Microsoft ended free support for Windows 7 today, though it will continue to provide extended (ie paid) support and software updates through 2020. For most people the end of free tech support won’t drive them to change operating systems, any sooner than they had planned (there are plenty of other free resources online), but the news does reinforce just how unpopular Windows 8 has been.
Windows 7 runs about half the world’s PCs
Released in 2009, Windows 7 is still the most popular OS in the world according to Net Applications, powering about half the world’s PCs. By comparison, when Microsoft ended all support for Windows XP earlier this year it still had a bigger market share than Windows 8, the redesign that was supposed to bring Microsoft’s mobile and desktop OS together but ended up turning off a lot of users. Windows 8.1 was quickly released as a free upgrade to make the new OS more similar to previous iterations, and now Microsoft is skipping Windows 9 and jumping straight to Windows 10 to try to set things right.
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Windows 10 technical preview already available
We’re supposed to find out more about Windows 10 on January 21, but because of Microsoft’s approach to its latest OS there’s already a lot of information out there. They’ve made the technical preview open to anyone who cares to join (with no promise of stability, so beta tester beware). Windows 10 will bring back the Start menu and allow users to run apps in separate windows instead of always having to switch to full screen. If you want to see for yourself you can join the Windows Insider program, and try out the new OS without getting rid of your current one (details at the Windows Insider website).
What to do if you’re still using Windows 7
If you’ve avoided switching to Windows 8 until now, there’s no reason to change now. You should at least wait until January 21 to find out if it’s feasible for you to skip Windows 8 (and Windows 8.1) entirely. Even if you have to buy new PCs before Windows 10 becomes available, which would mean getting Windows 8/8.1 pre-installed, it’s not out of the question that Microsoft makes Windows 10 a free upgrade like they did with 8.1, something to watch out for in the announcement later this month.