IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Windows 7 Exit Strategies

Official OEM licenses for the OS stopped shipping in October and support will likely be reduced after 2017, yet Win 7 use remains strong. What’s a channel pro to do? By James E. Gaskin

Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system appeared seven years ago, and official OEM licenses stopped shipping in October 2016. Embraced warmly after Vista, Win 7 remained a popular favorite as Windows 8 and 8.1 came and went. Windows 10 is a worthy successor, yet many users cling to Windows 7.

Jordi Tejero, owner of CRS Technology Consultants in Cape Coral, Fla., charted the OS distribution across his 3,300-plus computers under management, and 86 percent run on some flavor of Windows 7. “I was honestly surprised at how low the numbers are for Windows 8,” says Tejero. His report shows that almost as many customers are still running Vista (51) as Windows 8 (52).

Only 11 percent (354) of client computers run Windows 10. He tells his customers, “If your line-of-business apps support Windows 10, upgrade. That's where the most innovation and security work is being done.” Good advice, and certainly Microsoft agrees. The company has announced that extended support for Windows 7 will end in early 2020, though history tells us support will drop drastically after 2017.

Current Roadblocks
What's holding companies back from upgrading? “Many of our customers have compliance issues to negotiate,” says Donald R. Howard, president and CTO of My IT Company, of Warrenville, Ill. “Most have done some migration and testing to be sure they’re secure in everything they're doing.” Some portals don't work well with the new Edge browser, so Howard recommends typing “Internet Explorer” into the Cortana box and installing IE 11 on the desktop.

Howard says a surprising number of customers had issues with the free Windows 7 to 10 in-place upgrade. “We had four out of 10 upgrades fail. When we put the upgrade on a USB stick instead of using the network install, our success rate jumped way up.” Users who were burned on an in-place upgrade usually stayed with Windows 7, however.

William George, technology consultant for Auburn, Wash.-based Puget Systems, says his firm has been recommending Windows 10 for several months by making Windows 7 harder to find in the new system configuration pages. So far, customers seem fine with the move to Windows 10. “In October 2016 we sold 27 or so systems with Windows 7, but over 150 with Windows 10,” he says. George still has some Windows 7 licenses on the shelf for purchase, but once those are gone, they're gone.

George outlined the rock-and-hard-place situation squeezing Windows 7 users in a recent blog. Some applications don't support Windows 10, but some new hardware doesn't include Windows 7 drivers. Puget Systems worked hard to inform customers of the free in-place upgrade to Windows 10 from Win 7. “The bigger issue was people getting upgraded without wanting to, not knowing how to stop that upgrade,” George added.

Heading for Windows 10?
All three channel pros say Windows 10 works easily for the majority of their customers, yet that doesn't always guarantee an upgrade. “We have some high-end graphics clients who don't care about the upgrade to DirectX 12 in Windows 10 because their current graphics hardware still works great. Customers spending $15,000 per CAD station, or maybe $200,000 for graphics servers and client licenses, don't change their operating system quickly,” says Howard.

Howard recommends that customers with no compliance issues upgrade to Windows 10 before too much longer. “We told them to get it free while they could. Now that they have to pay for it, we suggest they wait and evaluate carefully to make sure all their apps work in Windows 10.” Customers tell him the newest version, 1607, known as the anniversary update, is much more appealing.

As always happens, eventually Microsoft convinces users to upgrade using a combination carrot-and-stick approach of regular improvements to the new operating system and reduced support for the old. “As time goes by, people are getting used to the idea of moving to Windows 10,” says George. “They say they know it's time to upgrade, but there's not much excitement in their voices.”

About the Author

James E. Gaskin's picture

JAMES E. GASKIN is a ChannelPro contributing editor and former reseller based in Dallas.

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