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Four ways to squeeze more juice into the Windows 7 lifecycle

Windows 7 is not dead. There are many reasons IT keeps it around. To make the OS perform well, admins must modernize it and make sure all patches are up to date.

It might seem like IT doesn't need to do anything to keep Windows 7 going for another year. There is a big difference, however, between keeping an OS running and keeping it running well.

Even though Microsoft ended mainstream support for Windows 7 in January 2015, many organizations still use it and will continue to for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, Microsoft has been trying to get companies to embrace Windows 10. The decision to extend the Windows 7 lifecycle may have to do with application compatibility or problems IT perceives with Windows 10. For others, the decision to continue using Windows 7 has more to do with the cost of upgrading.

Whatever the reason, the OS remains viable in the enterprise. IT should take the following steps to make the Windows 7 lifecycle last even longer.

Upgrade to the latest service pack

Microsoft's official support policy for Windows 7 hinges on IT installing Service Pack 1.

Many organizations still use Windows 7 and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Similarly, Microsoft stopped mainstream support for Windows 7 SP1 in February 2011, but it still provides extended support for Windows 7 SP1 through July 14, 2020.

Even though Microsoft never created a Service Pack 2 for Windows 7, there is an unofficial SP2. Microsoft announced a convenience rollup for Windows 7, which includes several years' worth of patches. Organizations planning on prolonging the Windows 7 lifecycle should download the rollup and inject it into their Windows 7 SP1 deployment image. Doing so reduces the initial patch management burden for devices and helps secure them.

Evaluate the need for hardware upgrades

Another way to extend the Windows 7 lifecycle for at least another year is to consider whether any desktops require hardware upgrades. Microsoft released Windows 7 in 2009. Even though most organizations probably aren't using PCs from 2009, at least some Windows 7 instances probably run on aging hardware.

Outdated hardware does not deliver the same performance as today's hardware, and it may even be incapable of running some applications. It is a good idea to evaluate inventory to determine whether users might benefit from a hardware upgrade. If IT admins decide to perform any upgrades, they should make sure new hardware components include drivers for Windows 7 because some hardware vendors no longer provide them.

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Modernize the operating system

One of the best things IT can do to ensure that the Windows 7 lifecycle does not end is keep the operating system up to date. Because mainstream support for Windows 7 expired, Microsoft scaled back its Windows 7 updates. It still provides security updates for Windows 7, but no longer provides feature updates. There are other ways of keeping the operating system current, however.

One trick for extending the life is to replace tools and features Windows 7 provided with more current third-party versions. For example, IT might consider replacing aging browsers on Windows 7 with current versions of competing browsers.

Revisit the security plan

Another important factor is to assess the desktop security plan. One aspect admins can easily overlook is security software availability. Most organizations rely on third-party security software such as antivirus software, a firewall or just about anything else. Because security threats evolve, IT must routinely replace security software with newer versions, or at least keep them up to date through patching. As a result, it is a good idea to verify that the security vendors whose products IT uses still support Windows 7. In addition, check if those vendors have announced any plans to discontinue Windows 7 support.

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