You can safely use Windows 7 until 2020, but I won't be answering your questions

I'm turning over Answer Line to Josh Norem today.

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Eva R. doesn’t like Windows 10. She asked how long she can keep using Windows 7.

Microsoft angered a lot of people by tricking them into upgrading to Windows 10. But those who successfully resisted can continue to use Windows 7 for the rest of the decade.

In one sense, Microsoft has already stopped supporting Windows 7, but not in a way that should worry you. Mainstream support ended in January of 2015. But that only means Microsoft won’t add new features or change the user interface. I suspect most current Windows 7 users are probably thankful that the look and feel won’t change.

[Have a tech question? As Answer Line transitions from Lincoln Spector to Josh Norem, you can still send your query to]

The real problem comes when Microsoft ends Extended support, which will happen on January 14, 2020. After that day, the company will stop sending out bug fixes and security patches. Without those, Windows 7 will be more vulnerable to malware and other forms of attack. I strongly recommend that you stop using Windows 7 before that date.

Windows 8.1 users have considerably more time. Mainstream support ends in 2018; extended, 2023.

In my opinion, these are reasonable dates. Like everything else, operating systems age, and eventually become unsound. And the computer hardware you now use may be showing signs of age by then as well.

Speaking of things that don’t last forever...

I took over PC World’s Answer Line column in 1997. That’s a long time ago. In those days, PC World was spelled as two words, most people read it on paper, and my first column contained an answer about Windows 95’s handling of DOS file names.

After nineteen years, eight Windows versions, and an estimated 55,000 reader questions (most of which I answered personally), it’s time for me to move on. And time for me to thank every person who ever sent me a question. I couldn’t have done this column without you.

I’m delivering this blog into the very capable hands of Josh Norem. He’s a veteran of Maximum PC, with Q&A experience, and I’m looking forward to see what he does with Answer Line.

I’d like to close the column with a piece of advice: Back up your data files every day. It’s easy, and judging from the letters I’ve received, almost no one does it.

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