If your PC still runs on Windows Vista, get ready for a surprise. Originally released worldwide in early 2007, the 10-year-old operating system (“OS”) will officially reach it’s end of life on April 11th of this year. What does that mean?
Once Upon a Time
Just a really quick refresher here: the operating systems released by Microsoft that are relevant to this conversation start way back with Windows XP, then proceeded (in order) onto Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10 (yes, they skipped 9 for whatever reason). Each one of these operating systems has it’s moment in the spotlight, and then as it moves through the various lifecycle stages, it eventually gets ushered off the stage.
An OS Lifecycle
Basically, Microsoft creates a “lifecycle” for each of their new operating systems. At each stage in the lifecycle, the amount of support they provide for the operating system diminishes. So, in the beginning, they give fantastic customer support, fix every little problem that they find, and the operating system gets Microsoft’s full attention. That time is also when the operating typically gets the full support of all “third party” software companies who build software that runs on top of that operating system. That includes any non-Microsoft email client software, web browsers (for surfing around on the Internet), desktop productivity software, accounting software, graphic design tools… you name it. Similarly, you’ll find the most hardware compatibility in those earliest parts of the lifecycle, which means you’ll have the easiest time getting your printers, scanners, webcams, digital cameras etc. to play nicely when you attach them to your computer.
But, as time goes on and Microsoft continues to develop new operating systems (and technology continues to march forward in the name of “progress”), they reduce the amount of resources they apply towards keeping their older operating systems working well with third party software and hardware.
As the OS enters its “End of Life”, it will get it’s last “service pack” (major update), then will cease to get “mainstream support”, and finally it will reach the “end of extended support.” That last stage is what will happen to Vista on April 11th.
The Boogeyman is Coming
As soon as you connect your computer to the Internet, it’s vulnerable to attack by “the bad guys.” It’s not just a few bad apples out there randomly selecting computers to try to steal passwords. We’re talking about an entire ecosystem (an industry, if you like) of individuals and organizations trading in tools to commit crimes ranging from harvesting all the valid email addresses of your friends, family and business contacts as spam targets, to enlisting your computer as a silent member of a “botnet” that attacks corporate networks in DDOS attacks, to locking all of your personal or business files with unbreakable locks (“encryption”) and holding it for ransom for hundreds or thousands of dollars. This is bad stuff, and while you may never be a victim of the worst end of the spectrum, you don’t want to be an unwilling part of the less-serious end either.
Hopefully you use a reliable paid or free antivirus program, keep your computer’s operating system and third-party software (like Adobe, Java, and browsers) fully up to date, and stay vigilant when it comes to the files you receive from people (watch out for unexpected email attachments). That should significantly reduce your risk of getting any serious malware or viruses on your computer. But if you’re using an OS that has surpassed its “end of extended support”, you’ve basically rolled the dice and will continue to do so every day you keep that computer connected to the Internet. Why? Because Microsoft will have officially stopped all efforts to patch security holes in the operating system, and therefore, if anyone with nefarious intent finds a new backdoor into Windows Vista, Microsoft will not send out any more patches to protect you.
I’m scared. Now what?
Don’t be scared–you’re not going to fall victim to some PC-crushing virus the instant the calendar rolls over to April 11th. But you definitely should be more cautious if you intend to continue using Vista beyond that date. Even today, if you try to use the Google Chrome browser on a Vista computer, you’ll get a warning at the top (when you first start it up) that says the Chrome browser will no longer be supported for Vista or for XP. (If you’re reading this and you’re still using a computer running XP, you are WAAAY overdue for an upgrade. Give me a call.)
The best thing to do if you still have a PC with Vista on it is to consider upgrading to a new PC, which will very likely come with the latest Windows OS on it (which is Windows 10 at the time of this writing). Alternatively, you could try to upgrade to a more recent OS like Windows 7 (whose end of life is in January 2020), Windows 8 (ending January 2023), or the latest Windows 10 (ending in 2025 for this current version released in 2015). But given that you’ll likely have to shuffle around all your personal files, and potentially reinstall a bunch of software (which may or may not be supported by your new OS–or maybe you no longer have the installation disks to begin with!)… well, unless you like doing stuff like that, you’re probably going to need to hire someone like me to do it. And at that point, it doesn’t make much sense to throw money at a computer whose hardware may be nearing the end of its PHYSICAL life.
If the thought of having to find and buy a new computer and move all your “stuff” from your old PC to your new one makes you want to throw up, I don’t blame you. It’s time we’d all rather spend doing something–anything–else. If you’re looking for a hand from someone who won’t try to talk over your head with a bunch of “tech talk”, someone who is respectful of your time, your space and the privacy of your digital files, and someone who you can establish an ongoing support relationship with, you’ve come to the right place. I provide thoughtful and thorough support for people of all ages and all technical capabilities. Feel free to shoot me an email or give me a call for a question, a quote, or to schedule an appointment. But the clock is ticking on Vista, so don’t wait TOO long…