Windows 7 enters its final year of free support

Licensing and support lifecycles are not really the easiest topics to illustrate.

Enlarge / Licensing and support lifecycles are not really the easiest topics to illustrate. (credit: Peter Bright)

Windows 7's five years of extended support will expire on January 14, 2020—exactly one year from today. After this date, security fixes will no longer be freely available for the operating system that's still widely used.

As always, the end of free support does not mean the end of support entirely. Microsoft has long offered paid support options for its operating systems beyond their normal lifetime, and Windows 7 is no different. What is different is the way that paid support will be offered. For previous versions of Windows, companies had to enter into a support contract of some kind to continue to receive patches. For Windows 7, however, the extra patches will simply be an optional extra that can be added to an existing volume license subscription—no separate support contract needed—on a per-device basis.

These Extended Security Updates (ESU) will be available for three years after the 2020 cut-off, with prices escalating each year.

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Microsoft accused of adding spy features to Windows 7, 8

Windows' network activity continues to be scrutinized amid privacy concerns. Windows 10 was first put under the microscope with both new and old features causing concern. With its Cortana digital personal assistant, Windows 10 represents a new breed of operating system that incorporates extensive online services as an integral part of the platform. But its older predecessors haven't escaped attention, and questions are now being asked of Windows 7 and 8's online connectivity.

Windows 8 included many of the same online features as are now raising hackles around the Internet. While it had no Cortana, it nonetheless integrated Web and local search, supported logging in and syncing settings with Microsoft Account, included online storage of encryption keys, and so on and so forth. While a few privacy advocates expressed concern at these features when the operating system was first released, the response was far more muted than the one we see today about Windows 10. But a new addition has led to accusations that Windows 8 now mimics one of Windows 10's more problematic features: it reports information to Microsoft even when told not to.

Back in April, Microsoft released a non-security update for both Windows 7 and 8. This update, 3022345, created a new Windows service called the Diagnostics Tracking service. Microsoft describes this service as doing two things. First, it increase the amount of diagnostic data that the Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) can collect in order to better diagnose problems. Second, it collects data for third party applications that use the Application Insights service. Application Insights is a preview that allows app developers to track performance issues, crashes, and other problems of their applications. The Diagnostics Tracking service collects this data and sends it to Microsoft.

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Microsoft tells Windows 7 users to uninstall faulty security update (Updated)

Microsoft has pulled a Windows 7 security update released as part of this month's Patch Tuesday after discovering it caused some machines to become unbootable.

Update 2823324, which was included in the MS13-036 bulletin, fixed a "moderate-level vulnerability" that requires an attacker to have physical computer access to be able to exploit a targeted computer, Dustin Childs, a group manager in the Microsoft Trustworthy Computing group, wrote in a blog post published Thursday evening. The company has now pulled it from the bulletin and is advising at least some Windows users who have installed it to uninstall the update following the guidance here. MS130-26 was one of nine bulletins released on Monday to fix 13 separate vulnerabilities.

"We’ve determined that the update, when paired with certain third-party software, can cause system errors," Childs wrote. "As a precaution, we stopped pushing 2823324 as an update when we began investigating the error reports, and have since removed it from the download center."

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