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"Mainstream Support ends January 13, 2015."
This past weekend, a flood of tweets started popping up, warning people that, just like Windows XP's end of life earlier this year, Windows 7 would be killed by Microsoft in January 2015.
Not quite. If you're using Windows 7, you can continue to do so safely for at least the next five years. The only thing that will change for most people is that Microsoft will not release any new features after the end of "Mainstream Support." Security fixes, however, will continue until January 14, 2020.
End of Mainstream Support
Seriously folks: this is a non-issue. When was the last "new" Windows 7 feature that you can remember? At this point, Windows 7 updates are almost always labeled "critical security fix."
The end of Mainstream Support will mean no design changes, feature requests, incident support or warranty claims. But, the Extended Support phase, which extends until 2020, means security threats will be patched, just as they were on Windows XP until earlier this year. (And that OS was absolutely ancient, having been released in 2001.)
Stick With 7?
With the shift in support status, Windows 7 now has an expiration date: January 2020. With that in mind, should you jump on the Windows 8.1 bandwagon?
The short answer: no, especially not for existing computers. Windows 9 "Threshold," set to be released next year, is rumored to bring back the classic Start Menu and should prove to be much more friendly for desktop computers and those who are more comfortable with the classic Windows interface.
Even better: another rumor is that Microsoft is considering handing out Windows 9 for free, much like Apple did with OS X Mavericks. The rumor, which has not been substantiated, does have some credibility, especially since Microsoft is moving towards becoming more of a services/subscription company that sells cloud-based services.
In theory, they'd give you the operating system upgrade for free, while hoping to sell you a monthly subscription to Office 365 or OneDrive. Plus, with a free upgrade to Windows 9, the company presumably wouldn't have the issue they had with XP: more users on the 13-year-old operating system than their latest OS when they cut off support.