Best Ways to Upgrade From Windows 7 to 10 Before 2020
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While it’s easy to think of Windows 7 as a modern operating system, it actually launched all the way back in 2009. After just over 10 years of support, Microsoft will no longer support Windows 7 after January 14, 2020.

That date will be here sooner than you know it. If you still use Windows 7, here’s what you should know about its end of life and your options for upgrading.

Windows End of Life Explained

Every Windows product has two important expiry dates:

  • End of mainstream support.
  • End of extended support.

When a Windows version leaves mainstream support, Microsoft no longer adds new features for it, and warranty claims end. This typically lasts for five years after a product’s release.

For the next five years, the Windows product is in extended support. During this time, Microsoft continues to provide bug fixes and security patches but doesn’t actively develop the OS with new goodies.

With Windows 7, Microsoft is actually offering a compromise. Businesses who want to stick with Windows 7 Professional or Enterprise can pay Microsoft for extended support until 2023 thanks to the Extended Security Updates program.

But this isn’t cheap: for Windows 7 Pro machines, it will cost up to $350 for all three years of support. This is much more expensive than a Windows 10 license for a home user, and is only for companies who can’t upgrade yet for whatever reason.

If you’re curious, you can find dates for other products on the Microsoft Lifecycle Policy page.

What Will Happen to Windows 7 After 2020?

Windows 7 Desktop

Windows 7 won’t suddenly break down or stop working after January 2020. The most important change is that Windows 7 systems won’t receive any more security patches. Over time, this will lead to Windows 7 becoming an insecure OS full of known security holes that Microsoft won’t fix.

Another important consequence to keep in mind is that eventually, major software will stop supporting Windows 7. We’ve seen this with Windows XP; mainstream apps like Dropbox, Spotify, and Microsoft Office don’t work on Windows XP anymore. And you can’t install any modern browsers on Windows XP Which Browser Is Most Secure on Your Old Windows XP System? Which Browser Is Most Secure on Your Old Windows XP System? What is the most secure browser for Windows XP? We look at Firefox, Chrome, Opera and more to see if they are the best browsr for Windows XP. Read More either.

After some time, these same apps will decide that Windows 7 is not worth supporting anymore. This also goes for hardware. We’ve already seen some modern CPUs fail to work with Windows 7, and this will only get worse as the platform ages further.

How to Disable the Windows 7 Nag Screen

Windows 7 End of Life Message

After installing a particular Windows update, Windows 7 users will see a dialog box every so often. This reminds you that Windows 7’s time is limited and prompts you to upgrade (which we’ll talk about in a moment).

Thankfully, this isn’t nearly as annoying as the past Windows 10 upgrade prompt that incessantly bugged you to upgrade. But it’s still annoying, especially if you have your Windows 7 upgrade plan sorted out.

To stop this nag screen, just check the Do not remind me again box in the bottom-left corner. Then close the window and you won’t see this notification any more. You can head to Microsoft’s Windows 7 end of support page to review the linked information if you need.

Your Windows 7 Upgrade Options

Before January 2020 comes, you’ll want to look at one of these upgrade paths in order to get away from Windows 7 and use a supported operating system.

Upgrade Your Current Computer to Windows 10

Windows 10 Media Creation Tool Architecture

If your current machine is fairly new, you may be able to upgrade it directly to Windows 10. However, if you’re had your computer since Windows 7 debuted, it’s likely too old to work with Windows 10.

Check the Windows 10 system requirements page to see if your machine is eligible. Note that these are the bare minimums to get Windows 10 running on a computer and don’t necessarily mean you’ll have a good experience. If your PC has a tiny 100GB hard drive or only 2GB of RAM, you’re probably better off getting a new machine.

What’s great about this option, though, is that you can still use a Windows 7 product key to activate Windows 10. If you still have yours handy, you can thus upgrade at no cost. Find out how to create Windows 10 installation media How to Create Windows 10 Installation Media How to Create Windows 10 Installation Media Regardless of how you arrived at Windows 10, there's a way to create your own installation media. Sooner or later you might need it. Let us show you how to be prepared. Read More if you go this route.

Buy a New Computer With Windows 10

This is likely the best option for most people. Computers running Windows 7 are at least several years old, so you should have a more powerful machine to run Windows 10.

Thankfully, you don’t need to break the bank to get a decent computer. Have a look at our best laptops under $500 The 5 Best Laptops Under $500 The 5 Best Laptops Under $500 From good 2-in-1 hybrids to excellent desktop replacements, here are our picks for the best laptops under $500. Read More for some great choices.

Upgrade to Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 Start Screen

Since Windows 7 and 10 are so popular, it’s easy to forget that Windows 8.1 exists. While mainstream support for that version ended in early 2018, Windows 8.1 will receive extended support until January 10, 2023.

Thus, moving to Windows 8.1 gives you three more years of life after Windows 7 bites the dust. However, we don’t recommend this choice.

First, Windows 10 is a better OS than Windows 8.1. It regularly receives feature updates to improve it, unlike Windows 8.1 which only receives security updates. Windows 8.1 has the much-maligned Start Screen and lacks useful features like multiple desktops.

Further, Microsoft doesn’t sell license keys for Windows 8.1 anymore. You’d have to buy one from Amazon or another aftermarket retailer, which can be shady. And while you’ll find hundreds of machines running Windows 10, it’s difficult to find a pre-built computer with Windows 8.1 on it.

Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 have the same system requirements, so if you’re going to buy a new computer, moving to Windows 10 is the better option. If you upgrade to Windows 8.1, you’ll have to worry about this problem again before 2023.

Switch to Another Platform

macOS mojave dynamic desktop

If you’ve lost interest in Windows, you can check out an entirely new operating system.

Those on a budget, or who only use a computer for light tasks, should consider a Chromebook. These lightweight devices are great for basic work like emailing and word processing, and are easy to use thanks to automatic updates and built-in security.

If you don’t mind spending more on a premium experience, consider a Mac. MacBooks cost much more than the Windows laptops you’re probably used to, but some say that after experiencing macOS, you’ll never want to go back to Windows.

For something totally different, consider a Linux machine. While Linux often has a reputation for being usable only by advanced users, you’d be surprised how user-friendly modern versions are.

See our guide to choosing your next PC operating system Which Operating System Should You Choose for Your Next PC Which Operating System Should You Choose for Your Next PC Buying a new PC? You have more operating system choices than ever. Which should you choose? We'll give you an overview, along with advantages and disadvantages. Spoiler: There's no one best option! Read More if you can’t decide.

Get to Know Windows 10

We’ve looked at the situation with Windows 7 and your options for upgrading to a modern platform. If you want to stick with Windows, your best option is buying a new computer with Windows 10. This will provide a better experience than upgrading an old machine.

Of course, you don’t have to do this. But whatever you do, make plans to leave Windows 7 behind before January 2020. You don’t want to get stuck on an unsupported OS if you can help it. Hopefully, we can leave Windows 7 behind more quickly than it took for Windows XP to die.

Check out our guide to what you must do after installing Windows 10 After Installing Windows 10: 5 Things You Must Do After Installing Windows 10: 5 Things You Must Do Once you finished installing Windows 10, you still have more work to do: setting up Windows how you like it. Here's the bare minimum of what you should do. Read More to get up to speed.

Explore more about: Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows Upgrade.

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  1. mike
    May 28, 2019 at 1:47 am

    Good thing I have already begun to learn Linux.
    Faster, easier, easier to install, more options, easier to customize, more options (did I already say that?) and no black box that you can't get to on how it works and make changes. Don't have to wait forever for fixes, fixes that actually work and don't break something else. Bugs that have existed since the OS was made. I have even found old DOS style bugs. A larger user environment as people dump the windows boat anchor, developers that actually listen to users ... I could go on, but you get the point.

  2. PerS
    May 10, 2019 at 8:19 pm

    I have updated a number of PCs that are over 10 years old to run Win 10. Really zero issues. Even PCs running Windows Pentium processors work great as long as there is 4 GB of memory.
    If you have a Win 7 (or 8/8.1) installation, you can easily and w/o a cost still upgrade to Win 10. I highly recommend doing this ASAP by just following the very simple instructions provided by Microsoft. When asking if you have a "license key", just click "continue" and it'll pick up the key from your current version of Windows.
    Once you have updated and you have your Windows 10 "digital license" (your hardware ID has been recognized and is nw stored by MSFT, granting you a license to use Win 10 on THAT hardware , sign in with a Microsoft account to ensure you in fact actually also DO have access to your digital license, save/backup all your files (you have this done on a regular basis anyway, correct....).
    Once this is done, boot from Win 10 installation media, delete ALL partitions on your hard drive and let Win 10 do a fresh and clean install. Devoid of any crapware that your PC maker might have slipped in there.
    In my view, this is the ONLY way to install Windows 10. And with the "digital license", this also makes it very easy to freshly install Windows on same hardware down the road.

  3. RH
    May 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    You CANNOT upgrade for free as this article implies by using Win 7 key.
    Just loomed that up on Microsofts site. And NOPE you have to buy a license which for pro is lile $199.
    So I will shift system over to 8.q Pro from 7 Ultimate, and redo my dual boot with Linux.
    At least will have sec updates til 2023 I guess. Then might have to straight Linux since it is too expensive for me to buy 10. If they REALLY eant people to shift to 10 from 7 so badly maybe offer it for free once again, even for say 1 month. Then I probably would.

  4. GregF
    May 7, 2019 at 6:18 pm

    I don't like the aesthetics of Win10. The color scheme. The flat tiles that look like prototype placeholders waiting for the design to be finished.

    I have never been a fan of anything extra running while I'm using my PC. Like widgets or live tiles.

    What really ticked me off was Win10 hiding programs I had installed because MS decided that MS didn't like them. MS may have been protecting me (or their way of doing things or their money?), but it is my machine that I paid for and I paid for Win too so don't just pretend software I installed is no longer there. Fine, warn me about if you have good reason to but don't inconvenience me.

    I will go to Linux which I've wanted to do for a long time anyway. One issue will be if I can continue to use Citrix Reciever to connect to my work. Not a deal breaker though.

  5. Fik of the borg
    May 4, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    So, in short .... "How to upgrade" boils down to
    1- Upgrade to this (W10)
    2- Upgrade to that (W8)
    3- Upgrade to something else (Linux)
    4- Change your computer to another already upgraded.
    Doesn't seem much of a "How to" :/

  6. Steven
    May 3, 2019 at 7:50 pm

    Switch to linux first, then mac, last resort is windows 10. If you need Windows because of the software you run and or network requirements in your offices, then i guess youre stuck with Windows spyware 10. However things are changing rapidly for the better in the open source field, so don't expect yourself to be sruck with Windows 10 much longer, or Microsoft

    • Rapidsort
      May 3, 2019 at 11:20 pm

      I'm taking the Windows 8.1 route. WIndows 10 is a permanent beta, spyware botnet imo. It seems to be in a constant state of updating and the default settings are an invitation to privacy rape. It's similar to when you buy a new Android phone - you have to spend 1hr privatising all the settings, yet still you're never certain that you got everything. Hopefully Linux will be polished enough for when the support for Windows 8.1 runs out in 2023.

      • Godel
        May 6, 2019 at 9:34 pm

        I'm with you. I have an unused Windows 8 upgrade disk that I haven't used which I presume I can update to 8.1.

        After that I can use something like Classic Shell to fix the worst of 8.1's user interface. With Windows 8.1 I have a better chance of finding working drivers for my ancient peripherals.

        • Rapidsort
          May 8, 2019 at 11:13 pm

          Yes, with Classic Shell and boot to desktop, you never have to look at those stupid tiles.
          Windows 8, beyond the UI issues is a solid OS. The only way I'll ever change to Windows 10, is if I can cheaply install a LTSB version (something I'm currently investigating).

    • Mike LaPlante
      May 6, 2019 at 3:13 pm

      Why always the Windows bashers in this space? You may have even typed your criticism using an android or iPhone, as if Microsoft is the only data-collector out there? Windows 10 Pro is the best and most productive OS I've ever used, since my Commodore/tandy/Apple II days. I also have dual boot Linux boxes and a Mac, and yes, they have their own highlights/lowlights. Win10 is challenging, it requires tweaking, you must get your hands 'dirty' to be safe, etc. Isn't that what the geeks & tuners who lurk these pages would want from an OS? Or will the complaining (whining?) stop only when we have a MonOs with no settings, no registry, no command line.... like maybe a cable box? Then we can all complain there is only a one size fits all OS. Microsoft is becoming increasingly open source. Why not support them in this instead of the knee-jerk denigration?

      • Rapidsort
        May 8, 2019 at 11:27 pm

        I offered similar complaints about Windows Mobile in their forums some years back. I told them the U.I was boring and there was near zero privacy across the platform. I feel vindicated. Windows 10 suffers from the same problems. 2020 will see the biggest increase in Linux users in its entire history.

  7. Bob
    May 3, 2019 at 4:14 pm

    What about the drivers that are needed to support windows 10?

  8. dragonmouth
    May 2, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    "But this isn’t cheap: for Windows 7 Pro machines, it will cost up to $350 for all three years of support. "
    And how cheap will it be for a corporations to switch the entire enterprise from Win 7 to Win 10? Chances are they will have to replace all their hardware. Major Windows upgrades usually overwhelm existing hardware. Chances are they will have replace all their Microsoft software because applications designed for Win 7 will not run too well on Win 10. For the same reason, any in-house written software, will have to be re-written which does not happen overnight. Depending on how many millions lines of code a corporation has, that could get quite expensive. And then there is the re-training of all the employees which, between the loss of productivity until employees become proficient and the cost of training itself, will also be expensive.

    I'm sure that you are aware that, because of the costs and the logistics involved, there still are companies clinging to XP. If memory serves, bank ATMs are still running on XP.

    It is easy for Microsoft to bulldoze private users, such as you and me but, for various reasons, it is much harder to have corporate users switch.

    • Fred Flintstone
      September 14, 2019 at 6:29 am

      The U.S. government is still paying M/S to run their comps with XP