If your computer uses Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system and you are not prepared, you may be in for a shock come in January.
Next spring, on Jan. 14, 2020, Microsoft will end all support for its still widely-used and wildly popular Windows 7 operating system. That means no more updates, no more patches, no more security fixes; you will be on your own. A criminal hacker's field day will begin, just like the one that happened when Microsoft ditched support for Windows XP in 2014 and Windows Vista in 2017. New security problems will be found, but no more fixes will be possible. From then on, it will no longer be safe to put a Windows 7 computer on the Internet.
That means that millions of people around the world will need to buy a new computer.
To be more precise, experts say there are about 1.5 billion active users of all flavors of Microsoft Windows, which would include Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7 and so on. The experts also say Windows 7 represents around 36 percent of those Windows computers currently in use, which means somewhere around 540 million computers worldwide will need to be replaced or substantially upgraded.
If you are using a Windows 7 computer, I urge you to make the change sooner, rather than later. I have a feeling that next January, I am going to be very busy, because the story will be all over the news, and millions of people will all realize on the same day, "Oh, no, I need a new computer!" Off to "the store" they will go, all at the same time. My advice is to avoid the rush and prepare now.
Fortunately, the holiday season can be a good time to buy a new computer, as stores will be trying to outsell each other. Even so, be prepared to spend around $700 or more on a good desktop or laptop computer. "Great" computers start at around $1,000. If you also need to replace an aging monitor, that will add another $150, or so.
While you can find el-cheapo computers in the $300 to-500 range, I cannot recommend you get one. I've taken too many "bargain" computers apart to think they are anything other than cheap, shoddy junk. Spend a little extra on something well-built and you will be happier in the long run.
Computer shopping can be confusing for many people, as they don't know what to get. For a Windows-type PC, I recommend at least an Intel i5, i7 or high-end AMD quad-core processor; at least 8 gigabytes of RAM (memory) and a 500 (or larger) gigabyte hard drive; 16 gigabytes of RAM is not too much.
Everything else like wireless capability, hot-shot graphics cards and fancy video options are things to be tailored to your individual situation. I buy computers for people all the time, as I have lots of practice negotiating the maze of computer options. If you don't know what to get, ask someone who does to help you.
You may not even know if you use the Windows 7 operating system, or not. To find out, go to Control Panel and double-click the "System" icon. A window will open up, telling you which operating system you have.
I'm sure come next January, the "death of Windows 7" will be widely reported. This is your advance notice; don't wait until then to get your act together. Prepare now and have peace of mind later.
Dave Moore has been fixing computers in Oklahoma since 1984. Founder of the non-profit Internet Safety Group Ltd., he also teaches Internet safety community training workshops. He can be reached at 919-9901 or internetsafetygroup.com.