Yet another end is nigh for Windows 7. After months of buildup—Microsoft killed standalone software sales of the operating system in October 2013, and Windows 7 consumer PCs stopped being manufactured in October 2014—the venerable OS is finally exiting “mainstream support” on January 13, 2015. And for months now, the Web has been flooded with a wave of confused or downright fearmongering headlines and articles implying that Windows 7 is following Windows XP into the graveyard.
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 impressing-sounding DirectX 12 gaming technology slated to launch with Windows 10. You won’t be able to call Microsoft for free help if you run into an issue with Windows 7 either.
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.) And those security updates will be coming for a long time, too: Extended support for Windows 7 lasts until January 14, 2020. Heck, commercial PCs with Windows 7 Professional will even continue to be sold for the foreseeable future.
Brad Chacos spends his days digging through desktop PCs and tweeting too much. He specializes in graphics cards and gaming, but covers everything from security to Windows tips and all manner of PC hardware.