Nothing lasts forever, and when a new version of Windows arrives, the end-of-life timer starts ticking. Even Windows 10—the "last" version of Windows—has a "best used by" date coming up in 2025. The simple solution is to continue upgrading, but that's not always possible. If hardware considerations, legacy software, or some other snag keeps you stuck on a defunct operating system, what happens to your antivirus protection?
This is an especially important consideration for users of Windows 7, which died this month. If you don't upgrade, you won't get security updates from Microsoft, which isn't great. Even worse would be the possibility that your security software might abandon your devices. Will that happen then? The researchers at AV-Test Institute in Magdeburg, Germany, decided to find out.
AV-Test Institute is known worldwide for its testing of antivirus products. Reports come out every few months, like clockwork. Testers rate each antivirus on three criteria: Protection, Performance, and Usability. Protection naturally refers to the product's essential ability to fend off malware attacks and wipe out malware infestations. A good performance score means the product did its job without dragging down system performance. Mistakenly flagging a valid app or website as malicious lowers the product's usability score.
A given antivirus can receive up to six points in each category, for a maximum of 18 possible points. Those that manage 17.5 or better receive the designation "Top Product."
While the latest tests all use Windows 10, this lab used to cycle between all active Windows versions. That gave the researchers plenty of experience with validating protection on multiple operating systems. For the report on continued Windows 7 support, they checked company websites and queried the manufacturers directly about continued support for Windows 7.
Good News, for Most
Most of the manufacturers announced no specific date to drop support for Windows 7, which AV-Test experts took to mean support would continue at least two years.
This group includes: AhnLab, Avast, AVG, BullGuard, Carbon Black, ESET, FireEye, G Data, Ikarus, K7 Computing, Kaspersky, Microworld, NortonLifeLock, PC Matic, Quickheal, Seqrite, and Vipre. If you're using one of these on Windows 7, you'd be wise to check from time to time in case the company does announce an end date for support. TotalAV likewise doesn't have a specific end date, but will offer support for at least a year.
A few provided more specific dates. Bitdefender will support Windows 7 until Jan. 11, 2022, while McAfee's support ends in December 2021. F-Secure will continue support until at least December 2021 and Avira until November 2022.
Windows 7 news from Sophos seems to refer to the company's large enterprise business, not so much to the home products we've reviewed. Sophos will offer on-premises support until December 2020 and cloud-managed support until the following June. Finally, Trend Micro doesn't state any plans for ending support, but offers only limited tech support for those who continue to use Windows 7.
If you don't see your antivirus or security suite provider noted above, you may need to check with the company directly. You could also bookmark AV-Test's report and check from time to time, as the company plans to expand it with any new information that arrives.
Hey, What About Windows XP?
Windows XP reached its end of life in 2014, but it still shows up in the most surprising places, like on Vladimir Putin's desk. If you're somehow stuck using Windows XP, your pickings for antivirus protection are quite a bit slimmer.
Looking at our top antivirus picks, Bitdefender, ESET, F-Secure, Kaspersky, McAfee, NortonLifeLock, and Trend Micro have all dropped support for Windows XP. Webroot comes closest, hanging onto support for Windows Vista, but that still doesn't help if you're stuck on XP.
BullGuard and Panda aren't at the top of our list, but the system requirement lists for these two product lines indicate that they support all Windows versions back to Windows XP. Avast and AVG both maintain XP-specific old-school versions of their free antivirus products—but if you choose one of these, be sure to opt out of sharing data. Comodo also used to offer an XP-specific free antivirus, one that still shows up in search results. However, clicking the search result link just takes you to the standard antivirus.
Upgrade If You Can
So why exactly are you still using Windows 7? If you're stuck maintaining an antique PC that can't support an upgrade, there's nothing you can do (except buy a new PC). Likewise, if you rely on legacy software that can't handle the upgrade. But if it's just laziness, well, fire up your energy and get the upgrade.
As AV-Test's experts discovered, Microsoft really wants you to upgrade away from Windows 7. Even though the time period for a free upgrade to Windows 10 expired multiple times, it's still open for Windows 7 users. Presuming your Windows 7 installation is legitimate, with a valid license key, you just download the Windows 10 Upgrade Assistant, run it, and follow instructions. Welcome to the modern world!
Source & Credit: PC MAG | Neil J. Rubenking