It's the end of an era. Today (January 14), Microsoft officially ended free security updates for Windows 7. If you want to keep using the operating system you'll need to pay an ongoing fee. Or do you? Turns out there's a trick to get ongoing Windows 7 support - for free.
Do people still use Windows 7? Absolutely. And if they cling to it past January 14 of this coming year, they’ll have to pay a fee to Microsoft to continue to receive security updates. Most people won’t (and can’t) do this, as Microsoft’s paid security updates are geared only toward businesses, but a clever little hack allows normal people to take advantage of this service — for free.
I don’t have Windows 7, so I can’t test this personally, but here’s how the hack generally works. You have to first install three prerequisite updates to your Windows 7 system: KB4490628, KB4474419, and KB4523206. Restart your system as needed.
From there, hit up the My Digital Life forums, register for a free account, and download the BypassESU tool. Install it, and you should then be able to install this test Extended Security Update (KB4528069). The BypassESU tool should allow you to circumvent the check Microsoft puts in place for Extended Security Updates. Once this update installs successfully, you should even be able to uninstall the BypassESU tool, as you’ll now be authenticated for future security updates.
Of course, Microsoft might invalidate this little workaround and/or alter how it authenticates for Windows 7 Extended Security Updates. As the readme.txt file for the BypassESU tool notes:
“However, you may consider this as prototype, based on tests with update KB4528069, things may change on February 2020.”
In other words, be on the lookout for new workarounds if this one goes away. That’s assuming Microsoft has a huge incentive to address this issue, which should affect a relatively small chunk of people: home users clinging to Windows 7 who want to find some way to keep their systems updated. I can’t imagine that audience is very large, and Microsoft might not even care enough to plug this hole.
If it does, and you don’t find any other way to get security updates for your end-of-life operating system, maybe it’s time to upgrade to a free version of Windows 10—assuming your system supports it. Otherwise, you can get a little wild with a brand-new, user-friendly, open operating system. Heck, try out a Linux distro before you take the plunge to see if it works better for you than Windows.
Ignore this and cling to Windows 7, and you’ll only have yourself to blame for any crazy zero-day hacks that wreck your system come January 14 (or beyond). Don’t take my word for it, though. Here’s a great description of why this is important from Reddit user ntx61:
“Continuing the use of obsolete, unsupported operating systems like Windows 7 (or any other software) past their end of support dates (in Windows 7's case, January 14, 2020) exposes users to more security risks as vendors (like Microsoft) stop releasing security updates for obsolete platforms, making them no more secure than a completely unpatched system. This leaves users vulnerable to malware, hacking, and other attacks that could potentially cost them more than when they upgrade to modern, actively supported platforms.”
This story has been updated since its original publication.