The end of an era: Windows 7 consumer PCs halt production this Friday

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This year, Halloween will be scarier than usual for PC fans. Friday, October 31 is the final day that Microsoft will sell Windows 7 licenses to PC makers (OEMs in industry parlance), per Microsoft's lifecycle fact sheet.

After Friday it's all about Windows 8.1, at least for the consumer market.

PCs with Windows 7 Professional will continue to be produced for businesses, as well as anyone else willing to pay a premium for the deluxe model of Windows 7. But OEMs won't have access to Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium or Ultimate licenses after this work week.

Why this matters: With its heavy emphasis on the Start screen, touch interaction, and the new Modern UI, many longtime desktop users—not to mention IT departments—were reluctant to move to Windows 8.1. Until now, the escape route for anyone in need of a new PC without Windows 8 was Windows 7. But that easy out could soon disappear. It's no coincidence Microsoft unveiled the much more desktop-friendly Windows 10 mere weeks before the retail death of Windows 7.

Business as usual

Microsoft has not yet set a date for the end of Windows 7 Professional and it's unlikely we'll see any changes in that position before the release of Windows 10. Businesses with managed IT departments have little interest in Windows 8, and are waiting for Windows 10, Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, told PCWorld.

As for the PCs sold at your local Best Buy or Staples, Moorhead says the OEMs he's spoken with aren't worried about the end of Windows 7. "They are shipping a clear majority of their consumer PCs with Windows 8 already," he said.

Not everyone thinks a post-Windows 7 pre-install world will be rosy, however.

"I think the OEMs are sad about this," Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD Group said. "The ability to provide Windows 7 Home has provided a nice incremental sales opportunity to those who were nervous or unhappy about Windows 8, especially for the desktop market where Windows 7 has proven to be a nice alternative to Windows 8."

Not quite dead yet

OEMs may not be able to get new Windows 7 licenses as of Friday, but for the time being you'll still be able to buy a PC with the OS pre-installed. How long that will last depends on how many Windows 7 PCs retailers are willing to keep in stock—and how many computers OEMs are able to pump out before Friday.

Even if it does get harder to find a Windows 7 PC in the next few weeks, don't despair. With the holiday season approaching, it's likely retailers and OEMs have a few deals planned for PCs loaded with Windows 7.

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