Two Years Remain Until Windows 7's Support Ends
In 800 days, Windows 7's extended support will end. It might sound like a long time from now, but it's actually just a little over two years. Just like with Windows XP and Vista, the closer it gets to that date the more it'll be a problem to use Windows 7, and people still using it at that time will be encouraged to switch to a more recent OS (Operating System), as to avoid potential headaches with security risks or non-functional drivers and programs.
What will happen once Windows 7 loses its extended support?
Probably nothing really noteworthy. Right when Windows 7 loses its official support from Microsoft, no new updates will be released for it even with Service Pack 1 installed. Programs will still run fine, and no major security issues will appear right away. The problem is maintenance. As time goes on, people find bugs, issues and security exploits that later get fixed. Once the updates end, these issues are not being fixed anymore. With time, the OS will become more and more rusty and outdated, to the point where new features or compontents will not support it anymore, and any programs that request those will simply not work.
Windows XP and Vista work well as a reference here. Windows XP lost its support on April 8th, 2014. It was maintained for almost 13 years. As soon as it was abandoned, Windows XP's usage was still at around 19% of all Windows computers and most of the essential programs could run in it just fine. Application support has been countinuously decreasing though, and its usage is currently near 4%. The two most famous web browsers, Chrome and Firefox, have already dropped support in their latest versions, and some games that required DirectX versions above 9.0c haven't worked in XP for a while. And don't even try using Internet Explorer 8 to navigate the web.
Earlier this year on April 11th, Windows Vista support ended as well. In this case however, some applications actually stopped supporting it before Microsoft. Both XP and Vista got their de facto end of support more or less at the same time around 2016. I presume this must be because of Vista's unpopularity considering it was known for being unstable near its release date.
The next one in line for retirement is Windows 7, breaking the trend by not having its support ended on April but instead in January 14th, 2020. As you can see in the chart, it still has quite decent usage so far. It used to occupy over 50% of the chart until mid-2016, but now its only 2% above second place due to Windows 10 being released.
What about upgrading to a newer OS?
Since it's going to be a while before 7 kicks the bucket, you can use this time to ensure a smooth transition to a newer Windows version, or if you really dislike Windows 10 (like me), you can use this time to learn how to install and use one of the Linux distributions as your main OS instead. I'm personally going to be testing out a few beginner-friendly distributions that were recommended to me, and if everything goes well I'll probably keep using them.
You might be wondering if you'll be able to run Windows 10 properly, but truth is, Windows 10's minimum requirements are the same as Windows 7's, and it's about as resource heavy as 7 as well. If your computer can run Windows 7 normally, there probably won't be any issues regarding speed in 10. The only real concern might be some of the online services, such as the inability to disable automatic updates, advertisements or telemetry for example.
This is unlike the jump from Windows XP to Vista or 7. Windows 7 is considerably more resource-heavy than XP, and slightly more than the last Vista versions. This is mainly due to the Aero interface and all of its transparency effects. Some people still used XP because they had older computers that didn't support newer software very well (in a situation like this a newer computer is a more urgent upgrade, all things considered), and others kept using it simply because they were used to it and preferred it over newer systems.
You could also just run Windows 7 after support ends anyway. Like I said, it's not going to suddenly burst into flames or anything once it reaches that date. This isn't recommended for the everyday computer user, but if you're an experienced computer user then I'm sure you know what you're doing.
Legacy / My thoughts about all this
I know Windows 10 is still a good OS, but one of my personal complaints about it is roughly its "web-ification". The automatic updates (that can't be disabled mind you!), the advertising, and it's overall Metro-ish style used in modern websites and mobile phones. I was never the type of person that could always stay connected with the incredible amount of social media and instant chat services nowadays, and I still am not that kind of person today. As much as I like Android for being a massive improvement over the old J2ME/Nokia S40 phones in online functionality and gaming (among other things), this is one of its aspects that I never liked. I always feel like its geared towards the more general audience who is always socializing and sharing things, not to mention how it simplifies various settings and customization options.
I have used Windows 7 for 4 years now, ever since the last few months of 2013. I might end up using it for a total of seven years (what a coincidence). I have actually completely changed nearly every single hardware piece this computer has since then. The few things that are still the same are the HDD drive, the DVD drive and the case. How the OS managed to survive the motherboard and GFX card being changed without any major issues is beyond me. It truly shows just how stable it is, my father has said that even Windows XP wouldn't handle that change very well and would need a complete reinstallation. I'm not completely sure on that, but I'm going to take his word for it.
Once I have to switch to something else, I will certainly miss using Windows 7 a lot. I had a few slip-ups when upgrading from Windows XP, and I can certainly see some inconsistencies here and there, but overall it manages to be incredibly cohesive. Even if Aero is resource heavy I still find it quite good looking with all the transparency effects.
I should try to enjoy the time I have remaining with it, even if it's still quite a few years away from being retired. And yes, even if it will be filled with some annoyances, crashes and slowdowns, it's still for the major part something great, and I cannot deny that have spent a good chunk of my life using this OS to organize a lot of the ideas I've had, a lot of things I've done, projects I've worked on, etc. It's certainly an upgrade from my early childhood when I used to write anything down with a pen and paper, those days were a mess. I'm sure most of the people simply don't care about all this, I mean, it's a computer, everyone expects it to do what it does. Fair point. But I try to avoid taking things for granted.
This could be how people felt during Windows XP's end of support as well. That sort of marked the end of an era for many that grew up using that OS, and I'm sure there's plenty of memories to share about it. As for Windows Vista, I feel like there wasn't as much sentiment towards it, probably due to the reasons I've mentioned before.
I was working on a countdown timer for Windows 7's end of support date, and it's finally ready after 11 months of working on it sporadically. That should tell you how lazy I am with these projects. This is just a little side thing I made. There's something special on the last two days, though, as well as when it hits zero.
Click over here to view it!
As it stands, there's still plenty of time left before any of this happens, but it's worth mentioning it either way just so everyone is aware that this is going to happen soon. Nothing extraordinary will happen immediatelly after support ends, but things will slowly start getting worse from there. Your update options are Windows 10, which has mostly the same system requirements as Windows 7 but has a few frustrations regarding its online "integration", or any other OS such as macOS, Linux, etc. Even so, Windows 7 has its sense of style, something about it that I believe will make it remembered for a long time like Windows XP and Windows 95/98.
As for me, this post sort of helped me organize my thoughts on all this, and I guess that could be useful to others as well. Who knows? If anything it made me make a backup of my important files on a CD-RW I had lying around. Yes, those exist. They are rewritable CDs, and they are awesome and not very useful.
Windows XP support has ended - Windows Help - Accessed on November 03, 2017
Windows Vista support has ended - Windows Help - Accessed on November 03, 2017
Desktop Windows Version Market Share Worldwide | StatCounter Global Stats - Accessed on November 03, 2017
Windows 10 vs. Windows 8.1 vs. Windows 7 Performance - TechSpot - Accessed on November 03, 2017