If there were ever a competition held for “Most Popular Version of Windows,” I suspect there’d be two candidates fighting it out for the top trophy: Windows 7 and Windows XP. If I had to bet on which of the two would win, I’d give the nod to Windows 7. While a lot of people liked XP, particularly compared with Vista, Windows 7 was seen by a lot of folks as a genuine upgrade over XP for a host of reasons, including DirectX 11 support, jump lists, better security, a new taskbar with pinnable applications, and better multi-core CPU support.
All good things come to an end, however, and on January 14, 2020, Windows 7 will reach its own. After this date, Microsoft will no longer provide security updates for Windows 7. While it’s possible that the company will make a bare handful of limited exceptions to this policy, as it has for Windows XP, it will no longer be providing regular updates in any form. The OS won’t stop working, but it will stop getting patches. That probably won’t matter much on February 1, but it could matter quite a bit within a year or two. Folks still using Windows 7 today have a few different options:
Install Windows 10: While Microsoft’s free upgrade program technically ended in July 2016, the company never actually bothered to end it. You can still upgrade a Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 system to Windows 10 for free. Use Microsoft’s Media Installation Tool and choose to upgrade your existing OS installation.
Install Windows 8.1: If you hate Windows 10 but want to stay in the MS ecosystem, you could find a copy of Windows 8.1 and upgrade to that instead. There’s no free path to doing so, unless you’re actually running Windows 8.0 and reading this story for fun, but Windows 8.1 will be supported until January 10, 2023. Downsides of this approach include being stuck on Windows 8, no DX12 support, and having to find a new OS solution within three years.
Install Windows 10 and Run Windows 7 in a VM: This is one of those things that’s technically possible but I doubt anyone actually does. You have the option of using a VM client on Windows 10 to load a virtual machine with Windows 7 inside of it. VM performance typically lags behind native desktop and GPU acceleration options may be limited depending on the VM solution you use, but you could run Windows 7 this way.
Install Linux: I’ll be pecked to death by angry penguinistas if I don’t mention this as a valid option. There are a wide variety of Linux distros, but some of the most popular are Linux Mint, Debian, and Ubuntu. Manjaro, based on Arch Linux, is another reasonably popular variant.
Go Apple: If you hate Windows 10 and don’t want to use Linux, you’ve got the option to go Apple. The advantage to going Apple is that the company is genuinely good at cross-product compatibility. The disadvantage to going Apple is the price and, to a certain extent, the quality as of late. Apple may have switched out the keyboard on the new 16-inch MacBook, but its other systems are still using the third iteration of a fundamentally flawed design.
Go Back to Windows For Workgroups 3.11: It’s like WOPR always said: The only way to win is not to play. In this case, you’re refusing to play by rejecting any semblance of modern computing and returning to an operating system so ancient, you’d have to hunt up malware for it in old Usenet posts. You’re a rebel. You don’t need things like 64-bit support or a modern GPU. You remember when 640×480 was enough for everybody!
Why Windows for Workgroups 3.11? Because — astonishingly — this is actually possible with relatively modern hardware. Back in 2016, Yeo Kheng Meng installed Windows 3.11 on a 2009 IBM Thinkpad with an Intel T9400 (Core 2 Duo, 2.53GHz, dual-core). Granted, he also built his own sound card to have Windows 3.11 audio, so it’s possible he’s got a bit more passion for this kind of project than you do. This is actually a terrible idea. Don’t try to compute this way. You will not like it.
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