Microsoft will stop supporting Windows 7 beginning Tuesday, Jan. 14. That means it won't issue any more software updates, including software patches that could prevent cyberattacks, to millions of computers.
"While you could continue to use your PC running Windows 7, without continued software and security updates, it will be at greater risk for viruses and malware," Microsoft says on its website. "In addition, Microsoft customer service will no longer be available to provide Windows 7 technical support."
Microsoft says people running Windows 7 should do one of two things. People with computers newer than three years old can pay to upgrade to Windows 10 if they haven't done so already. It starts at $139 per computer. Microsoft initially offered a free upgrade until July 29, 2016. But, if you have a computer that's more than three years old, Microsoft suggests buying a new computer that runs Windows 10.
Newer Windows 10 computers have improved processors and other hardware that help the computer run faster. Sometimes upgrading an older computer to new software can result in slowness, or a lack of support for new features. Windows 10 has new security options, such as facial recognition or fingerprint recognition to log in, that require new hardware, for example.
This isn't a surprise. Microsoft ended so-called "mainstream support" for Windows 7 in 2015, giving people who run the operating system, including doctor's offices, banks and other institutions that hold sensitive customer information, security updates until now. Mainstream support includes help with warranties and other incidents, and "the ability to request non-security updates," according to Microsoft.