Ask LH: What Happens To Windows 7 Now?

Dear Lifehacker, So: Windows 8. Great . . . maybe. But is that it for Windows 7? Just one service pack and that's it? Is nothing else being done for it? Yours, Hungry For Updates

Dear HFU,

The short answer: no, that's not the end of the road for Windows 7 at all. No need to panic.

The longer answer: right now, Windows 8 is nothing like a completed product. The current developer preview gives us a very good sense of how Windows 8 will look, but it's also highlighting areas that need to be fixed, and that process will take a while. We don't even have an official launch date for Windows 8 yet. It has been widely speculated that it will appear in late 2012, but that's not a confirmed target, and Windows release dates have a habit of slipping even after they are announced. In the meantime, Windows 7 is the official current version.

It has also never been the case that the appearance of one version of Windows means that its predecessors are entirely set aside. Microsoft is currently committed to offering enterprise support for Windows 7 until at least January 1, 2015, and it seems safe to assume that Windows 8 will have appeared by then.

More generally, service packs aren't the sole metric for whether changes are being made to Windows. Typically, service packs include two elements: major new features for the operating system, and a bundle of all the previous monthly patches that have been issued to fix vulnerabilities and performance issues in Windows. However, that isn't invariably the case: Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 was essentially only existing bug fixes, meaning that if you'd been regularly updating Windows (as everyone should), there wasn't any visible difference after installing it. That pattern won't necessarily be repeated, but it's hardly out of the question.

Microsoft typically aims to release service packs every 12 to 18 months for Windows, but as you can see in this table, that varies quite a bit:

Note, though, that 18 months from SP1 for Windows 7 would take us into August 2012, so it's way too early to start suggesting that SP2 is late. There has been speculation all year about when SP2 is due, but short of an official date, it doesn't mean much.

Patches are still being released for Windows 7 regularly, and it's certainly not inconceivable that a forthcoming service pack might incorporate some elements of the architecture being developed for Windows 8. But even if Windows 7 doesn't get past SP1, regular updates are going to continue long after Windows 8 has been released commercially.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    I have a question. Our work is still running XP, and it really does the job for an enterprise system. I assume many big corporates are the same. How much longer will they be running XP, or will they be inclined to move to Win 7 or 8 at some point in the future?

      My work (state govt) is still running XP SP3. The IT people were claiming last year that in "early 2011" we would be moving to Windows 7. They also claimed we would move from Lotus Notes (!?) to Outlook, around the same time.

      I'm not holding my breath.

        You're on XP SP3 and Lotus Notes too?!

        I thought it was just my organisation! A pain I know only too well.

          I'm there with ya too buddy

        Yeah, I am "IT" for a government department, and trust me, there is so much work involved in migrating an entire department to a new OS, it's nuts.

        Working for a govt. department means I can probably assume you're familiar with TRIM? That right there is half the reason why XP SP3 is still the most widely-used OS in government infrastructure. =[

          TRIM would be a step up. We have a proprietary "DMS" database, accessible only through Lotus Notes. :(

      Haha yea they should be moving to Win 7 soon as XP no longer is officially supported. Although XP Does the job, Win 7 does the job, but better ;-)

      I think it's more the Sys admin guys don't like change, although they have been running win 7 for quite some time, guess they just hate users ;-)

        We are getting new computers DOWNGRADED to XP. Apparently the powers that be don't want to pay to upgrade our servers, and without upgrading the servers we can't upgrade our programs (like SAP, etc) so we can't have Windows 7 (or 8). That sounds ridiculous to me, but nothing I say seems to help :(

        I worked for IT in Gov for a while... There's sadly a very good reason as to why the sys admins use Win7 and they leave the customers til VERY VERY last. In short..... its so they can do their job. There are SO many applications that actually do not work within Win7 still even though ts been out for ages. The vendors are holding back any development of those applications becuase they want money.. and mega money to have their programs changed to work with Win7. And thats something that businises can't really afford. If it were one or two small applications.. not a problem.. but when your whole business depends on it.. then you become stuck.

          Eventually will have to happen, especially since (being a dev) NGO's or outside clients are using Windows 7, and we are writing apps for these clients, from XP.....
          Windows 8 will be out before we get 7 ;-)

    To be very fair I am still on XP. It works great for me. No problems nothing, All my drivers work, devices work, software and games. I do not see the need to move to Windows 8 anytime soon

      Do you still play DOOM 1, have a plain blue wallpaper on your desktop or have any interest in technology? I am all for moving forward, and I love technology, hence why I bought Vista when it came out, was using Win 7 beta for months before it was for sale, and am now using Win 8 dev prev as my main OS. Once you move to win 7 it will be hard to go back to XP. So many extra features and all these nice little GUI things. Same is said for windows 8 - the little things ;-) Like single dialog for multiple file operations!

      Cool story bro.

        In some ways, TJ is right. Not many, but some.

        XP is definitely more reliable in terms of new hardware installation/drivers etc. I've spent enough time trying to manually mangle Vista drivers to work for Windows 7 because the company/product just hasn't released updated drivers. Technically, that's not Windows 7's fault, but it's pretty difficult to explain that to a high-level executive who wants to know why VPN won't work on his fancy new Sony Vaio with Win 7. =[

    Only millions of lines of spaghetti code to go until completion

      Trolololol Windows sucks amirite?

      Spaghetti code? Look at me posting from my superior position.. oh wait.
      Can you name 8 actual problems with windows 7? Vista? Oh? You cant?
      I'm sure you could write a desktop OS that runs with literally trillions of different hardware combinations and never have a problem.

      You're so edgy. Now make jokes about airline food.

    A lot of retail businesses seem to me to still use dos for point of sale work, for example, tool hire companies. At least it looks like dos to me. last time I went on an overseas trip a couple of years ago the travel agent entered text commands in what looked like a dos terminal to locate flights, prices etc.

    Windows 7 becomes the new XP for a decade. Windows 8 becomes the new Vista. XP becomes the new 2000.

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