Windows 7 was a much-needed breath of fresh air when it launched in 2009. Ten years later, it’s a millstone around Microsoft’s neck. The company officially ended update support for Windows 7 last year, but millions of PCs are still running this software of yesteryear. According to long-time Microsoft reporter Ed Bott, that number is probably north of 100 million a year after the end of support.
Microsoft doesn’t provide precise usage numbers for old versions of Windows, but Bott pulled data from US government digital analytics and commercial services like StatCounter to arrive at a rough estimate of 200 million in January 2020. A year later, that same method shows about half that many Windows 7 users. That’s good, but not that good — we’re still talking about 100 million PCs running software that is now more than a decade old and doesn’t receive security patches.
Bott notes that visitors to government websites were 18.9 percent Windows 7 as of last year when the OS got its final patch. Now, that number has dropped to 8.5 percent. The numbers from commercial services show similar 10-point drops. According to NetMarketShare, Windows 7 usage went from 31.2 to 21.7 percent, and NetmarketShare dropped to 10 points to finish at 17.7 percent.
While Microsoft has seen plenty of progress shedding Windows 7 installations, the rate of decline will probably slow. The warnings over the past years have probably encouraged average users to replace or upgrade their computers, but the remaining Windows 7 user base will be more stubborn. We’re talking about computers that are sitting in closets or enterprise setups. Businesses might not consider it feasible to update Win7 boxes until the hardware breaks down or the system they’re a part of is replaced.
So, suffice it to say that Windows 7 will be with us for a long time. While Microsoft is no longer releasing regular patches for Windows 7, the number of people still using it could force the company to revisit its aging OS from time to time. After all, even Windows XP has gotten a few critical patches in the years since Microsoft ended support.
Some of those 100 million PCs are probably still protected via Microsoft’s custom support program. Companies and governments that pay for that could continue using Windows 7 through 2023, but Microsoft considers this a “last resort option.” It’s also much more expensive than a new Windows 10 license.
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