Written by Mark Evilsizor
From his column Church Tech
Remember the opening scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones removes the gold monkey from the pedestal and, despite careful planning, a house-sized boulder rolls out of the ceiling, forcing him to run for his life. That’s the feeling we sometimes get when working with technology. Whereas a book may last for hundreds of years and serve its purpose into perpetuity, modern technology has a much shorter shelf life. For those of us who work in the IT profession, we must keep up or be squashed by the unstoppable force of change, and a major one will occur on January 14, 2020. That’s when support/updates for Windows 7 (and Windows Server 2008) end.
If you do not take action, life initially will continue as normal. Windows 7 PCs will function as they have in the past—for a while. The consequences of inaction likely will occur within a few weeks. The bad guys who develop malicious code will write (or will have already prepared) malware to take advantage of an undisclosed Windows flaw. On January 14, they will release it. If the old system were still being updated, the normal response would be for Microsoft to detect the malware and release a patch. Then, you or your IT person would apply the patch and your system would continue to be protected.
But after January 14, there will be no new patches for Windows 7 or Windows 2008 and any PCs, servers, or virtual machines running on them will remain vulnerable. This means users must update systems to Windows 10 prior to January 14.
Making the switch might be as easy as updating your system software, since Windows 10 may run on your existing equipment. Microsoft has posted minimum system requirements. If you’re not sure what’s inside your machine, just select the Windows start icon in the lower left of the taskbar at the bottom of the screen. Then right click on “computer” in the menu that pops up and select “properties.” You should see a list of basic information about your machine, such as processor speed, installed memory, system type, etc.
But my rule of thumb for determining whether to go with a new machine or not is based on the age of the computer and how good it was when purchased. My experience has shown that a moderate to strong PC should serve well for 4 to 7 years. Following this guideline, a PC that had strong performance when purchased in 2015 or more recently should handle Windows 10 just fine, and function well for 2 or 3 more years. If the PC is older than this, it might be compatible with Windows 10, but you may not be pleased with performance once you upgrade the software.
If your PC is older than 2015, your best option may be to get a new machine. A new PC will have much better performance, will include updated drivers for components, and enjoy the stronger security of Windows 10. The downside is the effort required to migrate from one PC to another. I suggest using this as an opportunity to “Marie Kondo” the content of your machine. Look through the software installed on your current system and make a list of the programs you commonly use. Also consider how you manage files. Ideally you may be able to maintain content on an organization’s network file server, or in a cloud-based storage system. If so, you do not need to migrate them to the system, just connect the new PC to those same file locations and you’re good to go.
Most of us are on a continuous mission to be able to access our content on any device from any location. Transitioning to a new PC is a good time to take the next step on this journey. Also, I recommend setting aside your old PC for a month in case you discover a program or file you need is missing. This way, you can power up the old PC and regain what was lost.
Lastly, you may be wondering how different Windows 10 is for doing day to day work? Will it be like switching from King James to The Message? My experience has been that folks migrating from Windows 7 to 10 easily make the transition. The start button is in the bottom left, the task bar for pinning most applications is on the bottom row, and the system tray is to the right. Note, if you are using Windows 8, and love it, but never used Windows 7, you may want to spend some time reviewing a Windows 10 introduction video online.
The clock is ticking, the deadline is fixed, and the ball of progress is rolling, so now’s the time to act. Reduce your risk of calamity by taking time to update all your Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 systems so the New Year (at least as far as your computer experience goes) will be happy.
Mark Evilsizor has worked in Information Technology for more than 20 years. He currently serves as head of IT for the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Mo. Views and opinions expressed are strictly his own.