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  1. Karlston

    Seven high points of Windows 7

    Seven high points of Windows 7 What a long ride it's been for Microsoft's popular OS. Support for Windows 7 ends today, making this a good time to look at some of its highs and lows over the years. pan xiaozhen modified by IDG Comm. / Microsoft (CC0) Today Microsoft issues its final free security update for Windows 7, putting an end to that operating system's decade. To remember that service — a retirement party but without the cloyingly sweet cake and cheap gold watch — Computerworld selected seven highlights of Windows 7. While the seven do not pretend to trace Windows 7's history, they illustrate the influence and impact of the OS. Here's to Windows 7. Raise a glass, for cryin' out loud. It salvaged Microsoft's reputation after the Vista debacle The numbers say it all. Windows Vista, the 2006 replacement for Windows XP, topped out at 20% of all Windows versions in October 2009. Even though the OS it followed was long in the tooth — XP was nearly twice the age of a typical version when it was supplanted — Vista struggled to put a dent in its forerunner's share. Windows XP still accounted for 75% of all Windows activity when Vista peaked. Windows 7 drove down Vista's share toot sweet: In 18 months, Vista's share of all Windows had fallen to 11.5%. Users couldn't wait to rid themselves of Vista. But then, what would you expect of an OS that fostered a class-action lawsuit? The three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollar snafu An oversight — so said Microsoft — with Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) cost the company €561 million ($732 million at the time) when the European Union's anti-trust regulators fined the firm for omitting a browser choice feature. The March 2013 decision by EU officials — the first time regulators there punished a company for shirking an antitrust agreement — ultimately stemmed from a 2007 complaint by rival Opera Software, which alleged that Microsoft manipulated the battle for browser share by tying Internet Explorer (IE) to Windows. Two years later, Microsoft agreed to show European users of Windows a "browser ballot," a screen that displayed download links to other browsers, including Google's Chrome, Mozilla's Firefox and Opera's namesake. But Microsoft failed to show that ballot to users of Windows 7 SP1 for some 14 months, from May 2011 until July 2012. More than 15 million users did not see the ballot as they should have, the EU charged. In mid-2012, Microsoft admitted the goof and apologized, even as it downplayed the problem, saying it had been purely a "technical error" and blaming an engineering team. Microsoft failed to disclose the snafu in the self-certified compliance reports it was required to submit to EU authorities. In fact, Microsoft had ignored a user who reported the omission of the browser ballot in Windows 7 SP1. That user had queried support representatives in March 2011, a month after the launch of SP1 and two months before the start of the span during which regulators claimed Microsoft had scratched the ballot, saying, "I do not see the options for the browser choice." Although a support engineer replied to the user in the online forum, he paid no notice to the question of the ballot's whereabouts. SKU insanity Microsoft tried to hang onto the netbook market for a while longer with Windows 7 Starter, one of a ballooning number of SKUs (stock-keeping units) segregating the OS. Starter, which had been preceded by same-named versions on both Windows XP and Vista, was meant to service the netbook market, the name for the smaller, less capable, and most importantly, cheaper notebook computers that juiced PC sales after their 2007 debut. Windows XP Starter and Windows Vista Starter had been sold only in a small number of markets outside the U.S.; Windows 7 Starter was sold domestically, however. (Microsoft kept calling these systems "small notebooks," eschewing the "netbook" nomenclature for some reason.) By the time of Windows 7's late-2009 launch, netbooks were plainly converging with standard small and light notebooks and/or sub-notebooks (another name for another category, or sub-category). Microsoft acknowledged that, at least to some extent, by dropping the three-applications-at-a-time restriction from Windows 7 Starter that had been imposed on XP's and Vista's versions. Other omissions and limitations remained, however. Windows 7 Starter left out the "Aero" graphic user interface (GUI) that was Windows 7's most visible feature, omitted support for DVD playback and did not provide the ability to change the desktop background. (What?) Starter was also a signal that Microsoft still held a more-is-better belief when it came to fragmenting an OS into multiple versions, or SKUs. Windows 7, like its Vista forerunner, came in six: Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate. (Vista had used Business rather than Professional.) Because Windows XP also featured half a dozen SKUs — although the versions were different in several cases — Microsoft pushed six SKUs from 2001, XP's launch, through 2017, Vista's retirement. From 2012 on, however, Microsoft pared Windows to three with Windows 8 (four if you counted Windows RT, which no one should) and maintained that number, at least at the beginning, with Windows 10 (we're counting Home, Pro and Enterprise). Since 10's launch, though, Microsoft has loosened its belt, expanding the SKUs with options like Windows 10 Pro Workstation and Windows 10 S, even as it tightened said strip of leather by dropping something-for-everyone SKUs like Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise. Belly up to the bar Windows 7 boosted the size of the taskbar and added several elements that remain to this day in its successor, 10. Microsoft beefed up the taskbar's vertical dimension by 33% — when using the by-default large icon and labels option — from Windows Vista, and also expanded the width of the active application tiles as well as the icons for pinned apps. Features like jump lists — click on the taskbar icon for Word, say, and a list of recently-opened documents appears — pinning and thumbnails (admittedly introduced in Vista but made larger and interactive in Windows 7) have proven durable enough to last through multiple OS generations. For a blast from the past, check out this blog about the Windows 7 taskbar that was posted almost a year before the operating system's release. It was authored by Steven Sinofsky, at the time one of the development heads for the OS. (Later, Sinofsky became president of the Windows Division, where he became the public face of Windows 8, the heir to 7 that bombed.) The end of an era 
Windows 7 was Microsoft's last stable OS. For a bit more than a decade, Windows 7 remained fixed, steadfast, unvarying, enduring. According to Microsoft's model, we'll never see Windows like that again, not on personal computers. (Windows 10 LTSC may be meant to stay static for 10 years, but it's not suited for general PC purposes.) Windows 7 sported just a single service pack (SP), the cumulative roll-ups released at irregular intervals, that was issued in February 2011, about 16 months after the OS's debut. But although Windows 7 SP1 contained some changes, they were all under the hood; nothing visible to users was altered. Much the same could be said for a subsequent platform update, a February 2013 release focused on graphics and imaging components and including Internet Explorer 10 (IE10). Meanwhile, Windows 10 morphs every 12 months if enterprise customers are lucky (and the 2019 major-minor pattern continues), every six months if they're not. Post-retirement patches step into daylight Microsoft believed commercial customers were so enamored of Windows 7 — and would hold onto the OS in such numbers — that for the first time the company publicly unveiled a program to provide post-retirement security updates. That was a significantly different approach than the company has used before as an OS nears it end times. Called Extended Support Updates (ESU) and revealed in September 2018 — a year and a half prior to Windows 7's expiration — the program focused on volume-licensing customers, its largest and most important patrons. Those businesses would be able to purchase support in one-year increments for up to three years, with prices doubling in the second year, doubling again in the third. Customers with subscriptions to Windows 10 would receive a discount. (Near the last minute — in October 2019 — Microsoft caved to small businesses and said it would also sell ESU to customers who did not have existing volume licensing plans in place.) What was remarkable about ESU wasn't its existence, but that Microsoft was so public about it. The firm has sold post-retirement programs before, notably when Windows XP neared its retirement. But those deals were clouded in secrecy, with mysterious — and negotiable — price points. Prior to Windows XP's 2014 exit from support, Microsoft sold "custom support agreements," or CSAs, to its larger customers. But buying CSA was a completely-behind-the-scenes process done on a company-by-company basis, with virtually no public information about the program nor price lists. That allowed Microsoft to dramatically raise CSA prices in late 2012 and 2013, then turn around and slash them just days before XP's retirement. Don't it always seem to go..., you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone The world-turned-upside-down shock of Windows 10 — its continual updating most notably — did more than anything else to elevate Windows 7's long-term reputation. Faced with the jolt of Windows 10, its predecessor came off looking that much more composed. At the risk of being rejoined with an "OK, boomer," and knowing that nostalgia can backlight even incompetence with an artificial glow, Computerworld proposes that Windows 7 was what an OS should be, serviced as an OS ought to be, useful like an OS better be. Much of that stems from the habits that Microsoft force-fed customers. Updates should be discrete so that individual patches can be postponed or rejected outright; feature additions should arrive only after years-long intervals to maximize learning "expense;" the OS should not transmit vast quantities of telemetric and diagnostic data to Redmond's servers. And so on. But Microsoft upturned all of that in a single swoop, unlike the gradualism of Windows' past. No wonder there was resistance from enterprise customers, who on the whole valued continuity and tradition. But what they were objecting to was not Windows 10 per se — from the start the OS was widely praised on its merits — but instead Microsoft's changing policies of servicing. Where features were extensively criticized — such as 10's data hoovering — they were integral to those policies' execution (at least in Microsoft's mind), not integral to the OS as an OS. That that has been the case can be confirmed by looking at the most substantial changes Microsoft has made to Windows 10 since its mid-2015 launch. Those changes have largely been made to the servicing policies, not to the OS itself. For these reasons, Computerworld wagers that Windows 7 will be long viewed as peak enterprise OS and remembered, fairly or not, more fondly than if it had been succeeded by, say, Windows 9 in 2015. (Where's Windows 8 in all this? Invisible, frankly. That OS was an even bigger dud than Vista for corporate customers.) Things have gone this way before, of course. Windows is famous, in fact, for its good-bad cadence of editions. Windows XP was good, Vista was not; Windows 7 good, Windows 8 not. Here, however, Microsoft has boosted Windows 7's standing not by creating a substandard edition as follow-up but by changing practices and policies of that successor. Microsoft recognizes what it has done. That's clear from the modifications it's made to Windows 10, such as lengthening the support lifespan and reducing the number of true feature upgrades; it's shifted that operating system closer to the model of ... Windows 7. Source: Seven high points of Windows 7 (Computerworld - Gregg Keizer)
  2. Microsoft will support Edge on Windows 7 for at least 18 months It's not a secret that the end of extended support for Windows 7 is tomorrow, and with Microsoft's Chromium-based Edge shipping for the unsupported OS the day after, there are questions about how long the browser will be supported. Google announced last week that it's committing to 18 months of support for Chrome on Windows 7, which means that Chromium is supported for as long. Today, Microsoft confirmed to Neowin that it will commit to the same timeframe as Google. That means that you'll get Edge updates on Windows 7 until at least July 15, 2021. It's likely that the company will go beyond that. Microsoft is offering Extended Security Updates (ESUs) for businesses on Windows 7 that are willing to pay up, and ESUs are available for a total of three years. Given that the Redmond firm is committed to providing Windows 7 support, even to only some users, for another three years, it seems likely that it would support the browser for as long. Of course, that also depends on Chromium support. Whether you're eligible for ESUs or not, it's good news that at the very least, you'll have a supported browser to use. And the new Edge will still work on Windows 7 for a long time, giving everyone plenty of time to transition to Windows 10 and to see that Microsoft is not, in fact, going to extend support for Windows 7. Source: Microsoft will support Edge on Windows 7 for at least 18 months (Neowin)
  3. Government Intelligence Agency Warns Not To Use Windows 7 For Banking Or Email The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), part of the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) intelligence agency, has issued a warning to anyone still using the Windows 7 computer operating system. Don't. To be more precise, the NCSC warning for anyone still using Windows 7 when it officially reaches end-of-life (EoL) status on January 14 is not to use that computer for banking, email, or any "sensitive" account access. Achievement Unlocked: Microsoft Windows 7 end-of-life End-of-life in Microsoft terminology means the end of the support lifecycle. For most people. First released on October 22, 2009, Windows 7 was the successor to the less than well-received Windows Vista operating system. It has gone on to become one of the most successful versions, still commanding a 32.74% share of the Windows desktop market as 2019 came to an end. To put that into some context, the same market research had Windows 10, released six years later, on a 47.65% market share. It's now more than ten years after Windows 7 came to life, and Microsoft only committed to 10 years of product support. So here we are, from Tuesday, January 14, Microsoft will discontinue Windows 7 support. What that means is there will no longer be any technical assistance or software updates from Windows Update, including security updates. For most users, that is. Those business customers willing to pay for the privilege through the Windows 7 Extended Security Update (ESU) program, can remain protected for a further three years yet. And the threats are real enough, take the BlueKeep episode that prompted critical warnings released by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) related to this vulnerability when a wormable exploit was weaponized. The intelligence agency Windows 7 warning The NCSC, which effectively acts as the more accessible and public-facing part of the U.K. GCHQ intelligence agency, has said that people still using Windows 7 should upgrade as soon as possible to keep receiving those all-important security updates. According to a report in The Telegraph newspaper, the NCSC has stated that Windows 7 users should, "move sensitive data to a supported device and not to use them for tasks like accessing bank and other sensitive accounts." The NCSC warning goes even further, suggesting that Windows 7 users should "consider accessing email from a different device." Security industry voices amplify the Windows 7 warning "We have had ample time to update to Windows 10 and better protect our PCs," Jake Moore, a cybersecurity specialist at ESET, says, "there is simply no excuse to continue to use Windows 7 in 2020." Moore warns that Windows 10 on its own still isn't enough to fully protect your data and finances though. "A good antivirus is also required," Moore says, "and solid unique passwords are also a must with any online accounts to help mitigate the risks." Lisa Forte, the founder of Red Goat Cyber Security, says that when Windows XP reached end-of-life, it became a favorite target for attackers and Windows 7 will now go the same way. "Continuing to use Windows 7 will make you a lot more vulnerable to viruses and your data being compromised," Forte says, "malicious attackers will be on alert knowing that a lot of Windows 7 machines will now be very vulnerable." Meanwhile, Simon Woolley, who has been involved in security within the public sector for 30 years, the last ten as an independent security consultant, says that "organizations such as the NCSC are duty-bound to follow the party line when providing security advice for unsupported software." This is especially true when it comes to operating systems that are no longer going to be provided with security patches for any new vulnerabilities that may be identified. "Microsoft will continue to provide patches on a per-machine basis for organizations that are unable to migrate at this time," Woolley says, "this was the case with Windows XP and I am personally aware of a number of large public sector organizations that continued to pay for support and receive patches long after its EOL due to systems being operationally critical." Which is little comfort for consumers, and not a great deal more for enterprises either. "If the previous Microsoft model is used this could become prohibitively expensive for organizations as the price increases yearly which is a financial incentive for organizations to migrate onto newer supported systems," Woolley says, concluding, "I would always advocate for upgrading to supported software however this may not always be possible." The good news for consumers is that if you are quick, it is still possible to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. If upgrading to Windows 10 is something a die-hard Windows 7 user can stomach, that is. Source
  4. The certainties that Windows 7 embodied have long gone, and that's no bad thing. In just a couple of days Windows 7 finally goes out of support, which means no more bug fixes or updates for the millions who are still using the operating system, which first launched back in 2009. In many respects the success of Windows 7 was the high water mark for the PC and for Windows. It has been much loved by PC users and admins in the past decade -- and not just for replacing its reviled predecessor, Windows Vista. It's had plenty of staying power, too: Windows 7 users largely (and probably rightly) ignored Windows 8 when it appeared, and only with Windows 10 maturing (and old hardware giving up) has migration from the reliable and comfortable Windows 7 finally gathered pace. But even with the clock ticking down towards the end of support, Windows 7 fans have proved stubborn. Although businesses have mostly made the move, there are still plenty of consumers hanging on to their old favourite. My colleague Ed Bott has done some smart number crunching and reckons there are about 1.2 billion Windows PCs in use around the world, with somewhere around a billion running Windows 10 and most of the rest running Windows 7. As he notes, that means somewhere near 200 million PCs could soon be running out-of-date software, and any new security holes are unlikely to get fixed (unless you are willing to pay for extended support). End of an era The Windows 7 era coincided with the high point of the PC era, and the end of Windows 7 marks the end of the PC era, too. When Windows 7 launched, the iPhone and its app store were around but were still novelties, while the iPad hadn't arrived yet. If you wanted to get work -- or pretty much anything -- done on a computer, you needed a PC. Just over a decade later, the picture is much more complicated. PC sales have been in decline for the last seven years; a slide which only ended with a small increase last year, largely because businesses needed to buy new PCs to run Windows 10, after bowing to the inevitable and upgrading. In many scenarios and use cases the PC has been superseded by the smartphone, the tablet or digital assistants embodied in various other devices. And it's not just the PC -- Windows is no longer the defining product for Microsoft that it once was. That's not to say the PC is dead, of course: I'm typing on one now, and it will remain the primary device I use to do my job for the foreseeable future. Many office and knowledge workers will feel the same. But there are now plenty of other options: I could be using a tablet or dictating to my phone. I can't think the words onto the page, but even that's probably not too far away. And outside of work I barely touch a PC at all. And even the definition of the PCs is getting blurry. PC makers have come up with a late burst of creativity that has delivered all manner of weird and occasionally wonderful new shapes and sizes. Microsoft's Surface is a PC that looks a lot like a tablet; Lenovo's X1 Fold is a folding screen that can be a tablet, or a mini laptop or a desktop. Folding and detachable PCs are now mainstream. There is an optimism and a confidence around design that was lacking for a long time. All of this is good, and long overdue. None of these innovations will mean the return of the PC's heyday, but they do suggest that, whatever operating system it runs, the PC will have a useful niche for years to come. Source
  5. How many PCs will still be running Windows 7 in 2020? A hundred million here, a half-billion there: Calculating the installed base of PCs, including those still running Windows 7, is a tricky task, filled with uncertainty. After clearing away the noise, I think I’ve got a reliable estimate. Microsoft has said for years that its customer base includes 1.5 billion Windows users. Among pundits and analysts, this number is often treated as authoritative and precise. It is not. It is, rather, an aspirational bit of rhetoric, called forth when Microsoft's senior management wants to emphasize the sheer size of the Windows customer base to motivate its workforce or rev up its partners. Satya Nadella's invocation at a Windows 10 event in January 2016 is a perfect example of the genre: The fact that there are 1.5 billion users of Windows is incredible and humbling. It's a responsibility that none of us at Microsoft take lightly. Microsoft executives have, unsurprisingly, focused mostly on the growth of its Windows 10 installed base, reporting steady growth over the past five years. The company can be extremely confident about that metric, thanks to the update and telemetry components built into every copy of Windows 10. (Microsoft's "monthly active devices" metric counts devices that have been in contact with Microsoft's servers in the past 28 days.) These statements are also material representations from a publicly traded company, so they're vetted by lawyers and likely to be accurate. Making a material misrepresentation about the performance of a core business unit is the sort of thing that brings down the wrath of regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission. As of September 24, 2019, Microsoft officials said that more than 900 million active devices were running Windows 10. That figure includes 40-50 million Xbox One consoles, an insignificant number of HoloLens and Surface Hub devices, and a rapidly shrinking population of Windows Phones. After making those adjustments, let's call it 850 million Windows PCs. That number has been increasing by about 100 million every six months, and usage statistics I've reviewed show that the pace is ticking up slightly as the Windows 7 deadline nears. Given those trends, it's reasonable to project that the number of active Windows 10 devices will be over a billion by the end of the first calendar quarter of 2020. But how does that number compare to the current Windows installed base? After reviewing all the available evidence, I'm convinced that the current installed base of Windows PCs as we head into 2020 is down significantly since its peak and is probably close to 1.2 billion today. A decade ago, when the PC era was in full swing, Microsoft executives regularly shared the company's estimates of how many Windows PCs were in use worldwide. For example, then-CEO Steve Ballmer told financial analysts in mid-2007 that the Windows installed base was approaching 1 billion and that the company expected to cross that threshold by mid-2008. The reported number of Windows users went up to 1.25 billion at the end of 2011 and had increased again to 1.5 billion by the end of 2014. Five years later, that public number has not gone up, and executives rarely mention it. In short, if you're looking for the highwater mark in the PC era, 2014 is a pretty good place to zero in. Every bit of available data since that time says the Windows installed base is declining, although probably not as steeply as it grew in its heyday. One obvious deduction from that 2015 number is the population of roughly 70 million Windows Phones, almost all of which have long since been retired or replaced. Businesses are mostly in PC replacement mode, often using hardware upgrades as an excuse to migrate PCs to a new operating system. One of the biggest replacement cycles in enterprise PCs in recent memory is happening now, as companies and government institutions migrate their workers from older Windows versions (mostly Windows 7) to Windows 10. Some old machines are being retired and are not being replaced, especially in the consumer space. Enthusiasts who used to have multiple PCs now have only one or two. In consumer households, smartphones and tablets are handling the majority of computing tasks these days. Aging PCs, if they're replaced at all, are as likely to be swapped out for iPads and Macs (and perhaps even Chromebooks) rather than a Windows PC from Dell, HP, Lenovo, or Microsoft. How do you measure the shrinkage in the PC population? One way is to look at PC sales based on the average useful life of the current population. For this estimate, I assume that 95% of PCs sold seven years ago are no longer in active use. According to Gartner's estimates, OEMs shipped 351 million PCs in 2012. Seven years later, at the end of 2019, Gartner's estimates of PC shipments for the trailing four quarters total less than 260 million for the year. Allowing for some of those old PCs to still be at work, that's a gap of about 75 million PCs dropping out of the installed base. The numbers are similar for a year earlier: In 2011 the PC industry shipped 353 million PCs; seven years later, in 2018, the total was below 260 million. In the five years since Microsoft hit its high of 1.5 billion customers, I think it's reasonable, even conservative, to assume that the PC population worldwide has shrunk by about 60 million every year, which means there are probably no more than 1.2 billion Windows PCs in use worldwide today. If my estimates are accurate -- 1.2 billion Windows PCs worldwide, with 1 billion running Windows 10 -- then Microsoft will have successfully migrated more than 80% of its active customers to Windows 10 by the middle of 2020. Roughly 200 million PCs worldwide will still be running older Windows versions, mostly Windows 7. That estimate lines up nicely with the most recent real-time traffic reports available from the United States Government's Digital Analytics Program, which is the world's largest credible source reporting actual, unfiltered web traffic analytics. The dataset includes nearly 700 million visits from Windows devices to a broad mix of sites for the six-week period ending December 14; the list includes sites that attract non-business visitors, including the National Weather Service and NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day; destinations designed for individuals doing government business (passport applications and Social Security claims, for example); and sites like the National Science Foundation and Centers for Disease Control, which serve businesses and educational institutions. It also includes visits to widely popular sites that cut across population lines, like the United States Postal Service and the Internal Revenue Service. Here's what the mix looked like: Based on U.S. Government website traffic, nearly 1 in 5 visitors who use PCs are running Windows 7. Data from US Digital Analytics Program Do those numbers match up perfectly with the Windows installed base at large? No one knows for sure, of course, but I suspect any differences would be minor, probably no more than a few percentage points. Meanwhile, I still see people citing data from NetMarketShare and StatCounter Global Stats. I addressed my reasons for skepticism about these data sources nearly three years ago, in January 2017, and nothing I've seen lately leads me to change my mind. For November 2019, StatCounter GS shows the Windows 10/Windows 7 split at 64.7% and 27.4%, while NetMarketShare's (normalized) numbers show Windows 10 usage at 62% with Windows 7 at 31.2%. The only way either number would be consistent with Microsoft's reported base of 850-900 million active Windows 10 PCs is if the worldwide base of Windows PCs were nearly 1.4 billion. A much more likely explanation is that botnets masquerading as Windows 7 PCs are skewing the results. That's an ongoing problem for both sites, which are driven by advertising networks. NetMarketShare, for example, notes that 76% of the sites in its population "participate in pay per click programs to drive traffic to their sites." That provides a powerful motive for scammers to rig the statistics. On its About page, NetMarketShare acknowledges that reality: "Bots and fraudulent traffic are responsible for a large and growing percentage of web traffic," and the only question is what percentage of the fake clicks are able to evade these anti-fraud measures. Regardless of which numbers you find most believable, the inescapable reality is that by the middle of 2020 hundreds of millions of PCs will be running an unsupported Windows version. That's a massive target for online crooks, and a challenge for anyone who's worried about the health of the PC ecosystem. Source: How many PCs will still be running Windows 7 in 2020? (ZDNet - Ed Bott)
  6. In a few short days, millions of Windows 7 users will reach the end of the line. Or at least, the end of crucial security updates from Microsoft. While Redmond is pushing those users to upgrade to Windows 10, many in the Linux community are vying for attention by pitching their respective distribution (aka Linux desktop OS) as a superior alternative to Windows 10. One such example is KDE Plasma, a desktop I’ve praised in the past for its surprising leanness and wealth of customization options. The KDE Community has just launched #Switch2Plasma, a social campaign targeted equally at Windows 7 users and Linux advocates who want to help spread the word. Instead of migrating to Windows 10 and putting up with hours of updates, intrusions on your privacy and annoying ads built into your apps, install a Linux operating system with Plasma. In 30 minutes you will be up and running and you will have all the security and stability of a Linux system, with all the features and ease of use of Plasma. ~KDE Community, via YouTube For those unaware, KDE Plasma is one of several “Desktop environments” you can install on your Linux distribution of choice, giving your experience much more flexibility than what’s possible on Windows. Linux distributions like Kubuntu and Feren OS offer KDE Plasma pre-installed. Here’s some extended reading if you want to learn more: The focus of KDE’s #Switch2Plasma campaign centers around the following video, which highlights a small slice of the customization options by demonstrating a KDE Plasma desktop that resembles Windows 7 in look and feel: If you’re currently a Windows 7 user and are curious about what you’re seeing in the video, I recommend taking Kubuntu 19.10 for a test drive. If you don’t want to mess with downloads, installation, or anything technical, you can take it for a spin (along with many other Linux distributions) right inside your current desktop or mobile browser here. I made the switch from Windows to Linux in 2018, and have been consistently amazed at how easy it is to install and use as my daily driver. You’ll find a lot to appreciate, from the seamless, annoyance-free system updates to AAA gaming to familiar apps like Spotify, Discord, Blender, Slack, Steam and Telegram among thousands of others. Even Microsoft is beginning to develop native Linux versions of its Office products. For those Linux ricers who are curious how this Windows 7 theme came together, this is for you: Dominic Hayes, the creator of Feren OS, used the following freely available themes and elements to create the Windows 7-like desktop experience inside of KDE Plasma: Plasma Theme: Seven Black Window Decorations: Seven Black Application Style: gtk2 GTK Theme: Windows Se7en by Elbullazul Icons: Darkine Colours: Breeze Light Cursors: DMZ White Splash Screen: Feren OS Panel: 38 height Widgets: Default Apps Menu, I-O Task Manager, Stock System Tray, Feren Calendar or Event Calendar, Win7 Show Desktop If you want to get involved and help the KDE Community spread the word, here are two resources to check out: Plasma: A Safe Haven for Windows 7 Refugees KDE.news ⚓ T12444 Advertise Plasma to Windows 7 refugees Kde Source
  7. FAQ: Last-minute answers about Windows 7's post-retirement patches The end of support for Windows 7 is coming up fast. For those still running the aging OS, here's what you need to know about Microsoft's Extended Security Updates program. Thinkstock/Microsoft A week from now, Microsoft will serve customers with the last for-free Windows 7 security update, in effect retiring the 2009 operating system. However, hundreds of millions of personal computers will still power up thanks to Windows 7 on Jan. 14, and for an indeterminate timespan after that date. Windows 7 may be retiring, but it's not disappearing. Microsoft admitted as much more than a year ago when it announced Extended Security Updates (ESU), a program for commercial customers who needed more time to ditch Windows 7. ESU would provide patches for some security vulnerabilities for as long as three years. For a fee. Later — just this October — Microsoft expanded ESU to include small and very small businesses, but told those customers, who typically needed to keep just a handful of PCs updated, to contact a Cloud Service Provider (CSP). Computerworld has covered ESU since its September 2018 unveiling. But there are always bits and pieces that don't get the attention they deserve. So, we've collected the most important last-minute questions about ESU, and provided answers to those queries. The clock is ticking. What Windows 7 editions are eligible for ESUs? Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Enterprise and Windows 7 Ultimate. Initial ESU descriptions by Microsoft omitted Ultimate, the oddball SKU (stock-keeping unit) that, along with Enterprise, was a premium version of the OS when Microsoft launched Windows 7. (Microsoft passed on doing a Windows 8 Ultimate, a good signal for how 7's version fared.) Later, Windows 7 Ultimate popped up in Microsoft's references, including this FAQ. That made sense, since Ultimate was billed as Enterprise with a twist: It could be licensed to individuals. Does ESU provide patches for all vulnerabilities? No. ESU includes fixes for "critical and important issues as defined by the Microsoft Security Response Center," Microsoft stated in a FAQ. The two classifications make up the top half of Microsoft's four-step system ("moderate" and "low" are the others). For more information about the security severity rating system, see this support document. How much does ESU cost? That depends. Enterprise customers with volume licensing deals — or subscriptions to Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and E5, and thus with rights to Windows 7 Enterprise — will pay $25 per PC for the first year of coverage (though mid-January 2021). For machines running Windows 7 Professional — and covered by Software Assurance — the first-year price will be $50. Businesses that are not volume customers — notably the very small shops and sole proprietors with a limited number of PCs running Windows 7 Professional, will pay around $61-$62 per machine for the first year. Because they're not volume licensees, such businesses must go through a Microsoft Cloud Service Provider (CSP). Just a reminder: ESU is sold on a per-PC basis, not per user. Where can our small business find a CSP to sell us ESU? Microsoft told customers to search here, the Microsoft solutions provider database. But some reported that they were unable to attract interest from a CSP because of the small number of ESU licenses they required. Veteran Windows watcher Ed Bott, for example, struck out when he tried to obtain ESU. One CSP told Computerworld that they'd be unlikely to sell fewer than 20-30 ESU "units" to a customer; smaller orders than that would "be unprofitable," the seller said. (That was a combination of the low margin per ESU, the fact that the ordering process is completely manual, and the ESU demands that the seller set up an Office 365 "tenant" and an Azure AD administrative account for the customer.) Susan Bradley, a computer network and security consultant, the moderator of the PatchMangement.org mailing list and the contributor known as "The Patch Lady" to the AskWoody.com Windows tip site, teamed up with Amy Babinchak, a Michigan-based IT consultant and Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) to document the ESU purchasing process for a very small business. After initially striking out (Babinchak is a registered CSP), they succeeded in finding a distributor (Microsoft's reseller/partner system has multiple layers) and armed a single PC for ESU. Babinchak's Michigan-based IT services firm, Harbor Computer Services, will deal ESU in small quantities, Bradley said in an email. "Amy and Ted are doing the heavy lifting of providing an easier way to get the Windows 7 (ESU) licenses," she wrote, referring to Ted Kinczkowski, Babinchak's partner and the company's technical manager. Interested businesses can request an ESU license from Harbor by filling out and submitting this form, Bradley added. How do we prep our Windows 7 PCs to receive ESU starting next month? This October post to a Microsoft blog contains information on the steps necessary to purchase and download ESU product keys — PCs covered by the post-retirement program self-identify to Windows 7's servicing through these keys — and install and activate them. The post includes several screenshots to help customers follow the instructions and lists the update prerequisites that need to be installed prior to activating the ESU key. Highly recommended. How long will Microsoft service Windows 7 under ESU? Three years, in one-year increments. Customers who pony up for the first year will receive Windows 7 security-only updates starting in February (Feb. 11 is that month's Patch Tuesday) and ending in January 2021 (Jan. 12, 2021). A similar 12-month stretch will be provided for the second (2021-2022) and third (2022-2023) years. As a CSP rued in an interview with Computerworld, ESU is not a subscription, meaning that each year must be purchased separately, each year's key also installed separately. The final ESU will be delivered Jan. 10, 2023, closing out Windows 7's support — free and paid — after slightly more than 13 years. Is there a way to verify that our systems will actually download ESUs before the retirement date? We don't want to find out in February that our process isn't working. Yes, there is a way to test ESU download and installation before Microsoft starts issuing the post-retirement updates. "This optional non-security update will help you verify that your eligible Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) and Server 2008 R2 SP1 devices can continue to get Extended Security Updates (ESUs) after the end of support date of January 14, 2020," Microsoft said in this document. This is, as Microsoft said, a "test package" that uses the same distribution process — and on the customer's part, the same reception requirements and process — as the real ESU deal. The support document spells out the necessary ESU prerequisites, provides instructions and lists a toll-free number to call for Microsoft's assistance in getting everything working. How has the Microsoft rollout of ESU gone? Not always well. Some comments appended to the Microsoft post "How to get Extended Security Updates for eligible Windows devices" were scathing. The ability for customers without volume licensing to acquire ESU via a CSP came in for particular scorn. "Microsoft has created a giant mess with the Windows 7 ESU program," argued a commentator identified as BlakeTex on Dec. 18. "The communication is so bad, you wonder if it's intentional. Many struggling MS customers have found your blog and are pleading for answers, but you are not responding, which is not helpful." Someone labeled discoveranother agreed. "Microsoft have been utterly hopeless with ESU and have left everything to the last minute in letting resellers know about the ESU licensing costs, etc., affecting small businesses and schools enormously," the commentator wrote. A Microsoft representative countered in the comments. "Microsoft announced ESU in early 2019 and have been making changes to the program as necessary ever since," said Joe Lurie on Dec. 19. "One change was allowing for CSP which was not in the original plans. This is why this was announced in October — it was an add-on program based on customer request." Source: FAQ: Last-minute answers about Windows 7's post-retirement patches (Computerworld - Gregg Keizer) [May require free registration to acceess]
  8. Windows 7 is down to its last days. If you don't care for Windows 10, it's time to consider running Linux Mint instead. On Jan. 14, 2020, Windows 7's free support ride ends. According to the Federal Digital Analytics Program (DAP), 20% of you are still running Windows 7. I get it. Windows 7 works. But Windows 7 is close to dead. It's time for a change. Linux Mint, an exceptional open-source desktop, might be right for you. Here are your other choices: If you want to stick with Windows, you can either keep running Windows 7 without vital security patches, which would be stupid, or you can pay a lot for Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESUs) on a per-device basis. How much is a lot? ESUs for Windows Enterprise users start at $25 per device in year one to $100 per device for year three. For Pro users, ESU pricing goes from $50 per device in year one and jumps to $200 per device in year three. Windows 7 Home? So sorry, you're not supported at all. I might also add that, if you're a small-to-medium business owner, you're going to have a lot of trouble finding a VAR or MSP who's willing to sell you ESU. Or, you can migrate to Windows 10. And, yes, for now, you can still update to Windows 10 for free from Windows 7. But, since Windows 10 came out in July 2015, if you haven't upgraded by now, it's pretty clear you don't want any part of Windows 10. So, why not consider Linux Mint instead? ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF A LINUX DESKTOP The only real reason to stay on Windows is its applications. Say you need Microsoft Office. Fine. Run the free Office Online, which comes with limited versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Need Teams? It's now available on Microsoft's first Linux Office app. Skype has long been available on Linux. There you go. Welcome to 2020, when you don't have to be running Windows to run "Windows" programs. At this point, you can't easily run Office 365 on Linux. That may be changing. Rumor is Microsoft's exploring bringing its popular cloud-based desktop office suite to Linux. You can run many other native Windows programs on Linux using Wine. This can be difficult to set up, so I recommend using its commercial implementation, CodeWeaver's Crossover Linux. If that doesn't work for your Windows-only application, you can always keep running Windows 7, without any dangerous network connections, in a virtual machine on Linux. For this purpose, I recommend Oracle's excellent and free VirtualBox. For all your other desktop software needs, there's usually a free, open-source program that can do just as good a job. Gimp, for example, instead of Photoshop. Or Evolution instead of Outlook. LibreOffice is a full-featured office suite. Another plus for desktop Linux is it's far more secure than Windows. Oh, you can run into trouble, but it's not like Windows, where every day is an opportunity to get zapped by the latest malware. You may have heard it's a royal pain in the rump to install applications on Linux. That's nonsense. With Mint's Software Manager, installing software is as easy as click and run. WHY LINUX MINT? There are many good Linux desktops, and I've used many of them. I recommend Mint, but there are numerous others you can consider, such as openSUSE, Manjaro, Debian, and Fedora. I have one big reason to think Mint is a good fit for Windows 7 users: Mint's default Cinnamon interface looks and works a lot like Windows 7's Aero interface. Yes, there's a learning curve, but it's nothing like the one you'll face if you move to Windows 10 or MacOS. Another advantage, which Mint share with other Linux distros, is it rests lightly on your system. Mint can run on any of your Windows 7 PCs. All Linux Mint needs to run is an x86 processor, 1GB of RAM (albeit, you'll be happier with 2GB), 15GB of disk space, a graphics card that can handle 1024x768 resolution, and a CD/DVD drive or USB port. That's it. Mint is ideal if you have a low-powered machine that would choke on Windows 10. With Mint, you can still get useful work out of a system that would otherwise be heading to the trash can. Mint, like the other Linux desktops, won't cost you a single red cent. You also don't have to commit to it. You can try it first, and if you don't like it, reboot back to Windows, and you're done. No fuss. No muss. Ready? Let's go. KICKING MINT'S TIRES ON YOUR WINDOWS PC 1. Download the Mint ISO file. First, download the Mint ISO file. This is about 2GB, so it may take a while to download. 2. Burn the Mint ISO file to a USB stick. Once you have it, you must burn it to a USB stick. While you can still install it on older systems with optical drives from a DVD, I recommend using a USB stick -- since that makes it easier to give a trial run. Running it from a DVD can be quite slow. If you don't have an ISO burner program, download one. I recommend freeware programs ImgBurn (for optical drives) and Yumi for Windows (for USB sticks). Other good choices are the LinuxLive USB Creator and UNetbootin. These are all free programs. Once you've installed the burner program and have the latest Linux Mint ISO file in hand, burn the ISO image to your disc or USB stick. If you're using a DVD, check your newly burned disc for errors. Over the years, I've had more problems with running Linux and installing Linux from bad discs than all other causes combined. It's better to use a USB stick with persistent storage. There are two reasons for this: First, you can then give Mint a trial run on your PC without installing a thing. If you don't like it, you'll have lost nothing but some time. In addition, installing Mint from a USB stick is much faster than doing it from a DVD. Another handy thing about using a USB stick with persistent storage: You can also store your own programs, files, and desktop setup on the stick. This way, you can carry Mint with you and use it as a walk-around operating system at a hotel, conference, and library PC. I've found this to be very handy, and there's always at least one Linux stick in my laptop bag. 3. Insert your USB and reboot. Next, reboot your system, but stop the boot-up process before Windows comes up, and get to your PC's UEFI or BIOS settings. How you do this varies according to your system. You should look for a message as the machine starts up that tells which key or keys you'll need to press to get to the BIOS or UEFI. You can also do a Google search for your specific PC or PC brand and "UEFI" (or, with older PCs, your computer brand and "BIOS"). For example, with Dell PCs, you tap the F2 key to enter system setup; with HP, you tap on the escape key once a second; and on Lenovo systems, you tap (Fn+) F2 or (Fn+) F1 key five to 10 times after the power-on button is pressed to get to system setup. Once you get to the BIOS or UEFI, look for a menu choice labeled "Boot," "Boot Options," or "Boot Order." If you don't see anything with the word "boot" in it, check other menu choices, such as "Advanced Options," "Advanced BIOS Features," or "Other Options." Once you find it, set the boot order so that, instead of booting from the hard drive first, you boot from either the optical drive or from a USB drive. After your PC is set to boot first from the alternative drive, insert your DVD or USB stick, reboot, and select "Start Linux Mint" from the first menu. In a minute or so, you'll be running Linux Mint. 4. Now, play with it for a while. Take a few days if you like. Windows is still there. Anytime you reboot without the drive or stick in, it will go right back to it. Like what you see? Then let's install Mint on your PC. HOW TO INSTALL LINUX MINT Like any serious upgrade, you'll start with making a complete backup of your Windows system. Installing Linux in the way I'm describing shouldn't hurt your Windows setup at all, but why take chances? It used to be that installing Linux on Windows PCs with UEFI and Secure Boot was a major pain. It can still be annoying, but Ubuntu and Mint have made booting and installing with the Secure Boot system a non-issue. All pre-built binaries intended to be loaded as part of the boot process, except the initrd image, are signed by Canonical's UEFI certificate, which is implicitly trusted by being embedded in the Microsoft signed shim loader. If for some reason, you can't install Mint with Secure Boot running on your PC, you can always turn off Secure Boot. There are many ways to switch Secure Boot off. All involve going to the UEFI control panel during the boot process and switching it off. Now, let's get on with the actual installation. 1. Make sure your PC is plugged in. The last thing you want is to run out of battery power during an operating system install! You'll also need an internet connection and about 8GB of free drive space. 2. Reboot into Linux again. Once you have the Mint display up, one of your icon choices on the left will be to install Mint. Double-click it, and you'll be on your way. 3. Partition your hard drive. Next, you must walk your way through several menu choices. Most of these decisions will be easy. For example, the language you want Mint to use and your time zone. The one critical option will be how to partition your hard drive. Partitioning a hard drive can be a real pain, but it doesn't have to be for our purposes. We'll set your PC up so you can dual-boot both Windows and Mint. To do this with the partition command, pick the first option on the Installation Type menu: "Install Linux Mint alongside them." This procedure will install Linux Mint next to your existing Windows system and leave it untouched. When I do this, I usually give half my PC's remaining drive space to Mint. You'll be asked to choose which operating system you want to boot by default. No matter which one you pick, you'll get a few seconds to switch to the other operating system. 4. Name your system. You'll also be required to give your system a name; pick out a username for yourself, and come up with a password. You can also choose to encrypt your home directory to keep files relatively safe from prying eyes. However, an encrypted home directory slows systems down. It's faster, albeit counterintuitive, to encrypt the entire drive after you have Mint up and running. 5. Set up a system snapshot. Mint 19.3's setup menu enables you to set up a system snapshot with Timeshift. This way, if something goes wrong later, you can restore your system files and get back to a working system. I highly recommend doing this. While you're at it, set up a regular Timeshift schedule. 6. Check for additional drivers. Next, you can have it check to see if your computer needs any additional drivers. You should do this. You can also install proprietary multimedia codecs such as drivers to watch DVDs. That's a good idea, as well. 7. Set it to update. You should also set it to update your system to the latest software. Unlike Windows, when you update Mint, you're updating not just your operating system but all your other programs such as the web browser, office suite, and any other programs you installed afterward from Mint's Software Manager. To do this manually, click on the shield icon in the menu bar. By default, you'll find this on the menu bar on the bottom part of the screen, and the icon will be on the right. Once clicked, it will prompt for your password and ask if you really want to update your system. Say yes, and you'll be ready to give your new Mint system a real try. The setup routine also offers to let you look at system settings and find new programs with the Software Manager, but since you're probably a new user, you can skip those for now. 8. That's all there is to it. I've installed Linux hundreds of times, and it usually takes me about an hour from starting my download -- the blessings of a 400Mbps internet connection -- to moving from booting up to customizing my new Mint PC. If you've never done it before, allow yourself an afternoon or morning for the job. You'll still miss Windows 7 at first, but soon, you'll appreciate how much Mint can do for you. Me? I run both operating systems --and a host of others -- but for every hour I spent on Windows 7, I've spent 50 on Mint. It's that good. Source
  9. If your business is still running on Windows 7, it's time to get serious about how you're going to handle the January 14, 2020 end of support. Here are your four options. If your business is still running on Windows 7, you have some important decisions to make, and very little time remaining. Windows 7 support officially ends in less than a month, on January 14, 2020. After that date, Microsoft will stop delivering security updates automatically, and by then many third-party vendors will have dropped support as well. Most businesses completed their planning for migration to Windows 10 long ago and are in the final stages of implementing that plan. If you're still procrastinating or have unresolved incompatibilities, it's time to get serious. (And just to make sure you're aware of the upcoming deadline, Microsoft is displaying pop-up notifications on Windows 7 PCs as the deadline approaches. After the deadline passes, you'll be greeted with a full-page message warning you that your operating system is no longer supported.) You have, by my calculation, four options. Which one you choose depends on why your organization is still clinging to Windows 7. If the main reason is inertia, you'll need to find something to motivate yourself. You could, for example, calculate the costs of cleaning up after a successful ransomware attack that spreads over your network, including the loss of business while you scramble to recover. If you're in a regulated industry, you might want to find out whether running an unsupported, unpatched operating system puts you at compliance risks, which can result in hefty fines and a loss of business when customers find out. The other possible deployment blocker is a compatibility problem. For most Windows 7 apps, compatibility shouldn't be an issue. For enterprises that are paying for Microsoft 365 subscriptions, a Microsoft initiative called Desktop App Assure offers free application remediation services. Microsoft says its engineers will "help remediate custom line-of-business apps, engage 3rd party software vendors to help with Windows 10 apps and address issues with Office 365 ProPlus macros and add-ins." If your business depends on specialized hardware or line-of-business software that absolutely will not run on Windows 10, you might be able to make a case for paying to extend the support deadline. But that just delays the inevitable by a year or two, or at most three. Your search for a replacement should be well under way by now. So, what are your options? Because I know that at least a dozen people will offer one particular suggestion in the comments to this post, let me bring it up right at the top of the list. Option 1: Switch to Linux. Something tells me that most businesses that have stuck with Windows 7 until nearly the bitter end have already considered and rejected this option. That's especially the case for those businesses that are constrained by compatibility issues related to a mission-critical Windows app. But sure, if you're willing to completely replace your desktop infrastructure and switch out every productivity app you use, that's a preferable alternative to the next option on the list. Option 2: Do nothing. On January 15, 2020, Windows 7 won't stop working. In fact, you're unlikely to notice any changes. If you feel lucky, this is certainly an option. You might even consider the lack of monthly updates a welcome feature. Spoiler alert: This is a very bad idea, one that exposes you to all manner of possible bad outcomes. If you absolutely must keep one or more Windows 7 PCs in operation, perhaps because they're running a critical app or controlling a piece of old but essential hardware, the best advice I can offer is to completely disconnect that machine from the network and lock it down so that it only runs that one irreplaceable app. Option 3: Pay for extended support. When Windows XP support ended in April 2014, Microsoft offered to continue delivering patches for XP devices owned by large organizations that paid for Custom Support Agreements. But those contracts didn't come cheap. Only very large enterprise customers could even qualify for one, and then the cost was literally millions of dollars, as my colleague Mary Jo Foley discovered. For Windows 7, the extended support option is far more democratic. In September 2018, Microsoft announced its plan to offer paid Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESUs), and in October 2019 the company announced that it was extending this support to businesses of all sizes. You won't need megabucks, either: The annual cost for an ESU contract covering calendar year 2020 is roughly $50 per device (although your reseller might charge more), with that price tag going up to $100 in year two and $200 in year three. That escalating price schedule is intended to serve as a disincentive to Windows 7 users who might otherwise be tempted to kick the can a little further down the road. You'll also need to find a reseller that is a member of the Cloud Solution Provider program and can deliver the ESU licenses you require. As I discovered when I tried to do just that, this isn't as easy as it might sound. Customers who have paid for Windows Software Assurance contracts or who have Windows 10 Enterprise or Education subscriptions will get a discount but will still be subject to significant price hikes in years 2 and 3. You can eliminate the extra cost of Windows 7 Extended Security Updates completely if you move your workloads to virtual machines in Microsoft's Azure cloud. That option will be available using the new Windows Virtual Desktop option, which should be available as a preview soon. For businesses that only need to virtualize individual line-of-business applications, this could be a cost-effective option. Option 4: Bite the bullet and upgrade. If you don't have any compatibility issues that need to be addressed first, the simplest and most straightforward route is to put together a deployment plan and begin executing it. But the details of that plan matter, especially if you want to avoid the headaches of the "Windows as a service" model. As always, of course, the easiest upgrade path is via hardware replacement. Any device that's five years old or more is an obvious candidate for recycling. Devices that were designed for Windows 10 and then downgraded to Windows 7 should be excellent candidates for in-place upgrades, after first making sure that the systems have the most recent BIOS/UEFI firmware updates. For systems that were sold between 2013 and 2015 with Windows 8 licenses and then downgraded to Windows 7, you might be able to save some money by installing Windows 8.1 (no additional license payment required) and then using a third-party utility like Classic Shell to replicate the Windows 7 look and feel. Doing this gets you three years of no-cost additional support, good until January 10, 2023. For businesses that choose a Windows 10 upgrade, one not-so-obvious factor to consider is which Windows 10 edition to deploy. The default choice for most businesses is Windows 10 Pro, but I strongly suggest considering an additional upgrade to the Enterprise (or Education) edition. Yes, machines running Windows 10 Pro allow your admins to defer feature updates, but the support schedule for Enterprise/Education is significantly longer: up to 30 months, as opposed to 18 months for Pro (For a description of the new support schedule, including a chart that explains how the new schedule works, see "Windows 10 Enterprise customers will now get Linux-like support.") The other advantage of moving to the Enterprise/Education editions is the availability of a new support offering called Desktop App Assure. If you encounter a compatibility issue during the upgrade, you file a support ticket and get engineering support to resolve the issue. For most businesses, the Windows Enterprise E3 and E5 subscription options are probably the easiest and most cost-effective here. Whichever option you choose, though, now's the time to get to work. That ticking sound is going to be deafening after January 14, 2020. Source
  10. Microsoft says it’ll sell Win7 Extended Security Updates to Ultimate users Sort of. Microsoft’s Joe Lurie posted on the Tech Community forum yesterday: We have been communicating ESU since last May with constant blogs, announcements at events, tweets, etc. The media has been reporting on them as well; I apologize if it seems last minute. The EOL date of Windows 7 was announced long before the ESU announcements, so even without ESU the EOL of Windows 7 has been looming. That said, Microsoft announced ESU in early 2019 and have been making changes to the program as necessary ever since. One change was allowing for CSP which was not in the original plans. This is why this was announced in October – it was an add-on program based on customer request; Most of us at Microsoft, and specifically in the ESU PG, are not at home over the holidays, we are still working to provide ESU for the customers that need it. As I mentioned in the above point, we only announced CSP recently, and have CSP partners ready to help; ESU is available for Windows 7 Ultimate edition, and has been since ESU was first being sold. We may have failed in that communication, and I apologize for that. Most of our enterprise customers aren’t using Ultimate edition, so we didn’t have Ultimate documented. Once we started selling ESU via CSP channel, the CSP partners were made aware of which versions are eligible for ESU. Wading through the alphabet soup, Lurie’s saying that normal people (and small companies) will have to get Extended Security updates through the recently-announced Cloud Service Provider companies. It appears that Microsoft forgot that there are Win7 users who want security updates, but aren’t tied to volume licenses. Those unwashed masses (like, oh, me) have to go through a CSP. The announcement about Extended Security Update availability for Win7 Ultimate is brand new, at least to me. There’s been a lot of speculation in recent months (much of it here on AskWoody) as to whether Ultimate customers will be able to buy the patches. Patch Lady Susan Bradley is spearheading the drive to bring Win7 Extended Security Updates to the masses. Stay tuned – much more to come. Source: Microsoft says it’ll sell Win7 Extended Security Updates to Ultimate users (AskWoody - Woody Leonhard)
  11. Microsoft’s full-screen Windows 7 upgrade prompts start next month Windows 7 end of support is January 14th, 2020 Microsoft has been notifying Windows 7 users about January’s end of support throughout 2019. Now, the company is making its notification prompts even bigger, as full-screen pop-ups to warn about the end of life of Windows 7. The full-screen notification will warn that “your Windows 7 PC is out of support,” and it will start appearing on January 15th, the day after support ends. Microsoft will warn Windows 7 users who haven’t upgraded that PCs are “more vulnerable to viruses and malware” due to a lack of security and software updates and no tech support. There will be three options to dismiss the message, including the ability to remind later, learn more, or don’t remind again. The full-screen prompt will remain on the screen until a Windows 7 user has interacted with it. Windows 7 support will end on January 14th, 2020, and Microsoft has been promoting Windows 10 as the main upgrade path for businesses and consumers. Windows 10 passed Windows 7 in market share earlier this year, and Microsoft’s latest operating system is now set to hit 1 billion devices next year. Source: Microsoft’s full-screen Windows 7 upgrade prompts start next month (The Verge)
  12. By Ed Bott for The Ed Bott Report The end of Windows 7 support is weeks away. Microsoft says small businesses can pay for extended security updates just like their enterprise cousins. But my experience says they don't really want your money. Support for Windows 7 ends in just a few weeks. After Jan. 14, 2020, Microsoft will no longer provide free security updates and bug fixes for the venerable operating system to the general public. Those updates will be available, however, to Microsoft customers who are willing to pay for the privilege. The Windows 7 Extended Security Update (ESU) program runs for an additional three years, through January 2023, and it's been officially available since Dec. 2, 2019. When Microsoft first announced the Windows 7 ESU program, in September 2018, the company said these updates would be available to its most valuable customers: Giant corporations and government agencies with volume licensing subscriptions and medium-sized businesses and educational institutions with Windows 10 Enterprise or Education subscriptions. Then, in October 2019, Microsoft extended the program to businesses of all sizes. If you run a small business (even a sole proprietorship) and you want to keep using Windows 7, that should be good news. But as I learned this week, Microsoft doesn't seem particularly interested in taking your money if your business is too small. Anyone who administers Windows PCs in a large organization with an active volume licensing contract has it easy. They can deploy ESU to Windows 7 devices by downloading a Multiple Activation Key (MAK) from the Volume Licensing Service Center and then installing a few servicing stack updates and using a command-line tool to register the new key. Businesses that aren't big enough for a volume licensing contract, however, are not so lucky: Microsoft says you small fry have to purchase Windows 7 ESUs through one of its partners in the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program. Sounds easy, right? It's not. For this article, I went in search of Windows 7 ESUs, figuring it would be a simple task, and I could share the step-by-step procedure here. I discovered that unless you already have a relationship with a friendly CSP, the process is far more difficult than it should be. My starting point was the same one you should use if you're interested in the ESU option, the comprehensive, official Microsoft FAQ about Extended Security Updates for Windows 7. There, you'll find this Q&A: Who should I contact for more information about pricing and ordering for Windows 7 ESU? VL customers: Please contact your Account Team CE for pricing and ordering information that is tailored to specific customer scenarios. Customers who are interested in purchasing Windows 7 ESU in CSP should reach out to a CSP partner. You can find a qualified partner at this site. That link takes you to the Microsoft Solution Providers database. I filled in the three blanks, specifying my business location (US) and size (one to nine employees). But the final field, which asks for "products, services, skills, industries, or organizations," is a stumper. I settled on "Cloud Solution Provider," which returned eight results. After reviewing the capsule description for each provider, I wasn't encouraged. All the recommended firms were large consultancies with broad-based skillsets, targeting companies that will pay them big bucks to do medium- and large-scale deployment and development tasks. None of them seemed like the type of firm that would be interested in a onesy-twosy license deal with a very small business. I chose the maximum of three providers, entered a description of what I was looking for, provided contact information, and clicked the Send button. Within 15 minutes, I had a response. Unfortunately, it wasn't exactly what I was hoping. The No. 1 provider on my list, the one Microsoft had assured me, was the best match for my request, was "unavailable." Twelve hours later, I got another message, apologizing that my second-best match was also "unavailable." I'm still waiting to hear back from the third and final match. Meanwhile, I contacted the two companies with whom I already have an established reseller relationship and asked if they could help. One said, "Sorry, no." The other seemed stumped but passed the request along to someone who might have more detailed product knowledge. A few hours later, I got this reply: Unfortunately, you would need to reach out to a reseller to purchase this license. We're not able to sell to an end user directly. I suppose I could keep trying, but I'm not feeling optimistic; instead, I'm disappointed that Microsoft has chosen to make this option so difficult. I've worked with Microsoft's cloud partners before, and it's not a simple point-click-pay-activate process. Instead, you have to set up an Azure Active Directory tenant, create a reseller relationship with a partner to give them access to your Azure AD portal, and then have them fill your order. Another reseller that I contacted confirmed that scenario exactly, replying to my request with this note: Hello, We received your message regarding Windows 7. We are Cloud Solution Provider and only provide licenses for customers who have a commercial account. If you are interested in becoming a commercial customer of Microsoft please let us know. That's an awful lot of hoops to jump through to buy a single product key that's good for a year and doesn't require any deployment or support. What's especially galling is that Microsoft long ago allowed customers to skip all those partner hoops and buy Office 365, Microsoft 365, and other cloud-based services directly from the Office 365 portal. It's almost like Microsoft wants people to become discouraged and give up. It doesn't have to be this way. Microsoft has been serving pop-up notifications about the Windows 7 end-of-support deadline for several months now. After support officially expires on Jan. 14, 2020, Microsoft is going to start delivering a full-screen warning to PCs that are still running Windows 7. You would think that any of these pop-ups would be an ideal opportunity to help diehard Windows 7 fans access those paid updates. Just add one more option: "Pay for extended support." Give people the usual dire warnings about how it's a dead-end and Windows 10 is more secure. Make them click through an ironclad legal waiver. Hell, require that they upload a video of themselves holding today's newspaper to prove they're serious. But if they want those updates, Microsoft, take their money. I'll file a follow-up report after I've heard back from the resellers I queried earlier. In the meantime, if you're the owner of a Cloud Solution Provider that focuses on small businesses and you're willing to help out Windows 7 diehards who are looking for ESU licenses, hit the contact form and send me a message. Source
  13. It's that time of the month again when Microsoft unleashes an array of updates to all of the supported versions of Windows. This includes, of course, multiple versions of Windows 10, but also Windows 7 and 8.1. As usual, each OS gets two different kinds of updates - a monthly rollup and a security-only update. For Windows 8.1, the monthly rollup update is KB4530702, and it can be downloaded manually from here. It comes with a single change: Security updates to Windows Virtualization, Windows Kernel, Windows Peripherals, the Microsoft Scripting Engine, and Windows Server. The security-only update is KB4530730, and it can be downloaded manually from here. The changelog is very similar, except there's no update for the Microsoft Scripting Engine. Both updates have the same known issue, which has been around for months: Symptom Workaround Certain operations, such as rename, that you perform on files or folders that are on a Cluster Shared Volume (CSV) may fail with the error, “STATUS_BAD_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL (0xC00000A5)”. This occurs when you perform the operation on a CSV owner node from a process that doesn’t have administrator privilege. Do one of the following: Perform the operation from a process that has administrator privilege. Perform the operation from a node that doesn’t have CSV ownership. Microsoft is working on a resolution and will provide an update in an upcoming release. As for Windows 7, the monthly rollup update is KB4530734, and it can be downloaded manually from here. The changelog is very similar to the one for Windows 8.1: Security updates to Windows Input and Composition, Windows Virtualization, Windows Kernel, Windows Peripherals, the Microsoft Scripting Engine, and Windows Server. The security-only update is KB4530692 and it can be downloaded manually here. It has a similar changelog, but just like Windows 8.1, it doesn't include updates to the Microsoft Scripting Engine. Neither update has any known issues. It's worth noting that this is the second last update you will ever get unless you're using a business machine ad your company opts to pay for extended security updates. Windows 7 support will end on January 15, after which, no more updates will be released. You may want to consider upgrading to a newer version of Windows to stay secure. Source: Here's what's new for Windows 7 and 8.1 this Patch Tuesday (via Neowin)
  14. Microsoft to end updates to Windows 7's free AV software, Security Essentials When support for Windows 7 ends on Jan. 14, Microsoft will also stop providing new malware signatures for its home-grown Security Essentials software. Microsoft / Gerd Altmann (CC0) Microsoft will not provide new malware signatures for its home-grown Security Essentials software after it retires Windows 7 in five weeks. "No, your Windows 7 computer is not protected by MSE ((Microsoft Security Essentials)) after January 14, 2020," the company said in a support document mainly concerned about the Extended Security Updates (ESU) being shilled to enterprises. "MSE is unique to Windows 7 and follows the same lifecycle dates for support." Security Essentials, a free antivirus (AV) program that launched in 2008, was originally limited to consumers. However, in 2010, Microsoft expanded the licensing to small businesses, defined as those with 10 or fewer PCs. Two years after that, MSE was replaced by Windows Defender with the launch of Windows 8. Since then, Defender has been baked into each follow-up version of the OS, including Windows 10. Windows 7, though, has been stuck with MSE. Computerworld previously speculated that Microsoft would provide updates to MSE even after Windows 7's retirement, slated for Jan. 14. The forecast was based on Microsoft's behavior five years ago, when it kept cranking out malware signature updates for Windows XP users of MSE in the months after that operating system's April 2014 retirement. What Computerworld neglected to consider, of course, was that in 2014 MSE still had a large pool of users or potential users, those running Windows 7. Because Microsoft was still required to produce MSE signature updates for Windows 7, there was no, or little extra work needed to push the same updates to XP. That's not the case now; Windows 7 is the end of the line for MSE. Without question, it would be in Microsoft's interest to continue updating MSE on Windows 7 after Jan. 14; unprotected systems threaten the Windows ecosystem as a whole, because exploitation of, say, one Windows 7 PC could lead to the compromise of several other devices on the same network, such as one connecting the machines of a small business. But Microsoft has presumably weighed that against its desire to induce customers to upgrade to Windows 10 and found for the latter. Source: Microsoft to end updates to Windows 7's free AV software, Security Essentials (Computerworld - Gregg Keizer)
  15. Someone found a way to bypass Windows 7 Extended Security Updates checks Someone discovered a way to enable Extended Security Updates on all machines running Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system. Support for Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system ends after the January 2020 Patch Tuesday. Small businesses and Enterprises may extend support by up to three years for a price. Small businesses pay Microsoft up to $200 per device and year for extended support, Enterprises up to $200 per user and year. The support program is available already and there are prerequisites that need to be met. Microsoft won't offer the Extended Security Updates program to Home users even though some would pay Microsoft to extend support for Windows 7. Home users may get some security patches created by third-party company 0Patch, but support will be limited and not as extensive -- likely -- as what Microsoft pushes out via the Extended Security Updates program. Note: Microsoft released a test update that administrators may attempt to download and install to verify that the device is eligible for Extended Security Updates. This, and other parameters, may change before the program starts officially in January 2020. Creating backups is highly recommended. Devices or users that participate in the Extended Security Updates program need to install an update that verifies eligibility to receive updates after January 14, 2020. Extended Security Updates must be installed online on live systems; they cannot be integrated or installed offline, at least not right now. Users on the My Digital Life forum discovered a way to bypass the Extended Security Updates check. The bypass works with Microsoft's test update but it is unclear if it will also work with "real" updates that the company releases after the January 2020 Patch Day. All that needs to be done currently is to download a small archive from the My Digital Life forum and extract it. The package includes two batch files that enable or disable the bypass on the system, executable files, and the source. Basically, what happens behind the scene is that verification checks return true all the time through manipulation of these checks. One interesting aspect of the hack is that it enables support for all Windows 7 editions, even those that Microsoft does not want to support after January 14, 2020. In other words: Windows 7 Home, Starter or Ultimate editions would be able to receive updates provided by the Extended Security Updates program when the bypass is installed. The developers plan already to extend support to Windows Vista and to support the POSReady 7 SKU which will receive security updates until 2024. (via Deskmodder) Source: Someone found a way to bypass Windows 7 Extended Security Updates checks (gHacks - Martin Brinkmann)
  16. The Windows 7 Extended Security Update program is now available Microsoft will end support for the company's Windows 7 operating system on January 14, 2020, the same day that security updates are made available for the last time for the operating system. While there are not any official options for home users of Windows 7 to extend support, paid or unpaid, companies and organizations may pay Microsoft to extend support by up to three years. Security company 0Patch revealed plans to release (some) security updates for Windows 7 for free after Microsoft ends support. Microsoft unveiled the program for Enterprise customers in 2018 and for non-Enterprise businesses in 2019. Enterprise customers may pay Microsoft $50, $100, or $200 per year and user to extend Windows 7 Pro or Enterprise support. It is unclear at the time if Windows 7 Ultimate devices may also receive extended support or if support is reserved to Pro and Enterprise editions exclusively. Small businesses may also pay Microsoft for extended support for Pro and Enterprise editions but these businesses pay per device and not user. The cost of extending support for Windows 7 Pro machines is the same that Enterprise customers pay per user whereas it is half of that for Enterprise machines. Customers who have active subscription licenses for Windows 10 Enterprise E5, Microsoft 365 E5, Microsoft 365 E5 Security, or Windows VDA E5 will receive the first year of Windows 7 ESU support as a benefit according to Microsoft (only available to volume licensing customers). Enterprise customers could join the Extended Security Update program in April 2019 already while Small Business customers had to wait until December to join the program. Microsoft released an update that verifies whether Windows 7 SP1 or Server 2008 R2 SP1 devices can get the Extended Security Updates. The update is a test package that is only available via the Microsoft Update Catalog website (or WSUS) at the time of writing. The following prerequisites exist: 4474419 SHA-2 code signing support update for Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008: September 23, 2019 4490628 Servicing stack update for Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1: March 12, 2019 4516655 Servicing stack update for Windows 7 SP1 and Server 2008 R2 SP1: September 10, 2019 4519976 October 8, 2019—KB4519976 (Monthly Rollup) Install and activate the ESU key. See this article for instructions. Small businesses need to purchase ESUs from Cloud Solution Providers. Transactions generate unique keys. Each transaction for Windows 7 ESU licenses will generate a unique MAK key. If a customer purchases Windows 7 ESUs at multiple points in time, CSP partners will be able to see the full list of transactions in the Partner Center for that customer. The customer will also see the MAK keys and associated licenses in their Microsoft 365 Admin Center. Closing Words The information that Microsoft provides is scattered across multiple company websites and properties, and it is quite difficult to get a clear picture of requirements and instructions. Things like missing information about Windows 7 Ultimate make things even more complicated. Whether Microsoft manages to make things easier for customers remains to be seen. Source: The Windows 7 Extended Security Update program is now available (gHacks - Martin Brinkmann)
  17. What happens after Windows 7's retirement? The January end-of-support deadline for Windows 7 is fast approaching. Here's a rundown of some of the issues companies should keep in mind as that date draws near. Getty Images / Microsoft The Redmond doctor came into the room, huffed a chair into place, but wouldn't meet Windows 7's eyes, just stared at the desk. "I'm afraid it's bad news," the physician said. Windows 7 let out a long sigh. "It's terminal," the M.D. said. As if Windows 7 hadn't known it was on borrowed time since July 2015. That scare in the fall of 2012 had been irksome, nothing more. But then three years later, the end was clearly in sight. And here it was. "Ten weeks," the doctor said, gazing out the window at the fall leaves. "Maybe eleven. But then...." What happens to Windows 7 then? Nothing immediately. The operating system will continue to work or not, as it did or didn't, for each user the day before support retirement. That's important to remember, if only because some still don't — assuming that after midnight on Jan. 14, 2020, the OS screeches to a stop. Even Microsoft reminds customers that Windows 7 will continue to run post-retirement, although it could move those reminders closer to the top of its to-do list. In this FAQ about the end of support, Microsoft waited until the fifth item before making note of the operating system's resilience. "If you continue to use Windows 7 after support has ended, your PC will still work," Microsoft pledged, also noting, "Your PC will continue to start and run." Good to know, thanks. But customer support comes to a halt — theoretically, Microsoft's phone- and chat-based support won't answer questions — as do security updates. Yet unless Microsoft issues an emergency update in the four weeks after Jan. 14, the first fixes Windows 7 users will miss arrive Feb. 11. Until then, an out-of-date Windows 7 system will be as patched as if support had continued. What happens to Office when Windows 7 drops from support? That depends on the type of Office. Office 365, the version paid by subscription — whether for one, as in Office 365 Personal, or for thousands, as in Office 365 Enterprise E5 — will continue to receive security updates on unsupported copies of Windows 7 until January 2023. That's the good news. The bad? Office 365, whose premise is one of constant evolution, will not upgrade to new features or functionality. The feature set, in other words, will lock down and stay that way. On the Office flip side — those versions sold as "perpetual licenses," such as Office 2010 or 2016 — will be supported through each suite's standard span. (Remember: Perpetually licensed Office, a.k.a. non-subscription Office, only receives bug fixes, never feature updates or improvements.) Office 2010, for instance, will be supported until Oct. 13, 2020; Office 2013, until April 10, 2023; and Office 2016, until Oct. 14, 2025. The most recent perpetually licensed suite, Office 2019, is supported only on Windows 10. Microsoft did set a caveat, however, on Office support. "If the problem is a result of the combination of Office and an unsupported operating system, the problem will not be supported (emphasis added)," the company stated. The January 2023 end-of-security-updates deadline wasn't plucked from the air. It was chosen because that's how long Microsoft will provide Windows 7 patches for payment through its Extended Security Updates (ESU). Microsoft realized that if it sold ESU to commercial customers, it also had to keep patching Office. What about Internet Explorer? Unlike Office, Microsoft will stop patching Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) at the same time it halts updates to Windows 7. In other words, on Jan. 14, 2020. "As a component of Windows, Internet Explorer follows the support lifecycle of the Windows operating system it's installed on," Microsoft says — and has for ages, since that's been boilerplate for seemingly forever. But elsewhere, the firm put it plainly. "Support for Internet Explorer on a Windows 7 device will also be discontinued on January 14, 2020," it said here. The only way to keep receiving IE11 security updates in Windows 7 is to pay for Extended Security Updates (ESU). What happens to the antivirus defense we use? That depends on the antivirus vendor's policies and practices. Just as happened at the retirement of Windows XP in April 2014, expect that most credible AV makers will continue to pump out new definition updates — the "fingerprints" that identify newly-found malware to the scanner — for Windows 7 long after the OS has fallen off the support list. The three-year availability of Extended Security Updates (ESU) to business customers will guarantee AV vendors that cater to the corporate market will keep definition releases going. AV support may quickly be limited to issuing definition updates, although some vendors will continue to refresh products with new or enhanced features. For reference, Symantec moved Windows XP (retired 4/14) and Vista (4/17) to what it calls "Maintenance Mode" only in June 2018. As of that date, Symantec said, "New product capabilities will no longer be provided." But already-installed software "will continue to receive the latest malware definitions" as well as "vulnerability updates and compatibility fixes." Microsoft has not yet said what it will do for Security Essentials, the free anti-malware product for Windows 7. Again, a look to Windows XP is worthwhile: Microsoft provided definition updates for more than a year after XP's retirement. What happens if we can't get off Windows 7, but can't run unpatched PCs? Microsoft will gladly sell commercial customers, from the smallest businesses to the largest enterprises, what it calls "Extended Security Updates," or ESUs, that provide security updates to patch "Critical" and "Important" vulnerabilities through mid-January 2023...for a price. The per-device plans will be sold in one-year increments for up to three years, with prices for larger customers running as high as $350 per PC for all three years. (Costs for smaller businesses won't be revealed until Dec. 1.) Although Microsoft dubbed ESU the "last resort" for Windows 7 customers, it spent a large chunk of this "End of Support FAQ" describing the service, drawing its boundaries and extolling its benefits. ESU is, by far and away, the most transparent post-retirement security support concept Microsoft has launched. The company recognizes that many businesses will not make the deadline and so it wants a solution, temporary if that, or is eager to use what may be the last ever such OS transition to generate additional revenue. Or both. Note that ESU has no bearing on security updates for Office 365 ProPlus — the part of an Office 365 subscription that provides the locally installed applications — on Windows 7. Even Windows 7-powered PCs that are not covered by ESU will continue to receive patches for Office 365 ProPlus. Microsoft made that clear in the FAQ: "Windows 7 ESU will have no impact on support for Office 365 ProPlus on Windows 7," it read. Source: What happens after Windows 7's retirement? (Computerworld - Gregg Keizer)
  18. Dedoimedo: Straight talk about Windows 7 I don’t agree with everything in the article, but @EP just pointed me to a remarkably well-written and, in my opinion, highly accurate guide to the end of Windows 7. Igor Ljubuncic, on his Dedoimedo blog, doesn’t mince any words: If you have a Windows 7 machine, you can continue using it past the operating system EOL date. I’ve laid down the recipe for good security, the hardware will work as long as it lasts, and the software won’t just vanish. You will have time to adjust, and this should coincide with hardware replacement. Once that happens, you should definitely leave Windows 7 behind, and get a modern up-to-date operating system to match the capabilities of your new machine. If you’re going to stick with Win7, he has a number of common-sense recommendations (and observations!) that ring true with me. I disagree with him on some nit-picking points: I don’t like EMET because it borks too many programs that otherwise work just fine. You can try it, using his recommended method, but if you get too frustrated, don’t be afraid to turn it off. Igor’s fond of Microsoft Office (or at least tolerates it). By and large, I’ve kicked my Office habit – moved to the free Google apps. Like Igor, I also have editors who need Word DOCXs, and I use Office for those, but I’d likely be just as happy using the free online version of Word. Books are a different story altogether, of course — it’s Word all the way with those. Not my choice. He talks about Linux, but doesn’t touch on the most important Linux implementation for Win7 users — ChromeOS. You’ve heard me say it before, but for most people who aren’t overly concerned about snooping, a Chromebook should be your #1 candidate for a replacement computer. (And if you are concerned about snooping, you have a very long row to hoe with Win7.) As Igor says, this advice is for home users — if you’re running a 100-machine network, the considerations are quite different. But I still recommend the Chromebook. 🙂 You’re going to hear a lot of fearmongering, tales of impending hell fire and damnation, from the mainstream press. Many of the people offering the sermons will have the best intentions. But they don’t know your situation, what you need, what you can afford (time and money)… and, ultimately, what’s best for you. Win7’s, uh, transition to EOL is not The End of the Universe as We Know It. Source: Dedoimedo: Straight talk about Windows 7 (AskWoody - Woody Leonhard)
  19. A new report -- Webroot Threat Report: Mid-Year Update -- has found that one in 50 URLs are malicious, nearly one-third of phishing sites use HTTPS and Windows 7 and exploits have grown 75 percent since January 2019. According to the report, Hackers are using trusted domains and HTTPS to trick victims. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of malicious URLs were found to be hosted on trusted domains, as hackers know trusted domain URLs raise less suspicion among users and are more difficult for security measures to block. 1 in 50 URLs (1.9 percent) were found to be malicious, which is high, the report says, given that nearly a third (33 percent) of office workers click more than 25 work-related links per day. Nearly a third (29 percent) of detected phishing web pages use HTTPS as a method to trick users into believing they're on a trusted site via the padlock symbol. Phishing continued rapid growth into 2019, and criminals are expanding their phishing targets. Phishing grew rapidly, with a 400-percent increase in URLs discovered from January to July 2019. The top industries impersonated by phishing include: 25 percent are SaaS/Webmail providers 19 percent are financial institutions 16 percent are social media 14 percent are retail 11 percent are file hosting Eight percent are payment services companies Phishing lures are becoming increasingly personalized as more PII is collected from breaches. Phished passwords are used for more than account takeover. Specifically: extortion emails are being used, claiming the user has been caught doing something embarrassing or damaging that will be shared with colleagues, friends and family unless a ransom is paid, says the results. Phishing doesn't always target usernames and passwords. The attacks also go after secret questions and their answers, says the report. Windows 7 is becoming even riskier, with infections increasing by 71 percent. Between January and June, the number of IPs that host Windows exploits grew 75 percent Malware samples seen on only one PC are at 95.2 percent, up from 91.9 percent in 2018 Out of all infected PCs, 64 percent were home user machines, and 36 percent were business devices. More at: (Webroot) Source
  20. MS to give small/medium businesses access to Win7 patches after January Chip, chip, chip. Jared Spataro, MS corporate VP for Microsoft 365 (note the title) has just posted a reprieve, of sorts: today we are announcing that, through January 2023, we will extend the availability of paid Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) to businesses of all sizes. (Previously, Windows 7 ESU was only available to Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Enterprise customers in Volume Licensing.) The Windows 7 ESU will be sold on a per-device basis with the price increasing each year. Starting on December 1, 2019, businesses of any size can purchase ESU through the cloud solution provider (CSP) program. This means that customers can work with their partners to get the security they need while they make their way to Windows 10. Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet has pricing: The price of the ESUs goes from $25 per device for Windows Enterprise users in year one, to $100 per device for year three. For Pro users, ESU pricing goes from $50 per device in year one up to $200 per device in year three. I don’t participate in the Cloud Solution Provider program, so I don’t know the precise details. But I have a feeling we’ll find out soon. Source: MS to give small/medium businesses access to Win7 patches after January (AskWoody - Woody Leonhard)
  21. By Ed Bott for The Ed Bott Report Windows 7 support officially ends on January 14, 2020. After that date, the only way to receive security updates from Microsoft for PCs running the out-of-support operating system is to pay a minimum of $50 per device for Extended Security Updates. That's particularly bad timing for election officials in the United States, where 2020 is an election year and the memory of foreign interference in the 2016 Presidential election is still fresh. An Associated Press analysis earlier this year found that "the vast majority of 10,000 election jurisdictions nationwide use Windows 7 or an older operating system to create ballots, program voting machines, tally votes and report counts." That count includes a significant number of brand-new systems in states that were highly contested in 2016. Election officials who were still agonizing over their response can breathe a sigh of relief today, after Microsoft announced it would provide free security updates for those machines through the end of 2020. Tom Burt, Microsoft's Corporate Vice President of Customer Security & Trust, made the announcement in a blog post today: Today, as part of Microsoft's Defending Democracy Program, we are announcing that we will provide free security updates for federally certified voting systems running Windows 7 through the 2020 elections, even after Microsoft ends Windows 7 support. [...] As a next step in protecting the 2020 elections, the Defending Democracy Program will make extended security updates available for free to federally certified voting systems running Windows 7. We will do this through the end of 2020, both in the United States and in other democratic countries, as defined by the EIU Democracy Index, that have national elections in 2020 and express interest. We are also working with major manufacturers that have sold voting machines running Windows 7 to ensure any security updates provided to these systems are successful. In July, Microsoft showed off a software development kit called ElectionGuard, which it is making available as open source for makers of voting machines. That effort comes on the heels of separate account security tools that Microsoft and Google are offering to political parties and election officials in the European Union and Canada. (Microsoft's AccountGuard technology was already available in the United States and the United Kingdom.) As part of today's announcement, Microsoft warned that the free update program does not apply to PCs used for standard business operations. For those PCs, Microsoft advised customers to upgrade to Windows 10 before the support deadline. Source
  22. Caution updating Win7 if you have an ASUS motherboard and get a “Secure Boot Violation” warning Poster @Charlie has questions about ASUS motherboards and the August Win7 Monthly Rollup: I was all set to go ahead with the August Updates when I read about this apparent problem that KB3133977 has with ASUS motherboards, and that stopped me dead in my tracks! I have an ASUS P8H61-MLE CSM, H61 B3 chipset motherboard of around 2012 vintage and it has an EFI BIOS, but not UEFI. I do not already have KB3133977 and according to what I see will need to install it (maybe). Just to refresh your memory, KB 3133977 caused all sorts of havoc when it was released in May of 2016. I wrote an article about it in Computerworld at the time. I’m not at all sure if the ghost from more than two years ago is still haunting Win7 Monthly Rollups. @PKCano has an answer: For those with ASUS motherboards considering KB3133977: It would seem that ASUS implemented “Safe Boot” on some Win7 machines, when Win7 doesn’t support Safe Boot, by altering the BIOS. There are instructions on the ASUS website (thank you, @samak ) here to deal with the situation: https://www.asus.com/support/FAQ/1016356/ If you have an ASUS motherboard, and Safe Boot is implemented, it looks there are three options: Either Make the modification in the BIOS so you can install KB3133977 OR Not install KB3133977 and just install the August patch. OR Do not install either patch and wait for further instructions. Anybody out there have more recent info? UPDATE: @Sinclair has a related question: What I am trying to get sorted is can you install the August and future patches on a non UEFI motherboard without installing the Bitlocker patch. Does the August patch not alter your boot files if the Bitlocker patch is not installed on a non UEFI system? Does it even matter if it is a non UEFI system or not when it comes to the boot files? Because it would really suck if so short before Windows 7 goes out of patching. I end up with a system that can not use any old repair tool to fix it if it ever has harddisk problems. That is why it is so complex. I have not seen anyone say yeah your fine the new boot files can be seen by old tools. Or yeah no worries nothing is altered on a non UEFI motherboard. Source: Caution updating Win7 if you have an ASUS motherboard and get a “Secure Boot Violation” warning (AskWoody - Woody Leonhard)
  23. A new report shows that businesses continue to use older operating systems such as Windows 7, and even Windows Vista, even though they are no longer supported and less secure compared to Windows 10. The data analysts firm NetMarketShare revealed that Windows 10 has seen a significant uptake in users and it's close to 50% of market share, but a new report from Kaspersky Security Network suggests that many users are still actively using outdated operating systems like Windows 7 and Vista. According to new research from Kaspersky, many of its customers are still using Windows 7 and that’s primarily due to its huge number of enterprise users. The research shows that 41% of surveyed customers still use Windows 7. Even worse, some are still using Windows XP and Windows Vista, which are no longer supported and therefore do not receive security updates. At least 40% of surveyed customers are very small businesses and 48% are SMBs. Perhaps more worryingly, 38% of customers and VSBs use Windows 7 operating system on small office and home office PCs. Of these surveyed businesses, 47% of SMBs and enterprises are still on Windows 7. "More than a third (38%) of consumers and VSBs, and 47% of SMBs and enterprises, still run this OS. For small, medium-sized and enterprise business segments, the share of Windows 7 and the newest version Windows 10 (47% of workstations work on this OS) is the same," the report reads. "The widespread use of Windows 7 is concerning as there is less than six months to go until this version becomes unsupported," said Alexey Pankratov, enterprise solutions manager at Kaspersky. There are less than six months to go until Windows 7 becomes unsupported. According to Microsoft, Windows 7 will officially stop receiving the monthly security updates on 14 January 2020. In its report, Kaspersky said that an old unpatched OS is a cybersecurity risk and it is highly recommended that users upgrade to the latest version of Windows. Source
  24. 6 Months before Support End, Microsoft brings DirectX 12 support to Windows 7 When Microsoft announced DirectX 12 in 2014, it did not reveal any compatibility information. The new version of DirectX was announced at a time when Windows 8 was the latest operating system; Windows 10 was released in 2015. We assumed back then that Microsoft would limit DirectX artificially to Windows 8 or the upcoming version of Windows which we assumed would be Windows 9. Microsoft revealed at the end of 2014 that Windows 10 would indeed ship with DirectX 12 support. Rumors suggested that the new version would not be made available to earlier versions of Windows, and a Microsoft support article confirmed that. Windows 7 systems were stuck with DirectX 11.0 and 11.1, Windows 8.1 with Direct X 11.1 and 11.2 Four years later, in early 2019, Microsoft suddenly announced that DirectX 12 support would be coming to select games on Windows 7. Game companies urged Microsoft to bring DirectX 12 to Windows 7 to make use of advanced capabilities and reduce development costs at the same time. Microsoft began to port the Direct3D 12 runtime as a response to Windows 7. Blizzard, maker of World of Warcraft and other games, was the first company to support a DirectX 12 game on Windows 7. World of Warcraft gamers could run the game using DirectX 12 to benefit from better framerates and other improvements. Options to bring DirectX 12 games to Windows 7 devices were limited initially but work with several game studios -- none is mentioned in particular except Blizzard -- continued after the initial announcement. Microsoft released a new development guidance in August 2019 to allow game developers to run their DirectX 12 games on Windows 7. To better support game developers at larger scales, we are publishing the following resources to allow game developers to run their DirectX 12 games on Windows 7. Developers can check out the Porting D3D12 games to Windows 7 guide to get started. The guide is divided into several chapters. It begins with a list of files and drivers that are needed to set up a development system and test machines. Other chapters reveal how to get DirectX 12 games up and ready on Windows 7 PCs, give optimization tips and release suggestions. Closing Words The big question that came to my mind immediately was "why now?". Windows 7 nears end of support; the operating system won't get updates anymore after the January 2020 patch day. While companies may extend support for up to three years, they are not the core target for gaming and it seems highly unlikely that many would benefit from the feature. Windows 7 systems won't just go away in January 2020, however. If Windows XP's death is anything to go by, it could take years before use of the operating system drops below the ten percent mark. Game companies may continue to support Windows 7 because of that even after Windows 7 support ends officially. I still think that the timing on this is really bad. It is clear that Microsoft wanted to encourage gamers to upgrade to Windows 10 by making DirectX 12 Windows 10 exclusive in the beginning: this did not work very well when Microsoft released Windows Vista and made DirectX 10 Vista exclusive. Gamers and companies ignored DirectX 10 for the most part as a consequence. Source: 6 Months before Support End, Microsoft brings DirectX 12 support to Windows 7 (gHacks - Martin Brinkmann)
  25. Microsoft releases KB4512478 and KB4512514 previews Microsoft released the monthly rollup previews KB4512478 and KB4512514 for Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Server 2008 R2 and 2012 R2 this weekend. The release on a Saturday is a deviation from the Tuesday or Thursday release schedule for the preview updates. Whether that is a one-time deviation or something that could happen more often in the future remains to be seen. KB4512478 and KB4512514 are preview updates of the monthly rollup patch that Microsoft will release on September 10, 2019. Designed to give organizations time to test changes made in these updates, the previews are available on all devices running one of the supported operating systems. A check on Windows Update will return these as optional updates and they may also be downloaded from the Microsoft Update Catalog. The previews are not available on WSUS but they can be imported to WSUS manually. KB4512514 for Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Support page Microsoft Update Catalog KB4512514 is a non-security update that fixes two issues on Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 systems: Fixed an issue affecting svchost.exe hosting WSMan Service (WsmSvc) that caused it to stop working and to stop other services in the same host process. Fixed the long-standing Preboot Execution Environment issue that could prevent devices from starting. Microsoft lists three known issues that affected previous updates as well: IA64 or x64 devices provisioned after the July 9th updates may fail to start with error" File: \Windows\system32\winload.efi Status: 0xc0000428 Info: Windows cannot verify the digital signature for this file." Certain Symantec or Norton security applications may block or delete Windows updates. VBScript should be disabled by default in Internet Explorer 11 but this is apparently not the case all the time. The release notes list only one known issue that Microsoft fixed in the new update; what about the fifth known issue that is no longer listed as a known issue in KB4512514 but also not listed as fixed? It is unclear if the Visual Basic issue is fixed in the preview update; Microsoft makes no mention of it. If you check the August 2019 Monthly Rollup update KB4512506 you find it listed there under known issues and the reference that the optional update KB4517297 fixes it. A quick check of the package details on the Microsoft Update Catalog website shows that KB4517297 is not replaced by this update. KB4512478 for Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 Support page Microsoft Update Catalog KB4512478 is a preview of the monthly rollup for Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 that Microsoft will release on the September 2019 Patch Day. The update fixes the following three issues: Fixed a memory leak issue in LSASS that caused it to grow until it became necessary to restart the device. Fixed an issue that caused rdpdr.sys to stop responding or working. Fixed the Preboot Execution Environment issue. Microsoft lists a single known issue: Operations such as rename may fail on files or folders that are on a Cluster Shared Volume. The August 2019 Monthly Rollup log lists three known issues; the Visual Basic issue is not listed as fixed but it is not listed as a known issue either. Source: Microsoft releases KB4512478 and KB4512514 previews (gHacks - Martin Brinkmann)
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