As technology relentlessly marches on, software developers work hard in creating the next generation of operating systems (OSes) and software for end users to make use of. Two decades ago, an OS like Windows might see a new major iteration every five to six years or so. Major productivity software like Microsoft Office might receive a new release every three to four years. In those days, updating your software wasn’t always necessary, if you didn’t need new features or support for new technologies.
The spread of the internet has changed all that. For one, it has made delivery of updates and fixes both easier and faster. Windows receives weekly updates and monthly cumulative patches, as well as a new major “feature update” every six months. Chrome OS gets updated every two weeks. MacOS (previously known as OSX) receives a major upgrade every year.
For two, it has made receiving updates a much more important fact of life: the connectivity we crave also exposes us all to enormous risk, from the possibility of hackers, scammers, malware, and viruses. Microsoft doesn’t just push out Windows updates to change things around on you, but they’re also working hard behind the scenes to make sure your computer system is as secure as possible from threats both within and without.
We meet numerous customers who, when informed that they need to make the move to newer software or operating systems, argue that the new version “doesn’t offer me anything I need, so why bother?” In truth, these end users rarely know what’s actually there in these new versions. While a feature may not be of use to you, it is certainly of use to somebody, or it would not have been included. More importantly, though, is many changes are miniscule and not even user-facing, but may benefit the user in a way that they would never notice, perhaps in the form of performance improvements, minor bug fixes, or improved security.
Change Is Inevitable
One fact we have to face is that innovators will never stop innovating. Hardware will always continue to improve, and it follows that software developers will never stop developing: there will always be a new version (or an outright replacement) for whatever it is you’re using now, at some point in the future. Whether you personally want it or not, these new things will happen. As a result, the companies that produce these products have to provide support for them. This support comes not only in the form of technical support, but in the form of security updates/repairs, bugfixes, and threat mitigation.
These companies can’t support products forever. Paying software engineers and tech support specialists to maintain one or two versions of a product is one thing. Managing many versions is impossible. Therefore after a (usually predesignated) period of time, support will be dropped for any given version of a program. In the case of operating systems reaching End-Of-Life (EOL) status, usually software developers will stop building with support for that OS, as well.
We Can’t Provide Support When The OEM Doesn’t
This makes things difficult for repair shops like ours, as well. We can’t support non-manufacturer-supported software, because when (not if, when) something goes wrong, we are likely to take the blame for it. It also becomes increasingly difficult to obtain install media, drivers, and patches as time goes on. To that end, we do not offer reinstalls or general software fixes on unsupported operating systems, nor do we attempt anything but the most basic of repairs on unsupported applications. There are some rare exceptions to this (legacy computers that control specialized industrial machinery, for example), but our customers should expect to be advised to seek a path to replacement or upgrade if their use case is that of the general computing public.
While software/applications are too diverse and expansive to dive into here, we can talk about a few operating systems so you can get an idea of the obsolescence issues you might face.
Microsoft no longer supports Windows XP, Windows Vista, or anything prior to them. If you have a Vista-era computer, chances are high (99%+) that your hardware is aged and/or obsolete enough that a general replacement of the entire computer will be the recommended course of action, regardless of your current issue.
More importantly, support for Windows 7 was discontinued in January 2020. This is a big one. A lot of people loved Windows 7 – with good reason – and a lot of people are loathe to give it up (without particularly good reasons). However, unless you are part of a large company with an IT team that will be paying the exorbitant extended support fees Microsoft will be charging, you’re being forced to move on.
Thankfully, in the years since Windows 10’s release, its design and ease-of-use have continued to improve. We’ll be the first to admit that it has its annoyances and glitches, but for the most part, it’s a reliable OS with many drastic cosmetic, performance, and behavioral improvements over Windows 7 (and Windows 8, of course). We’re already actively testing the next major release of Windows 10, and we’re pleased to see Microsoft continuing to listen to developer, previewer, and end user feedback, and adding or refining features that they’ve asked for.
Most users of Windows 7 can still upgrade to Windows 10 without having to purchase a new Windows license. We can help facilitate this process. You’ll be happy to know that most computers that run Windows 7 can also run Windows 10, usually with improved performance. And nearly every application that works in Windows 7 will also work in Windows 10.
As for Macs, Apple’s support terms aren’t spelled out in black and white. However, their general behavior indicates continued support including security updates for the last three versions of MacOS. Currently, this means that 10.15 Catalina, 10.14 Mojave, and 10.13 High Sierra are supported. If you have a Mac made after 2012, it can run at least High Sierra, and likely Mojave or Catalina. You can check your Mac’s highest compatible version by looking up the serial number at Everymac (or checking the specific Mac’s model year designation via Apple’s website).
If you’re using a Mac that only supports up to Yosemite/Sierra, we can still provide a reinstall of this version in some cases (software support is faltering, but security still seems to be in good shape, though generally any Mac that old is long overdue for replacement and we will usually advise that the hardware’s age usually will make repairs not cost-effective enough to be worthwhile.) If you’re using a Mac built prior to 2010, that only runs up to El Capitan, or attempting to maintain software from the Snow Leopard-Mountain Lion era, it’s time to move on (with possible exceptions for legacy industrial cases).
Changes aren’t always easy to deal with, but the sooner you adopt those changes, the easier it will be to keep up. Putting off updates for years means you’ll be forced to take a much larger, much more difficult leap in the end. This is why we almost always recommend taking upgrades as they become available, rather than putting them off.