January 14, 2020: Windows 7 has hit end of life, but it will live on

Windows Virtual Desktop is the most interesting way for those of us in the desktop virtualization space, but Microsoft has also made Extended Security Updates more accessible following Windows 7 end of life.

You probably don’t need the reminder, but Windows 7 hits end of life today, along with Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2. I’m sure there are parties, cakes (we did that at an event once), or mock funerals happening all around the world.

I saw at least one article calling this the end of the PC era—but that’s debatable, and we should have gotten over the “death of Windows” thing a long time ago. Another article suggested this marks a good reason to switch to Linux—good luck with that one.

I’ll talk about what the end of Windows 7 means for Windows 10 and modern management tomorrow. For now, how are we doing?

Statcounter.com shows Windows 7 at still almost 27% of Windows desktops. Looking Google Analytics for BrianMadden.com for the last week, Windows 7 represented just north of 9% of all visits from Windows devices. (Windows devices still form the slight majority of visits to our site, if you were curious.)

The last time this all happened, when Windows XP hit end of life on April 8, 2014, Gabe Knuth wrote about how April 9 would be the red letter day. The theory was that hackers would sit on vulnerabilities until then, knowing their targets would be more vulnerable.

This time around, there’s been less of a feeling of doom and gloom about January 15, 2020. Sure, there has been plenty of hard work to do, but something makes it feel not as bad. Maybe it’s because application compatibility is easier. (Or maybe it’s because I’ve been blogging more than twice as long!)

But really, as Windows 7 hits end of life, it’s impossible to miss how many options there are for delaying the migration.

As we know, extended Windows 7 support is one of the main features of using Windows Virtual Desktop, and just about all of the enterprise already has the licensing rights to use this. If your use case works for DaaS/VDI, then Windows Virtual Desktop is your answer. Even Microsoft’s FAQs point to WVD.

For Windows 7 machines that can’t be virtualized—for example, in scientific and industrial use cases—Microsoft is offering Extended Security Updates (ESUs). What’s notable is that Microsoft has made a good effort to make these easily accessible. They offered a promotion for a free year of ESUs (January 14 is the last day, though), and made them available to small businesses via partners.

ESUs are reportedly $25, $50, and $100 per machine for the first, second, and third years of updates for Windows 7 Enterprise, and twice as much for Windows 7 Pro and Ultimate. This is significantly cheaper than the $200, $400, and $1,000 we heard about for Windows XP.

Just last week, Google announced that Chrome would be supported on Windows 7 until at least July 15, 2021.

If all of these options fall through, there’s always the tactic of keeping machines isolated and using something like Faronics Deep Freeze—pretty much what we talked about last time.

Also, remember that Microsoft released a few free security patches for XP long after EOL, including after WannaCry in 2017 and in response to an RDP vulnerability just last May. With that precedent set, we can also cross our fingers and hope that Microsoft will help with similar extreme Windows 7 vulnerabilities down the road.

For those of you who will still be supporting Windows 7 tomorrow, what route are you taking? Windows Virtual Desktop has only been GA a few months, so that’s a pretty quick ramp up. If you’re doing WVD or ESUs, how long do you expect to be doing so?

We have just under three years until we’ll have to worry about this for Windows 8.1, which goes EOL on January 10, 2023. I’m assuming this will pretty much be a non-event, though.

Lastly, here’s the cake we had for one of our TechTarget VDI events that happened to call on April 8, 2014. If you’re doing anything fun today, tweet it our way!

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