Your Guide To Microsoft’s End Of Windows 7 Support

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Support for Windows 7 is coming to end this year. The operating system is 10 years old, and in the near future, Microsoft will discontinue all support – including security updates – for this version of Microsoft Windows.

This means the end of Microsoft security updates and this means many 3rd-party security tools like anti-virus may no longer function.

“Malicious Actors” a. k. a. “Hackers” will quickly exploit any Windows 7 computer the moment security updates stop and any future security vulnerability is discovered.

Microsoft tells us that as of October 2018, about 39% of business computers are still running Windows 7. Clearly, there is a lot of work to do over the coming months to prepare businesses for the end of support of Windows 7. [Read more…]

Why You Should Upgrade Your Business PCs to Windows 10

jared-stemeye

Jared Stemeye is a Help Desk Technician at Tech Experts.

As of April 2017, Windows 10 holds around 25% of the computer operating system market share for all computers in the world and it continues to grow. Windows 7, on the other hand, is still the overall leader, retaining a staggering 49% of the entire OS market share. The remaining difference is held by Windows 8, Linux, and Mac OS users.

These numbers show many stick with 7 — the Windows they know and love — but as each day passes, this is less and less of a feasible solution for the long term.

End Of Windows 7 Extended Support Is Coming

Windows 7 was initially released in July of 2009 and quickly became the most popular Windows ever created. Almost ten years later, many still feel the same.

However, this popularity is not saving Windows 7 from the end of its security and support updates. Official support of the Windows 7 OS actually ended back in January 2015, then went into extended support. Now, the end of the extended support has been labeled with a January 2020 termination date.

This may seem distant, but these next three years will pass faster than most think and, once this support ends, users will be forced to use Windows 10 if they want to remain secure.

This is especially true for business that are required to meet certain security compliances. Now, pair this with the learning curve for some that would be involved with adjusting to Windows 10. You don’t want your employees spending time figuring out the changes when they could have already been acclimated.

Windows 10 Then vs. Now

Many refused to leave Windows 7 as Windows 8 was so different… and not in a good way. Many believed Windows 10 would be the same as Windows 8 and, in many ways during the initial release, it was. This is no longer the case. It truly is an understatement to say that Windows 10 is better now than when it was first released. The updates, including the newly released Creators Update, have taken Windows 10 to new heights of accessibility, ease of use, and features.

Unlike Windows 8, Windows 10 has the start menu you know and love. Along with this, 10 provides additional file accessibility with Cortana voice control and customizable tiles for your favorite applications. There is also the universal notification and security center. The notification center has links to other useful features like the Windows 10 Settings app, VPN settings, and quick toggles for things like location and Quiet Mode. If you have a Windows machine connected to a touchscreen, there’s also a button to quickly switch between desktop and tablet modes. Finally, Microsoft has already stated that 10 will receive at least two massive updates a year and will continue to evolve over a foreseeably long lifespan.

What You Should Do

The sooner businesses upgrade to Windows 10, the better off employees and administration will be. Sadly, Windows 7 does not have much time left and investing any more time into learning the quirks and shortcuts of 7 will be wasted time after January 2020. Though the free upgrade for Windows 10 Home and Pro users have expired, any Windows Enterprise users can still upgrade to Windows 10 for free. You can access all Windows support lifecycle information here: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/13853/windows-lifecycle-fact-sheet. If you’re looking toward upgrading or need help to ensure that the upgrading process goes smoothly, you can reach us at (734) 457-5000; we would be happy to help.

Windows 8 – WOW Does It Look Different!

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

Microsoft’s venture into a truly mobile operating system, that can be spread spectrum across all of their platforms, was in theory a great idea.

What went wrong was underestimating the public’s attachment to the look and feel of their Windows XP and Windows 7 (we’ll just forget about Vista) operating system.

With many users still looking sideways at the new stylish Windows 8 interface, and even with the slight upgrades and changes in looks (ha, I laugh at the new start button) that Windows 8.1 has brought on since its release.

For many users out there, this still is not a big enough change to truly bring enjoyment to their personal computer experience.

If you are in “ever search mode” to locate and regain that look and feel of operating systems of yesteryear, there are two great programs that allow anyone of any level of computer experience to install and customize to regain that feeling of comfort.

Classic Shell, a freeware program, can enable a legacy-style Start menu and Windows Explorer interface. You can even have the Windows 7 menu back! But why stop there? Windows XP and Windows Classic menus are available as well. The Classic style will be a comfort to anyone upgrading from Windows 98.

The classic Explorer settings can also transport you into the way-back machine, and users can now have the simple Windows XP style back that they know and love.

A small low impact application that gives you a true look and feel of a Windows 7 interface, while still maintaining the complete functionally of the Windows 8 operating system.

Classic Shell, gives you a true start button and brings back Печатьthat all too familiar look and feel of your dearly departed Windows XP or 7 systems.

Check it out, it even offers a “Shut Down” button. Classic Shell also allows for customization of the new start menu.

Created by Stardock, a company that’s been making Windows user interface mod’s for years, Start8 comes as a free 30-day-trial. After that, you can “unlock” the third-party software for just $4.99.
Start8 does not re-enable the Windows Start menu. Instead, it creates a new menu that looks similar to it. Because of this, Stardock provides a great deal of customization.

Users can make the menu appear Metro-like by giving it square edges, or can stick with the Windows 7 look by giving it rounded edges. It’s also possible to change color, add or remove translucency, and give the Start menu button a custom icon.

And that’s just the beginning. There’s a plethora of options available in the app’s configuration and control menus for users to explore and customize.

Considering its low price and the large number of options, I think this software is a good deal. I even like the optional faux-Metro style.

However, Start8 doesn’t add any new functionality, so users are essentially paying $5 to have what was bundled with Windows 7.

So there you go. Two great choices, it just all comes down to “to pay or not pay, that is the question.”
Remember the technicians at Tech Experts are always ready to lend a hand.

(Image Source: iCLIPART)

Windows 7 System Information Gadgets

by David Stone, Technician
Microsoft pulled support for desktop gadgets for Windows 7 a while ago, but they are still available and quite handy for getting real time updates on system performance.

If you are an end user that likes to know up-to-the-minute system information, then these are just what you’ve been looking for.

Below is a list of 5 such gadgets that make accessing information fast and are visually appealing.

Margu Notebook Info 2
Margu Notebook Info 2 is used for laptop and notebook specific information and offers a simple to read layout.

This gadget will give you real-time updates for wireless local area network (WLAN) and local area network (LAN) interfaces, net usage, multicore usage, clock/calendar, central processing unit (CPU), battery, uptime, power management plans, RAM/CPU usage and hard disc drive usage.

The graphical user interface (GUI) allows for you to add/remove any of the information you want to display as well as rearrange the layout. This provides one of the best options for laptops.

Xirrus Wi-Fi Monitor Gadget
Xirrus Wi-Fi Monitor Gadget provides you with very detailed information about wireless connections within range.

It allows you to view the data rate, service set identifier (SSID), the channel, signal strength, IP addresses and even local connection layouts.

Clicking on a wireless network in the map will return a usage history report of the available networks.

You can even change the skin of the gadget and configure the brightness, although it can be a bit distracting with the constant sonar animation.

Drives Meter
Drives Meter offers up-to-date status of the health of your hard drives as well as set alarms for low disk space. The alarm will make a sound when remaining space left meets the threshold set by the user.

The display shows disk activity, used space, remaining space and total disk space.

This gadget definitely comes in handy when trying to troubleshoot hard drive issues or for keeping tabs on disk usage.

Network Meter Gadget
Network Meter Gadget is an excellent wireless traffic monitor, if not the best.

On one small display screen you can quickly see the wireless service set ID (SSID), internal and external IP addresses, firewall status, signal strength, upload/download speeds, speed test and connection security status.

If you select the fly-out features and see the name of the network, name of the adapter, the maximum speed, the MAC address, the subnet mask, Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) lease details and much more.

System Information
System Information is an all-in-one gadget that allows you to view information on the operating system, CPU, uptime, memory, HDD, network drives, optical drives, battery and network.

You can select how much information you would like to display through the following modes: normal (shows all information), compact (shows headers only) or compressed (only one icon is shown).

Just because Microsoft has determined that support for gadgets will no longer be provided, doesn’t mean that you have to do without these tools.

If you’re looking for tools to hand out system information, you can’t go wrong with one of these gems.

 

Windows XP Support Ending Soon

By Tech Experts Staff
Windows XP set the bar for business friendly operating systems and has been in use for over twelve years now. Microsoft is now pushing users to its new operating system, Windows 8. Many users and administrators alike feel that Windows 8 will not be a suitable business friendly operating system for its users.

Another issue with Windows 8 is that many software providers still do not support it so as a business where should you be looking? Windows 7 has been the most business/application friendly operating system since Windows XP so that would be the best replacement.

Since Microsoft is discontinuing support for Windows XP, what does that mean exactly and when is it going to happen?

Microsoft has set a date of April 8th 2014 as the end of support date for Windows XP. Oh, 2014 you have plenty of time to plan down the road right? Wrong, when Microsoft stops supporting the operating system it will become very vulnerable to attacks so you want to make sure this is completed before Microsoft ends support.

Hackers will develop malware to attack XP and Microsoft will no longer be working to patch the holes that cyber criminals are using to steal your personal information.

Since support is ending it means that doing online banking or other transactions on your personal computer running this operating system will become extremely dangerous. In relation to businesses, they risk exposing client data which can be very costly.
Businesses need to plan these operating system upgrades as it will take a decent amount of time/preparation to complete smoothly and successfully.

Planning means start now don’t wait till the last minute or you will not be able to get everything switched over in a smooth fashion. Since upgrading computers from Windows XP to Windows 7 is the best option to prevent major security risks what needs to be considered to accomplish this?

The first step in getting your company ready for operating system upgrades is making sure your software is compatible. Many organizations use software that is specific to their industry, the software companies that develop this software also needs to be preparing.

Companies should be checking with their software providers to ensure their software will work on Windows 7 and should get documentation on how to smoothly upgrade their computers software for the least downtime possible.

Not only does industry specific software need to be addressed but software you use every day also needs to be looked at. Most computers running Windows 7 are 64 bit operating systems, that being said not all software runs on a 64 bit operating system.

One application I can think of that is not compatible with Windows 7 (we have seen numerous issues) is older versions of Microsoft Office. Businesses need to not only keep their operating systems up to date but this software also should be. Office XP does not function properly on Windows 7 nor do any other old versions.
The other problem with keeping old software like this is the file formats have changed since they have been released. Your clients may start sending documents to you that your copy of Office might not be able to read. Office 2010 pairs well with Windows 7 and it supports all current file versions released by Microsoft.

One final consideration, many businesses and users alike want to know what it will cost to simply upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 however, there are two problems with this.

First, Windows XP to Windows 7 does not offer an in place upgrade, this means that all of your software, user files, etc. would be lost simply doing an “upgrade” to Windows 7. While user files can be backed up, software/applications cannot, they will have to be reinstalled.

Second, upgrading an old workstation may not be worthwhile. In most cases, older hardware was not designed to run Windows 7 and because of this tends to run slower and not perform as well as a computer that was designed for it.

We highly recommend upgrading the entire workstation to new hardware, especially in the case of businesses. It just doesn’t make sense to spend all the money on the time involved in upgrading the operating system if you can’t gain speed benefits and make your employees more productive.

Need a hand getting started with your businesses upgrade? Give us a call today at (734) 457-5000 and we can work with you on a plan to get your company switched over to Windows 7 so that your computers remain supported for years to come.

Windows 8, A Diamond in the Rough?

Feature article by Tech Experts
So should you be planning to upgrade to Windows 7 or hold off for Windows 8?

If you’re still running Windows XP, Microsoft is saying to not bother waiting for Windows 8 and jump into Windows 7. That being said, from a business point of view should you wait for Windows 8 or go for Windows 7?

Windows 8 was initially released as a developer preview on September 13th of 2011 and since has been pushed very hard by Microsoft and the media alike to many IT professionals.

After Microsoft boasted over the drastic rethinking of Windows 8 and how it has revolutionized Windows as a whole, IT pros everywhere picked every aspect of Windows 8 apart.

Is Change A Good Thing?
Many feel it is not going to make a very good business operating system for end users. The reason for this? Change. Windows 8 brings a vast amount of change to the table, some good, some not so good…

After the release of the Developer preview and several months of time for Microsoft to further polish their new Operating System, they released the current version Windows 8 Consumer Preview build 8250 on February 29th 2012.

Microsoft again touted the newly improved OS citing it has made over 100,000 code changes since its previously released Developer version.

So, just what is Windows 8? Well Windows 8 is Microsoft’s attempt at making an operating system to bridge the hardware gaps between mobile platforms and the widely used PC.

Complete Overhaul
Windows 8 has been completely overhauled to give end users a similar user experience whether they are sitting at their desktop computer, using it on a tablet, or (as some experts believe) using a new Windows phone.

While Microsoft has not officially stated that this OS is going to be released on the Windows phone platform yet, it surely would not take them much to do so and would allow them to have their devices all synced.

Synced? That’s right! The new OS relies heavily on the cloud. The way this operating system has been developed it will allow users to login on any computer (provided they have an internet connection) and have the same application access they had on their computer at home.

With further integration of cloud services users will also have access to all of their documents, pictures, and videos via cloud based storage.

Many of Windows 8 features have a long way to go still before they are developed enough for everyday public use.

Metro Interface
One of the most notable features of Windows 8 is its new “Metro” style interface pictured above

This screen is your start menu now. Yes, Microsoft removed the start button that has been in Windows for more than 20 years… This new way of accessing your icons and applications allows you to click on (or touch if you have a touchscreen monitor or tablet) an icon and instantly be using it.

Load times for applications are very low, at least with the applications that have been released via their app store at this point.

Applications opened from this screen also do not need to be closed according to Microsoft (Again very similar to many mobile operating systems today).

The only problem with not actually closing the applications is for those people that never turn their computer off, everything you ever open will stay open and if you don’t force close the programs they will continue to run and use system resources which over time will make your computer run slow.

Even though Microsoft has removed the start menu they have kept the desktop..somewhat. The desktop is still able to be accessed via the Metro application menu but again is not meant to be used unless you need access to files and folders.

One other new feature Microsoft has added to Windows 8 is the ability to have “Picture Passwords”. A Picture Password allows you to select a picture you want to use as your password, and then draw three gestures on the picture to allow access to the computer or tablet.

This new feature is meant to increase security as it will make it more difficult for hackers to gain access to a user’s computer (At least via a keylogger).

One of the big reasons to steer clear of Windows 8, at least at this point, is numerous bugs within the OS and the apps it uses. Bugs range from minor issues such as lack of support for common email protocols such as IMAP and POP, to more major issues related to hardware not functioning inside Windows 8 due to conflicts.

At this point with Windows 8 still being in Beta it is perfectly normal to have the issues they are having with the operating system but, if the issues continue into the retail release of the software they will have another Windows Vista on their hands.

If Microsoft turns this operating system into a winner, it could mean big things for Microsoft.

One major point is if Windows 8 becomes popular, Windows will make a break into the tablet market which is predominately Android and iOS based. This would also give Windows an edge on other mobile operating systems as they would be able to operate across multiple platforms without any lapse in functionality.

So, is Windows 8 worth waiting for? At this point it makes more sense to go with Windows 7. If you are the kind of person that is into change…a lot of change…then hold off for Windows 8, but at this point Windows 8 is looking rough.

 

Windows XP: Usage Declining After 10 Years

With Windows XP being released more than 10 years ago its still amazing that it is still on top when it comes to the most widely used operating system. The question still stands however, why?!

Many users have become comfortable with Windows XP and everyone hates change so it is really no surprise that users are holding on to the antiquated operating system. There are however major problems with holding onto old technology.

The first major problem is support. Windows XP is slated to lose its support in early August of 2014. “So why not hold on to Windows XP a little longer, I heard Windows 8 is coming out soon?” While there are many users out there with that mentality, it is bad practice to hold on to an operating system beyond its useful life.

The fact is there is a great alternative to Windows XP that has been out long enough that the bugs have been worked out and is a stable alternative. Windows 7 is the alternative, while many users are nervous about moving on to a new operating system because they don’t like change, Windows 7 is a very intuitive, stable and user friendly operating system.

The second reason you should not be holding on to Windows XP over Windows 7 is the simple fact of security. Windows 7 has been proven to be more than five times as secure as Windows XP.That’s right, all those viruses you get in Windows XP due to its numerous security holes do not exist in Windows 7. While its true there are still some viruses and malware in Windows 7, this is true of any software (Yes even a Mac…).

Many businesses are starting to see these facts as well and are not waiting around for Windows 8. So why are they not waiting?

Well, current reviews of Windows 8 have very mixed opinions on whether or not it will be a good fit for businesses. Much like Vista was to the Windows XP user, Windows 8 is going to be a very different looking and feeling operating system.Many people in the Information Technology field have their doubts as to whether it will fit into businesses well due to the drastic changes that have been made in the users interface.

While Windows 8 is still not released to the general public yet, it still appears that it will be too big of a change for those in the business world that generally are not early adopters of new Windows operating systems (Sound familiar?).

Many businesses are just starting to push into Windows 7 for their primary workstations and the numbers of Windows XP  computers versus the number of Windows 7 computers out are starting to show that. Windows XP has dropped over 10% in the past year which is huge! As a matter of fact Windows 7 gained 15% last year which  means not only is it doing well enough to take those XP users, but it also managed to steal some users from other operating systems.

The long and short is it is time to get that upgrade and stop wasting your time with Windows XP. Windows XP will cost you more to maintain due to the fact that it is more likely to have viruses and other problems. Windows 7 is the way to go don’t wait until Windows XP support finally dies then decide its time.The time is now, save yourself the hassle and plan the upgrade process now rather than waiting till the last minute.

We can get you upgraded to Windows 7 or, if your computer is too old to put the money and time into it to switch to Windows 7, we can get a computer for you with Windows 7 and transfer all of your existing data to it. Just give us a call.

 

Feature article by:
Tech Experts

Backing Up And Restoring Files With Windows 7

In the business world it’s critical for end users to have a backup solution available in case of data loss or system failure.

System Restore is one of the easiest ways to restore files and settings. If you can’t find a file on your computer or you accidentally modified or deleted a file, you can restore it from a backup if you’re using Windows backup in Windows 7, or you can try to restore it from a previous version.

Previous versions
Previous versions are copies of files and folders that Windows automatically saves as part of a restore point. Previous versions are sometimes referred to as shadow copies.

System Restore is a component of Microsoft’s Windows Me, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems that allows for the rolling back of system files, registry keys, installed programs, etc., to a previous state in the event of system malfunction or failure. Using System Restore to restore previous versions is simple.

Simply open up any Explorer window, right-click on a file or folder you wish to restore, and select “Restore Previous Versions.”

For instance, if you accidentally deleted a file from a folder in My Documents, browse to a file you would like to restore from an earlier point (all of the contents may have been over written mistakenly.)

Likewise if you have accidently deleted a few documents from a folder within your My Documents folder titled “Easter Pictures,” simply right-click on the folder and select properties, then select the previews versions tab, then open previous versions from it.

Please note that this will only appear on files and folders, not drives or Libraries in Windows 7.

The dialog will show all of the previous copies of this folder that are available.  Click on the time you wish to restore from.

You can choose to either Open, Copy, or Restore the folder.  If you click Restore, you can restore the full contents of the folder as it appeared at some time in the past.

Choose “copy” to copy the entire contents of the folder as it appeared at that time to another location.  For instance, you could copy it to a flash drive for safe keeping, which also previews overwriting the current file.

Lastly you can choose “open” to browse the contents of the folder as it appeared at that time.

You can open, copy, or do anything you choose with the file from here.  For instance, if you deleted a folder named emails accidentally today, you could click copy, and then paste it into the location of your choice.

When in this mode, you are directly browsing the shadow copy of your hard drive.  The path to the folder shows the date and time of the copy.

And, the great thing is, this feature is available in all editions of Windows 7, including the low-cost Starter edition often preinstalled in netbooks.

System Restore is a great way to back up your files in case of accidental deletion, or unwanted changes, but should not be used for your disaster-recovery plan.

In cases of disaster-recovery, you will want to make sure you have a proper backup set to automatically backup your systems, System Restore should only be used as an addition to the backups you currently have setup with your IT professional.

The Benefits Of Using The Current Version of Windows

With all the different versions of Windows out there, how do you know what one will work best for you, and why?

The answer, in most cases, is the most current version of Windows is the one you should be using. In general the most current version of Windows (in this case Windows 7) will offer the greatest benefits for your money.

Security
One of the many benefits to having a current operating system is the security features. When you’re up to date, you are far less vulnerable to viruses and malware.

Windows XP is still one of the most widely used operating systems.The problem with it is that there are so many viruses and malware developed for it that it is much more vulnerable than Windows Vista or Windows 7.

One security feature that makes Vista and Windows 7 more secure than Windows XP is the fact that they both have a two way firewall built into the operating system.

This means that if a virus was to get into the system (and the firewall was still functioning properly) the outbound firewall would catch outbound communications from the virus to whatever it is transmitting to.

Windows XP only has inbound firewalls which helps to stop incoming connections, but does nothing once a virus, malware or other attacker has gained access to the computer system.

This is likely the biggest advantage security wise for the newer operating systems.

Increased productivity
As far as productivity goes there may be instances that require a user to stick with an older operating system due to software compatibility issues. These issues in most cases are few and far between.

The reason this is the case is due to compatibility features within Windows 7 and Vista that allow a user to set a program to run in “Compatibility Mode.”

Running a program in compatibility mode allows a user to run programs that were designed to be run in older operating systems.

This feature will allow programs that were designed to run on operating systems as old as Windows 95 to run in the current version of Windows.

While compatibility mode will work in most cases, it isn’t guaranteed. Always work with your line of business application company to keep your software updated.

Remember the importance of maintaining support for any specialty software you use.

Updated applications
One final reason to use the most current Operating System is the ability to run newer applications and hardware that were not previously supported in older operating systems.

If your computer is older, it might not have the horsepower necessary to run the most current version of Windows. In that case, it is may be more beneficial to upgrade the PC.

If you’re interested in upgrading, we can check your current systems for memory and processing power, looking forward toward an operating system upgrade.

Remember, an up to date system lets you be more productive, have better security over your important data, and increase your profitability by decreasing downtime due to failing hardware, viruses and malware.

Feature article By Tech Experts Staff for Tech Experts

Windows 7: A Pain-Free Upgrade

Most small business owners feel software upgrades are about as fun as having a tooth pulled: Not really that much fun at all. But an upgrade to Windows 7 can actually be pain-free. Here’s why:

XP mode
Windows Vista had plenty of compatibility issues. That’s not the case with Windows 7, due to a new feature called XP compatibility Mode. XP Mode allows you to run older programs in Windows XP and simultaneously run every-thing else in Windows 7.

If your main business software runs well now in Windows XP it should run just fine in XP Mode in Windows 7.

For even more peace of mind, as part of the upgrade process, we will contact your business software vendor and get their approval before beginning an upgrade. You can also try this on a “test” PC before rolling it out on your network.

Installation time
The Windows 7 set-up process is significantly faster than Vista or XP installation, which saves your business money on the upgrade project. Windows 7 also offers some automated setup options that weren’t previously available – again, reducing your investment in an upgrade project. Start up time is significantly – and noticably – faster, which gets your staff to work that much faster at the start of the day.

More drivers and easier setup
When you plug in a new scanner, camera or other device into your computer, you don’t want to fight with pop-up messages that tell you to search for drivers.

You just want it to work the way it’s supposed to. With Windows 7 that’s what you get. No hassle. No fear.