When it comes to computers, I’m most familiar with Windows, but when a company such as Microsoft operate counter to my way of thinking, that usually means it’s time to look for an alternative.
With each version of Windows comes an “End of life support” date, which sounds drastic enough but basically means Microsoft will stop supporting that operating system, and generally other companies will follow suite, from providers of anti-virus and web browsers to hardware manufacturers of things like printers. Often things will continue working just fine beyond this date but with a lack of security updates things can get a bit risky, and a lack of up to date web browser can become a real bane (more on that in my next post).
I witnessed this when Windows XP expired, and now I see it with Windows 7 which reaches its end of support next year; both of these were popular operating systems for many years and I still have computers with them on.
I can understand that Microsoft makes its money selling its operating systems and software and to encourage sales it has to keep bringing out something “new and up to date”, and they and other companies have to focus their attention on what’s current, but when they go out of their way to encourage customers/consumers to throw out their “old” hardware, this bothers me.
Here is Microsoft encouraging just that after I followed a prompt on a client’s Windows 7 computer:
When Windows 7 reaches end of support on 14 January 2020, your computer will still function but Microsoft will no longer provide the following:
- Technical support for any issues
- Software updates
- Security updates or fixes
While your could continue to use your PC running Windows 7, without continued software and security updates, it will be at greater risk for viruses and malware. Going forward, the best way for you to stay secure is on Windows 10. And the best way to experience Windows 10 is on a new PC. While it is possible to install Windows 10 on your older device, it is not recommended.
Why isn’t it recommended, Microsoft?
They make this statement from a point of ignorance as it just a general claim and not a personalised recommendation based on the computer’s performance.
A computer still running Windows Vista, let alone 7, could well be capable of running Windows; my recommendations for all of these and Windows 10 are:
- Dual core CPU
- 4GB RAM
You might have a computer with a quad core processor and 8GB of RAM yet be encouraged, all the same, to go out and buy a new computer with Window 10 on it. I’ve known people do just this and arrive home with something with a lower hardware spec; they assumed that “new” would automatically mean better, or faster.
Ideally Windows would be installed on an SSD instead of a Hard Drive for quicker BOOT times and general functioning, but these have been supported since Windows 7; not all new computers include an SSD.
Throwing out a computer that has these for the sake of buying a new one with Windows 10 pre-installed seems wholly irresponsible and wasteful. Even if old equipment gets properly recycled there are costs and waste involved.
In other ways Microsoft themselves have actually prolonged the life of “old” hardware. When Windows 10 was new on the scene it was offered for free as an upgrade from Windows 7 and 8.1 (Windows 8 users had to first upgrade to the latter). Not everyone did this though, some due to Windows 10 initially getting a bad reputation (not necessarily a fault of Windows 10 itself but often due to something going wrong in the upgrade process – my preference to avoid this is to always do a fresh install) and others because they preferred to stick with what they had and didn’t necessarily think ahead to this End of life point. There are some people however who have, unbeknownst to them, enrolled in the free upgrade program but haven’t followed through, for them it may be possible to upgrade their computer to Windows 10 without having to pay the £100-or-so for the license. Microsoft don’t explain any of this in their brief generalisation.
Just this week it was in the news about “rare earth materials” that make up our computers and gadgets, some of which could actually run out before oil reserves do. These will become increasingly difficult and expensive to mine for and without them our modern world will grind to a halt. We may be turning away from fossil fuels to power our day to day lives in favour of, say, solar arrays and batteries, but such systems rely on materials that aren’t infinitely available either.
With all of this said, I have been trying more and more to switch to versions of Linux, since it is free. I’ve been using Ubuntu on a dual boot system (meaning I can still switch back to Windows when I want) since version 16, and painlessly upgraded to version 18 when that became available; LibreOffice and Firefox, for example work just the same on both Linux and Windows.
However, in some areas Linux doesn’t work where I need or want it to. I have recently acquired a couple of old laptops and have been unable to get any version of Linux (for which I have tried a good few) to work. One was originally a Windows Vista laptop in otherwise great condition aside from a faulty but easily replaceable keyboard, but the Intel graphics were unsupported outside of Windows, leaving the screen resolution skewed (once I’d even managed to get Ubuntu to startup without a blank screen). I tried over the course of a week to source workable drivers, learning a lot in the process about manually installing such things as graphics drivers (and pre-requisites) via a command-line interface on a Linux system (not your simple double-click affair such as with Windows), but ultimately having to give up. And just yesterday I received an older Windows XP laptop in a somewhat sorry state with a faulty keyboard and DVD drive, dead battery, and less than 1GB of RAM; yet still useable and potentially repairable on Windows XP, so far my attempts at running Bodhi Linux on it (designed for lower spec computers) have been increasingly successful, although Wi-Fi seems to be a no-go.
It disappoints me, while I do enjoy some such challenges, that Linux is still so technically involving when it comes to such things as having to type in commands – Windows does do a good job of making a lot more things more straightforward, and I think the area of legacy hardware is where Linux could really come unto its own, but in the end if the support was never there to begin with (for things like device drivers) then when Windows ceases to be viable, the hardware becomes defunct.
With regards to new computers, it seems only lower-spec systems come without Windows pre-installed and then you’re not exactly saving the cost of an OEM license, so it kind of makes sense to just pay the extra and get a Windows-based system.