12 November 2019

Windows 7 and the blogger's dilemma

As we have been endlessly reminded, Microsoft will end support for Windows 7 on 14 January 2020.  My computer runs Windows 7, and I'm uncertain what's the best thing to do about this.  Microsoft's own posts and messages on the subject are pushing users to switch to Windows 10, which I don't want to do for several reasons:

1) Windows 10 is essentially spyware -- it reports a lot of information about what you do on the net or have on your computer back to Microsoft.  I've been thinking about getting a VPN for better internet security, but I don't know whether that would do any good if my own computer is spying on me -- a VPN, from what I understand, protects your connection with the sites you're reading, not the computer you're using to read them.  And no, I don't agree that "if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to worry about."  I'm not doing anything illegal on the net, but it's nobody's damn business what I do do.

2) It's an inferior system and not as intuitive to use.  I've used Windows 10 computers at jobs (most companies seem to be using it now), and it's more glitchy and often slower than Windows 7, and harder to figure out how to do things.

3) I can't even be sure whether Windows 10 would work on my computer.  It's a very old computer (I just keep getting it fixed every time something goes wrong, rather than buying a new one), and I've got a lot of programs on it, some of them old versions.  I don't know whether everything would work properly with a different operating system.  I suppose I could buy a new computer, but moving everything to a new computer would be a huge project, and I resent being put to all that effort and expense when my existing computer works just fine.

A blogger I sometimes read recommends switching to Linux, but it sounds like that would definitely not be compatible with my existing programs like Excel (yes, there are other programs that do similar things, but I doubt they could read my existing spreadsheets properly).  Most pro-Linux posts I've seen are full of incomprehensible technical gibberish, suggesting that it appeals mostly to techie types who don't care about being understood by average users -- the kind of people who are interested in fiddling with the engine, not just driving the car.  And again, I would hate dealing with the headache of learning a new system when there's nothing wrong with the old one.

Another factor is that I don't know how "bad" it is that support for Windows 7 is ending.  If I just ignore all the exhortations and threats and stick with Windows 7, what exactly will happen after the 14th?  How big of a danger does lack of support pose?  Given the huge number of computers still running on Windows 7, is it possible that some other entity would step in and start offering the support Microsoft no longer provides?  I'd gladly pay a reasonable monthly fee for that rather than deal with this whole mess.

Finally, I've heard that the spying features of Windows 10 can be turned off, but I don't know how easy it is to do that, or (critically) whether it really stops the spying -- and I doubt Microsoft is going to be very eager to show people how.

(As an aside, it's incredible that Microsoft would deliberately trash an excellent and hugely-popular product that hundreds of millions of people want to keep.  This is exactly the kind of corporate behavior that the "free market" is supposed to discourage.)

So it seems I basically have three choices:

1) Stick with Windows 7 and hope for the best.

2) Switch to Windows 10, disable the spy features (if that's possible), and hope it works properly on my existing computer -- or that my existing programs could be moved to a new computer and still work.

3) Get off the internet, completely and permanently.  No more blog, no more reading on the net, nothing.

("Switch to Windows 10 and put up with the spyware" isn't an option.  I'm serious.  I am not going to do that, even if it means giving up the internet.)

At the moment, I don't have sufficient knowledge to make an informed choice.  I'm curious what others who are facing the same problem are planning to do, especially if you know more about computers and have a better grasp of what various options would involve.


Anonymous sos said...

Hi Infidel,

Be aware that most linux distributions can boot off of a USB stick on your Windows 7 computer. Your hard drive will be "visible" as essentially a read-only volume. This will allow you to test-drive linux with very little commitment (other than downloading and spinning up the USB).

You are a smart guy, what is worthwhile in life that doesn't require some effort?

While not the most handsome site https://distrowatch.com/ is a good place to start your research. Like so for a beginner friendly distro (look under the "search" link at the top to use your own parameters):


I've been using linux exclusively since 1999 (even at work where we had a choice).

Good luck, I'd be happy to assist you if you'd like. Thank you for your blog.

P.S. I've always wondered about the '753'. I've secretly hoped it was an homage to Reynold's 753 bicycle tubing.

12 November, 2019 04:58  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Faced with a similar situation, minus the long tail of existing programs and work products, I switched to Linux Mint. The up side is Linux Mint is very stable, designed to be compatible with older hardware automatically on startup (It just works), to feel like and to be recognizable to Win7 users, and it is both free, and very well supported through updates and user groups.

Change is hard. My suggestion would be to find a friendly computer shop that works with Linux Mint(LM)and have them recommend a laptop or small PC for $300 to $500. More if you have it. Ask about both Linux and Win10 compatibility. In that price range you should be able to move several generations forward in hardware capability and speed. They may offer to install the new OS, or, perhaps use their line to download Mint for you. I have always used a DVD but a thumb drive is supposed to be as easy.

Continue to use your old PC with Win7 but transfer your casual internet use, play and such to your new LM unit. Yes, your going to find some programs won't run under Linux. Some of those can be coaxed into running under WINE or virtual box. Try the Linux, usually open source versions, of the office programs. The good news is most of those come bundled with LM and OpenOffice may be compatible with your existing files.

By having a second machine you can experiment without fear of losing files or damaging the setup you are invested in. If in the end you simply don't like LM after giving it a fair shot you can buy Win10 and install it on the newer hardware.

Hope this helps.

12 November, 2019 05:56  
Anonymous River West said...

Download Libre Office to your Windows 7 and test your spreadsheets and documents. MS software pushes their file extension names but that can be overcome with practice and changing your file extensions to the open document file extensions makes your day smoother (that's a save_as op).

Use Firefox browser on Windows (it's safer and more private anyway) and the transition to Linux is almost seamless. If you are using Mozilla Thunderbird for e-mail your entire email in-box (profile) can be copied and attached to the Linux version.

Download and try the "live version" of Linux Mint and test your machine, as noted in a prior comment. This does not change anything on your current Windows but it does let you check that your hardware (older system, networks, printers, scanners, disk, SSD's, etc. work under Linux). Checkout the Mint software repository for additional software you might like to use.

Some programs or web content may not work exactly as they do in Windows, this is some part lazy or poorly trained programmers and some part corporate skullduggery/idiocy and occasionally a security issue.

Copy your personal data (user profile in Windows) to a USB disk and make special note of all your accounts and passwords. If you have stored all docs, pictures, etc. in the Windows default areas, you will be able to copy them to the similar file folders under Linux Mint and make use of your docs, pictures, videos, sound files with software available included or available for Linux. Change can be a pita.

Some change is not possible but you can run a Virtual Windows system inside of Linux to run those irreplaceable programs. Older Windows versions can be isolated from any network connection.

Change you can use: One click update of ALL of the programs on my/your Linux system. Ultimate end of the forced upgrade/software rental oligopolies. Green points for extended use of "obsolete" hardware.

12 November, 2019 07:01  
Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

I don’t know much about OS but I’ve been an Apple fan for since forever. I also use a tablet most of the time, so my advice is probably null.
Windows 7! Whoa.


12 November, 2019 09:32  
Blogger Decon66 said...

Here's the easiest way to save all your data and be all set for many years.

Go to a brick & mortar computer store (Staples, Best Buy, etc...). Bring your current computer with you. Select a new notebook PC. For an additional fee, the geeks at the computer store will transfer all your data to the new PC, probably one that has Windows 10.

When the store notifies you that your new PC is ready, pick it up but also take back your old PC. After ascertaining that the new PC is working properly, you can use it or you can use the old one so long as Windows 7 doesn't crumble from old age.

My opinion is that a PC that runs on Windows 7 isn't worth repairing. Why pay X number of dollars for repair when a sudden insoluble problem with Windows 7 could easily arise?

12 November, 2019 11:01  
Anonymous NickM said...

Infidel, I'm in much the same boat as you. I'll be looking into it this weekend. If I find anything of use I'll let you know. I hope that might help. Contrariwise I shall follow your adventure as well!

PS I am in the UK so things might be a little different.
PPS I have played with Linux in the past and found it a pin in the arse and I'm a recovering programmer! I'm also a gamer so that might sort of explain my bias.
PPPS FWIW I still have an old machine chugging along on XP and use some pretty ancient software. So @lack of support" probably isn't as scary as MS wants us to think. I also tend to use my Kindle for casual online stuff like this comment.

12 November, 2019 11:33  
Blogger Unknown said...

While I believe that most of what you said about Windows 10 is BS, I'll try to be positive here. You should check out some of the new low-cost Chromebook computers. If you don't want to buy new hardware, try Chrome OS on your PC. MS Office is available for Chrome OS and there is even a free online version. Linux is really for nerds and geeks and isn't a good end-user solution.


12 November, 2019 12:52  
Blogger nothoughtsnoprayersnonothing said...

I would encourage a switch to Linux. I have been using about twelve years. Yes, it takes some work and patience. I don't do the fancy stuff but a good forum will give plenty of help.

You can try some Linux flavors by making a live CD or putting a version on a USB stick. Boot it up and see what is what. I was dual booting with Windows for about 6 or more years. Was a pain switching back and forth just to get Windows update and virus scan. A dual boot might be a good way to try.

12 November, 2019 13:03  
Blogger Lady M said...

I to have windows 7 and am choosing to keep it and hope for the best.

12 November, 2019 14:09  
Blogger Adam said...

Times I wish I was back on Linux.

12 November, 2019 15:23  
Blogger Mike said...

Let me put this link first in case you get tired of reading.

I held onto windows XP for as long as I could. What happens is you stop getting updates for windows. Especially security updates. So your computer becomes more vulnerable over time.

Then, programs quit doing updates for your OS. I had to quit using Firefox, then Chrome, then Opera, etc... Again, no security updates and some of the new downloads wouldn't work on the older OS.

When I finally decided not to fight the system anymore I bought a new computer with the newest intel chip and 16 gigs of ram. It was overkill at the time. That was 2 years ago. Now you can get 64 gigs of ram and my intel chip isn't the top of the line anymore.

I have seen the speed of computers increase dramatically over the years. I test them with a program called PiFast43.exe. It's free. It calculates the digits of pi. Back when I had a Gateway 386 computer I decided to see how long it would take to calculate one billion digits. It took 36 hours. A newer computer and Windows XP ... I forgot. Maybe 4 or 5 hours.

My new computer, 56 minutes. And that's picking the 'put the info in a file' option.

The file it creates is about 1.4 gigs. What opens a file that big? Not Microsoft anything. But Textpad will. Textpad opens ANYTHING. Even exe files. It's fun to play with.

So what I noticed was that there's not that much difference going from XP to 10. Apparently, there were so many complaints about 7, 8, and 8.1 they decided to go back a bit with the interface. All my programs transferred except Quicken 98. So I bought an updated version and it transferred all my Quicken data, no problem.

I even transferred XP's solitare, mshearts, freecell, winmine, and spider solitare. The only trick was to transfer the cards.dll file also and keep it in the same directory.

What else.... hmmmm. I'm sure there's lots more but that's all for now.

And yes I've thought of going to Linux. But I'm more used to Unix and Linux is just a little too different.

12 November, 2019 23:18  
Blogger Mike said...

And I just found this...

13 November, 2019 01:19  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Thanks for all the information. There's clearly a lot to consider. The idea of having two computers, the old Windows 7 one to keep running all my existing programs and a different one to connect to the net, sounds like it would simplify things. I might even be able to change that one to Windows 10 eventually, since Windows 10 is presumably harmless as long as the computer it's on never connects to the internet.

I'm still hoping some other company will start offering support for Windows 7 before January 14. The potential revenues would seem to be enormous, unless there's some legal issue that would prevent it.

SOS: The "753" is explained here -- nothing to do with bicycles, though. :-)

13 November, 2019 05:01  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

I'm running Windows 7 as well and my thoughts on it are I'm just going to keep what I have and hope for the best. I don't know that anything bad will happen but I'm hoping that it will be fine. I don't know enough about computers to do anything more than what I'm doing. I do know that I don't want to switch to Windows 10. I've heard about the glitches and problems and it sounds like a big headache to me.

13 November, 2019 09:02  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bonus: If you do end up buying an newer computer, probably a good idea to maintain compatibility, you can install Linux on the older unit. Linux Mint has a well deserved reputation for working on older hardware. Usually without requiring any tweaking or fiddling with drivers and such. Windows has always been a resource hog and has driven much of the need for new hardware. Most of those units that choke on even Win7 can become quite workable e-mail and web browsing machines.

Hint: If you do your own upgrades a second machine, even a slow one, makes everything easier. The ability to look up a problem and find options online, and read it while working the solution, makes everything much more relaxed.

The second computer is like a spare tire for your car. Once you get used to having a second computer you will wonder how you made it without one.

Knowing I can still get vital work done on a second computer if the first fails, or I screw up an upgrade or repair, makes me bolder. Yes. you can still haul the box off to the computer shop for professional help but Ive found that with a bit of online research and tweaking I can often fix the problem. Worse case, it is: off to my favored geek-in-the-box.

Funny thing is that as I started doing more of my own upgrades and repairs I've learned a lot. Few things are as frustrating as a computer to try to fix if don't know exactly what your doing (Anyone for device, driver and IRQ juggling under Win3.0 for head-pounding fun?) but the successes were so sweet. (Anyone remember loading Win95 from a set of 26 floppies? Good times.)

I'll never be a computer expert. But, for an old fart, I do okay.

13 November, 2019 09:33  
Blogger Cynthianne said...

Hi, Infidel---
Non-techie nerd here (English major).
Years ago, I got fed up with everything Microsoft and bought, on the internet, a computer with Ubuntu Linux pre-installed. It looks and works so much like Windows that there is literally no learning curve. It also came with an office suite that handles Word and Excel docs perfectly. There is also a database program that I've never used, but is most likely compatible with MS Access. I've upgraded once since, by inserting a DVD and following the prompts. Easy-peazy.
The only caveats I have is that only a Microsoft brand wireless mouse will work with Ubuntu, and for most printers, a linux driver has to be downloaded. I have a HP, and downloaded the linux driver from HP's website.
HOWsomeEver, I think that getting a cheapo chromebook for the internet and keeping your old workhorse on windows off-line is probably the best work-around for you.

13 November, 2019 10:29  
Blogger Mike said...

Things like this will get worse as windows 7 doesn't get updates anymore.


BlueKeep impacts only: Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008.

14 November, 2019 01:52  
Blogger RO said...

You've been reading my blog, so you already know, I'm hooked on finding deals and freebies, so I'm that person who added Windows 10 when it was FREE. Despite adding it, the only thing I ever use on it is Word, and sometimes Excel. Other stuff pops up, but I never use it, including Microsoft Edge. I do know that if something goes wrong and you need to have Windows 7 worked on, lots of places won't be able to help, and that would be the pits. I sure hope you don't stop blogging though. That wouldn't be fun at all. Hugs, RO

14 November, 2019 15:58  
Blogger The New York Crank said...

FWIW I agree with Sixpence. I grew up on Mac. It less frequently gets hacked. It's more intuitive than Windows machines. There's a phone number called 1800 MYApple that offers support, and on which you can usually get through to a live person in 20 minutes or less, sometimes lots less, depending on the hour of day.

It's also, I understand, a lot more expensive than all the Windows machines. But I'm willing to pay extra for the peace of mind and amortize it out over the years I own my computer.

Yours crankily,
The New York Crank

14 November, 2019 19:45  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Again, thanks for all the suggestions and information -- this has become one of my most-commented posts ever. Between now and January I'll be reviewing the comments here as I consider what to do.

15 November, 2019 05:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


PLEASE consider joining a Linux user group.

Portland has 19 within twenty five miles of the city. I did the same within my community. For the most part all the folks are there to help and be of service. Like all of society there are a few "winners'. Ignore them or find another group if it really sux.

Mint is a easy and good "disto" as the techies say.

Peace out,

15 November, 2019 19:32  

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