Windows 7: the end is nigh

Windows 7, originally released on October 22, 2009. It’s had a good run of over 13 years so far. At its introduction, I wrote a somewhat cynical piece, given that people were so negative about Windows Vista, and so positive about Windows 7, while technically Windows 7 was much closer to Vista than it was to the XP that people wanted to stick to.

And during its lifetime, Windows 7 remained a favourite, particularly because Windows 8 was a mixed bag, as Microsoft tried to create a single OS for both desktops and tablets/smartphones, leading to a somewhat confused UI with large tiles to cater to touchscreens. And technology-wise, there was little reason to move from Windows 7 to Windows 8 or 8.1 either.

This changed when Windows 10 arrived in 2015, where the UI was more friendly to desktop users again, and Windows 10 also introduced new technology such as DirectX 12. Even so, Windows 7 remained popular, and Microsoft continued to support it.

Until recently, that is. The first cracks in the armour are starting to show. For starters, Microsoft officially ended mainstream support of Windows 7 on January 14, 2020. But despite this, various software and hardware vendors would still release products that supported Windows 7 to a certain extent, including Microsoft themselves.

But I’ve run into a few devices already that no longer have Windows 7 drivers. I got an Intel AX210 WiFi adapter, which does not have drivers for Windows 7 at all, requiring me to install an older WiFi adapter to get internet access when I boot my machine into Windows 7.

My GeForce video card also hasn’t received mainstream driver updates for a while now. It only gets ‘security updates’ from time to time.

And when you install Visual Studio 2022, it also gives a warning that not everything will work correctly. Most notably, .NET 4.8.1 and .NET 7.0 are not supported on Windows 7. On the other hand, it’s somewhat surprising that Visual Studio 2022 installs and works on Windows 7 at all, even if some features are not available. Vista was nowhere near as lucky, and was cut off after Visual Studio 2010 already, which somewhat ironically meant that even though Vista supported .NET 4.5 out of the box, and could also support .NET 4.6, there was no Visual Studio environment you could run on Vista itself to develop for these versions of .NET.

Another sign is that Microsoft has released the last update of Edge Chromium for Windows 7. There is now a notification that you should upgrade to Windows 10 or newer. Google will follow suit with Chrome.

Anyway, it seems we’re in the final stages of Windows 7 support. Windows 8 and 8.1 have already bitten the dust, as have early versions of Windows 10. We have reached the point where you need a fairly up-to-date version of Windows 10 to get decent driver and application support.

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2 Responses to Windows 7: the end is nigh

  1. The reason people we receptive of windows 7 and critical of Vista is that Vista was released in a state that I would charitably call “half baked”. By the end of Vista’s run (SP2), it is a pretty good experience. Windows 7 is Vista done right, which is why people were receptive. Comparing Windows 7 to Vista SP2 and wondering what the fuss is, is kind of disingenuous. In their heads, people are comparing Vista on it’s release day with Windows 7 on it’s release day and the difference in user experience is massive. Vista had large performance regressions from XP in speed, sound support, and networking, and worst of all, UAC prompts every 30 seconds or so. By the time 7 came out they finally got it right (or at least a lot closer to the ideal).

    • Scali says:

      I am coming at this from a developer’s angle: in XP the rights management was very loose. Everyone was administrator, and there were no limitations on writing anywhere in the register, in Program Files, Windows/System32 folders or anything.
      Vista changed this by splitting users up into a minimal rights context, and a possible elevated context (if you had admin rights).
      So by default, applications were supposed to run under minimal rights, which also meant you could only access certain user-related parts of the register, you weren’t allowed to write into Program Files (which is where usually applications would store their configuration in .ini files or whatnot), and various other ‘best practices’ that Microsoft had long promoted, but were never enforced prior to Vista.

      So a lot of software didn’t follow these ‘best practices’. There was a lot of backlash against Vista in the company where I worked at the time, as it brought up all this technical debt that lay dormant in our codebase, because it didn’t follow Microsoft’s guidelines, but it ‘just worked’ until now.
      Instead of fixing these issues in the code, they were ignored, and clients were instructed to continue using XP (effectively to continue running under admin rights).
      And Windows 7 didn’t change any of this. It has the same rigid rules that Vista started enforcing. So all the problems we could have fixed, if we had supported Vista, we still had to fix once Windows 7 was out, and XP was taken off the market.

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