Finish Your Research Papers Before Making This Windows Upgrade: Here’s Why

You may recall reading about my anxieties with my Windows 10 upgrade last March. (You can read about it in “Tech Tips: Should I or should I not upgrade my desktop?“—if that’s TL;DR, the short version is that upgrading a too-old PC to Windows 10 crashed the box, made it lose the Internet, and resulted in my having to get a new computer after months of working with IT to get it fixed).

Learn more now about the latest tech support end for Windows. (Credit: Windows)

Learn more now about the latest tech support end for Windows. (Credit: Windows)

But there’s reason to be glad I’m on it now: for some PC owners, support for their Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 boxes may be gone with the processor. If you’re running either of those, here’s what you need to know.

Windows support always ends

Technically, mainstream Windows 7 support ended in January 2015. What’s the difference between mainstream and extended support? Obviously one’s longer than the other. The big difference is that phone and chat support are included in mainstream. Extended support includes ongoing security updates for your system, and that’s what’s on the line for Windows 7 support.

This isn’t for all machines. If you have an older Windows 7 box, you’re probably okay. But if you bought a computer running Windows 7 around, say, 2015, it’s likely to have an Intel processor called Skylake. According to Woody Leonhard in his “Woody on Windows” InfoWorld column post “Microsoft will kill some Windows 7 and 8.1 support in April,” in January 2016, Terry Myerson, head honcho of Windows, announced that new “silicon generations” (i.e., processors) would need to use the latest Windows OS in order for the computer to continue getting updates. So any computer that’s using a Skylake processor or better may not be getting updates starting in April.

Here’s Leonhard’s best guess as to what will happen:

  • April 10, Microsoft will release a patch.
  • Anyone with Win7 or Win8.1 Automatic Update will get the update installed as soon as they next reboot their machines.
  • The patch will tell the computer that it has unsupported hardware—that the processor is designed to be used with the latest version of Windows, and you won’t be able to get important security updates unless you do an upgrade.
  • Affected PCs will have Windows Update disabled.

So, odds are pretty good that even in this scenario, you’ll be able to finish writing your papers between April 10 and the end of the semester. But if you can avoid any risk of your computer being with IT for several months trying to work out an update gone wrong (I’m not bitter, just wary!), you should avoid it!

What should you do?

So if you’re not a computer science major or a help desk pro, what should you do?

  • First, figure out if you’re even impacted. If you’ve already done a Windows 10 upgrade or started your year on a Windows 10 machine, you have nothing to worry about. If you rely on Windows 8.1 support, though, you should proceed to step two:
  • Talk to a computer science major or a help desk pro! These folks will give you the actual best advice on how to handle this upgrade.
  • If you are pressed for time between now and the end of the semester and just want to avoid the whole thing, consider turning off Automatic Update. Your computer will tell you that updates are available, but you can avoid downloading the April 10 patch until your papers are completed and turned in and you’re free and clear on summer vacation.

Have you had a computer upgrade go horribly wrong? What do you think your fellow college students need to know? Tell us in the comments!

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