Don't panic! The end of mainstream support doesn't mean the end of Windows 7

Earlier this week, Microsoft reminded the world that it will stop providing "mainstream support" for Windows 7 (and a slew of other products) in January of 2015. Immediately, the Web was flooded in a wave of confused or downright fearmongering headlines and articles implying that Windows 7 is following Windows XP into the graveyard.

It's not.

The confusion here stems from Microsoft's maddeningly obtuse naming conventions. Leaving mainstream support only means that Windows 7 won't be receiving any new features or product tweaks, such as the forthcoming DirectX 12. Once a Windows desktop operating system leaves mainstream support, it enters the extended support phase—the very same support phase that Windows XP found itself in from early 2009 until its death earlier this year.

You'll still receive those oh-so-critical security patches during extended support, meaning that while Windows 7 won't be in active development beyond next January, it won't be tossed to the wolves of the Web, either. Hotfixes will still be provided, too, assuming they're security related. (Business can sign up for an extended hotfix support plan if your company wants hotfix support for non-security issues.) Extended support for Windows 7 lasts until January 14, 2020, and you can read Microsoft's Support Lifecycle for Windows if you're still curious about how this works.

So, like I said: Don't panic. Windows 7 isn't being left for dead for a long, long time.

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