Windows 7 vs Windows 10: The next big challenge

Time is running out for those who haven't already moved on from Windows 7 -- but are they really ready for the jump to Windows 10?
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

It's been some time since Windows 10 overtook Windows 7 to become the most used PC operating system, but with the final end of Windows 7 support looming, there's still much work to do.

With six months until Windows 7 goes out of extended support, there's quite a lot of data around to provide at least a rough picture of the current state of play.

  • Separate research from authentication company Duo found that Windows 10 now accounts for 66% of PCs its software interacts with, compared with 29% for Windows 7. In some sectors, the situation is more worrying -- Duo points to healthcare as a sector that is particularly wedded to Windows 7. Finding the time to do an upgrade in a busy hospital is always going to be hard, and some medical hardware just can't be upgraded. It's probably worth noting that there also remains a worrying amount of Windows XP still in use -- the UK's health service still has about 2,300 PCs running the 18-year-old operating system, although the OS only accounts for 0.16% of the NHS's 1.4 million PCs. 
  • Data from NetMarketShare shows the gradual decline of the use of Windows 7, which now accounts for somewhere around 38% of PCs connecting to the internet; Windows 10 overtook it at the back end of last year and has around 41% market share. It's always wise to be aware of the caveats around figures like these, but the broad trends are clear.

Whatever the precise figure for Windows 7 versus Windows 10 right now, what's clear is that -- with less that six months before Windows 7 goes out of extended support on 14 January 2020 -- there's still a lot of PCs out there using it.

There are options for companies that don't get everything moved off Windows 7 before the middle of January, or who want to stick with the old OS for whatever reason, in the form of extended support packages from Microsoft, although there is a significant cost attached.

But, even if they get the move to Windows 10 completed in time, these companies then have to adjust to the new(ish) world of Windows as a service.

That means regular upgrades for new features and security fixes, not the giant lift-and-shift every few years that was the model previously. There's plenty to admire in that model, and not just for Microsoft; companies can get access to new features and bug fixes almost as soon as they are ready, without waiting for them to be bundled up into in mega-releases.

The problem is that, as my colleague Ed Bott points out, even after four years of Windows as a service, Microsoft is still struggling to get the upgrade process right, and he has some advice for companies on how to manage that process.

The large businesses that have spent the time and effort to get to understand Windows 10 will be fine -- but the issue could well be with those late adopters who are only now looking at Windows 10 as that Windows 7 deadline looms. They must prepare for more testing and more regular rollouts -- not easy when many companies are already well behind with software updates and patching.

For many of these companies, their next Windows migration is the beginning, not the end, of the changes.


The Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. Since we run a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America.


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