Photo: Shutterstock/Friemann

Almost 10 years ago I initially wrote about Microsoft’s introduction of Windows 7 and how advisors should consider this “new” operating system for their firm. As a quick reminder, the predecessor operating system Windows Vista was not very successful and many firms were waiting for a good reason to upgrade from Windows XP. A lot has changed over the years and now we are just months away from the end of support for Windows 7. Specifically, Jan. 14, 2020.

To be clear, end of support does not mean any computer running Windows 7 will no longer operate; It will continue to work. However, it will not be supported by Microsoft, which means that it will no longer receive new software or security updates.

This is a big deal. Remember the WannaCry ransomware virus from several years ago? This attack primarily targeted Windows operating systems that were not updated to the recent version, which was mostly devices that were running the no-longer-supported Windows XP operating system.

Chances are you have some computers that are running the Windows 7 operating system, especially given its widely successful adoption and stability, as well as the length of time advisors tend to hold on to devices. In fact, it wasn’t until last year that Windows 10 surpassed Windows 7 in market share, based on data from Net Applications.

Mind the Gap

Bottom line: In today’s technology environment, you don’t want to have any “gaps” in your technology. This is especially critical when it comes to security and support for your operating systems and your firm’s overall network.

Microsoft has an “end of life” website to help customers understand the options for replacing Windows 7. Simply search “Windows 7 end of life,” and the website will be one of the first results. Your internal and/or external IT support should know it well. Other “retail” type support items are available on it as well.

Windows 10 is the current version of Microsoft’s operating system. The easiest way to upgrade to Windows 10 is to simply purchase a new device running the operating system and essentially “retire” the old Windows 7 computer. This is what Microsoft clearly recommends on its website. This might not be the most cost-effective approach in terms of actual dollars spent, but it is likely the best approach when you factor in all variables (effort, time, etc.). Also, if you donate or recycle the old computer, remember to remove all the information on the device.

You also could purchase Windows 10 by itself and upgrade the current device running Windows 7. Costs for the Windows 10 Home edition is approximately $140 and the Windows 10 Pro edition is around $200. This seems like an easy solution, but it comes with a warning: Be sure to review the system requirements for Windows 10 to ensure your device meets the minimum standards.

And if you go this route, recognize that Windows 10 likely will operate slower on the same device versus your experience with Windows 7. Finally, expect the upgrade process to take a couple hours, and always remember to back-up all important files prior to starting the work.

You also need to remember that some employees that access company resources use their own devices as well. Find out if any of these devices have Windows 7 as their operating system as you don’t want to go through the effort of upgrading all of your firm’s operating systems only to discover that an employee-owned device still is running Windows 7.

Perhaps some changes are needed as it relates to the use of employee-owned devices. Or at a minimum, schedule an employee training session to make sure that everyone understands the importance of keeping personal devices up to date from a version and security perspective.

Goodbye Windows 7. You were a solid performer. Now you can retire.

Dan Skiles is the president of Shareholders Service Group in San Diego. He can be reached at dskiles@ssginstitutional.com.