connect your computer to your router.

The place to find this information is in the Control Panel. Click the Start menu icon (the Windows logo at the left end of the task bar), right click Computer, and then click Properties. See Figure 1.

Figure 1. Windows 7 System Information

While you are at this screen, also make a note as to whether your system is 32-bit or 64-bit as you may need this information later.

When you sign in to Windows 10 after you upgrade, you should have a Microsoft Account. If you do not have one, go to https://signup.live.com. If you do not want to continue with a Microsoft Account after you complete the installation of Windows 10, it is easy to change to a local account using the Settings app in Windows 10.

[1] If you want a printed copy of this document, download this PDF version. You will need a PDF reader such as Adobe Reader to open and print the file.