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Microsoft To Warn Windows 7 Stragglers of Support Cliff

With Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) falling out of support in less than a year, users of that operating system will begin seeing regular notices from Microsoft warning of the impending deadline starting in April.

Update 3/20: The pop-up notices will get enabled on Windows 7 systems via "KB4493132," a Windows Update patch, as described in Microsoft's March 19-dated Knowledge Base article. Computerworld writer Woody Leonhard took note of the obscure article, describing it in this blog post.

According to a Tuesday announcement by Matt Barlow, corporate vice president for Windows, these notices will be sent as a "courtesy reminder" to users and will recur "a handful of times in 2019," unless the end users selects an option to not get notified again. Microsoft did a similar thing years ago when Windows XP was nearing its end-of-support phase.

End of support means that Microsoft will no longer issue security updates for the 10-year-old Windows 7 after Jan. 14, 2020. It would be a potential security risk for individuals and organizations to continue to run that OS unpatched.

Windows 7 Options
Organizations do have some expensive options, short of upgrading, that will permit them to continue to run patched Windows 7 systems past the end-of-support date. If they are large enough, they can negotiate with Microsoft to get a "custom support" agreement. Such agreements were thought to cost about $200 per device for a minimum of 750 devices back when Windows XP had fallen out of support. Microsoft typically doesn't publish its custom support agreement pricing, so that was just a guess.

Microsoft also has a new Windows 7 Extended Security Updates plan that will be available for purchase next month as another aid for struggling organizations. Described as "a last resort," this plan lets organizations run Windows 7 SP1 and get security updates for three years past the Jan. 14, 2020 end-of-support date. The undisclosed price for using this plan is expected to increase every year.

Organizations willing to use Microsoft's newly emerging Windows Virtual Desktop service will be able to run Windows 7 desktops, which are hosted on a service provider's servers and accessed via remote connections. They'll get "free" Extended Security Updates with this virtual desktop infrastructure service. These Extended Security Updates will be available for three years past Windows 7's Jan. 14, 2020 end-of-life date. One catch here is that Microsoft currently lists its Windows Virtual Desktop service as being at the "preview" stage. There's apparently no update on when it'll be generally available for production-environment use.

Organizations or individuals wondering if they can upgrade their Windows 7 machines to Windows 10 machines for free can find the answer in the "Windows 10 FAQ" section of this page. The free Windows 10 upgrade offer ended on July 29, 2016. So, while a Windows 7 machine might upgrade to Windows 10, it won't necessarily be properly licensed without buying a Windows 10 license for it. The free upgrade offer also ended for users that simply downloaded Windows 10 onto upgrade media, but then didn't upgrade the Windows 7 device before the offer's 2016 end date, as explained in this FAQ.

Blocked Windows 10 Updates
In other Windows client news, Microsoft issued a somewhat obscure Windows 10 support article on Monday indicating that end users may sometimes see a notification stating that a recently installed update was removed by Microsoft. It's an indication that a device had recovered from a startup failure.

These notices will bear the following message: "We removed some recently installed updates to recover your device from a startup failure."

Update 3/14: Microsoft updated this support article to explain that only certain Windows Insider Program testers may see the notification:

This new feature is only available for Windows Insiders running Windows 10 Insider Preview, build 18351 or later. This version of Windows 10 has not yet been released publicly. 

Users will only see this message when "all other automatic recovery attempts have been unsuccessful," Microsoft's support article indicated.

If a machine gets such a message, the device will be prevented from automatically installing the problematic update for "the next 30 days," Microsoft indicated. After that time, the Windows Update service will attempt a reinstall.

Microsoft issues monthly cumulative patches to Windows 10 machines, which add no new capabilities, as well as biannual feature updates that add new capabilities and replace the underlying OS. Microsoft currently uses "telemetry" findings to block the delivery of problematic feature updates to Windows 10 machines in advance. It also has a recovery process in Window 10 when things go wrong, so what's new apparently is that users will get notified when cumulative updates get blocked. Microsoft currently shows the blocks it has in place for Windows 10 feature updates, which get listed by version number, in the Windows 10 update history page.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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