Darken your Windows 7 PC after the end of media
By choice or by obligation, some users have decided, despite the end of support, to stay on Windows 7. Here are some options to optimize the security of the OS.
Windows 7, probably one of Microsoft’s best OS, is gone. The operating system had become a mainstay for users disappointed with Windows Vista, and it remained a haven during the even darker days of Windows 8.
Even today, even though Windows 10 has caught up with Windows 8’s worst mistakes and earned its stripes as a fully-fledged desktop operating system, a legion of enthusiasts still swear by Windows 7. Why? Because it is discreet and not very intrusive, and quite simply, because it works. Till today. But, sad reality for some, since January 14, 2020, Microsoft ended the extended support for Windows 7. PCs running under the old OS will of course continue to function. But Windows 7 will no longer receive updates and security patches, which means these PCs will be very vulnerable to all the malware that makes headlines almost every day. If you continue to use Windows 7 – like more than a quarter of PCs, according to NetMarketShare – you are on your own, and the Internet can become dangerous. However, our colleagues at PC World give options to best secure your machine.
Keeping Windows 7: not the best option
The best solution would be to leave Windows 7 aside. Until then, the choice to keep Windows 7 was understandable. But now, in the absence of any support, this choice exposes to many more risks. Without security updates and with a still substantial market share, Microsoft’s operating system is indeed an ideal and profitable target for hackers. If you have the option, we recommend migrating to Windows 10.
Different update options to the latest Microsoft OS are possible depending on the needs. And there are alternatives too: for example, if you only perform basic tasks on your PC – email, web browsing, and documents – Linux offers a viable and user-friendly option. You can easily find tutorials to get started in Linux. Better yet: it is possible to try Linux for free without any risk for the main Windows 7 installation. You can also optionally update your operating system to Windows 10 for free. But, if you decide to take the time before opting for an alternative, here’s how best to secure Windows 7.
Upgrade to Windows 10 or Linux if you can. (Credit: Microsoft)
Do not use Internet Explorer
A lot of malware enters machines by exploiting browser vulnerabilities, and Windows 7, now deprived of security updates, is to be expected to be the target of many of them. Microsoft has also ended support for Internet Explorer. There is therefore no need to run an unsecured browser on an unsecured operating system to increase the risks. Apart from Mozilla, other browser vendors also continue to support Windows 7. This is the case with Chrome, which has announced 18-month security support for the browser on Windows 7 or Opera.
Firefox is also very good (consider updating Firefox to fix a recently revealed vulnerability). So avoid IE and go for one of these two browsers – really, any one will do – and make sure to turn on automatic updates to lock out access. Switching to a browser other than Internet Explorer should be a top priority.
Firefox still supports Windows 7, and it is a modern and secure browser. (Credit: Dimikolov / Pixabay)
Choose your software wisely
That brings us to a big point: make sure the software you are using still supports Windows 7 so that you continue to receive security updates in case any vulnerabilities are discovered. Browsers are not the only entry points for vulnerabilities. Office documents are also frequently used as an attack vector. Stop using Office 2007, which has not been supported for several years. However, Office 2010 will continue to receive security updates until October 13, 2020, so there is some time left. And if you subscribe to Office 365, you will be able to enjoy Office 2010 support for the next three years (until January 2023). But, if you don’t want to pay for this service, there are free alternatives like LibreOffice and Google Docs.
Also, make sure that Java, Flash, and Adobe Reader are up to date, if you need them, as they are also commonly targeted by malware. But today, we can very well do without it to browse the Internet. Only Reader is more difficult to replace. You can put Flash and Java on the back burner and only install them when needed. They have had their day. Check all the software installed on your machine, including browser plug-ins. And if you don’t use them, you might as well delete them. Many stand-alone programs automatically update to newer versions as they become available. Activate this option.
G Suite may be an option to replace other office solutions. (Photo credit: Google)
Install anti-virus software
The free antivirus included with Windows works well and meets the needs of most users, but since Windows 7 is now out of support, this antivirus will no longer receive updates. Yes, Windows Security Essentials is dead. Now that your operating system is no longer receiving security patches, it’s even more important to run an antivirus program on your PC. And the expired version of McAfee that came with your machine will not be enough.
Most security suites will continue to support Windows 7 for some time. Reviews of antivirus suites for Windows can help you find the best option. It is possible to concoct your own battery of security tools by digging into free software. But we recommend that you buy a Premium version if you are still using Windows 7. Modern security suites offer a lot more features than an isolated antivirus. They protect against phishing, malicious ads, browser and email attacks, and more, for example. If your operating system is no longer supported, investing in a comprehensive security suite is a smart move.
In the genre, Norton Security Premium is a great choice, but there are other options. Likewise, there is no shortage of antivirus reviews to help you choose a security product. Remember to verify that the software supports and will support Windows 7. Norton still works with Windows XP!
Lock your PC with an antivirus. (Credit: Rob Schultz / IDG)
Escape Admin Accounts
Hackers can’t hack what they can’t reach. In an old security guide for Windows XP, a pro gave the following advice: “Except to disconnect altogether, an action allows to secure any PC under Windows: do not work by connecting via an administrator account. Malware will not be able to do more damage than the account it infects allows. Logging in in admin mode means taking the risk of handing over all the keys to your computer kingdom to a hacker ”.
A precaution to be taken all the more seriously with a Windows 7 out of support. So, if possible, continue to use a Standard account for your daily activities. Only use an admin account to create the lockout login and store it with the software you need – keeping the previous software tips in mind. Then work in this limited environment, unless you need to install or update software. And even then, only use the admin account during the strict installation time.
Avoid Admin accounts under Windows 7 which hackers are very fond of. (Photo credit: DR)
Observe good safety hygiene
But you can take more drastic precautions. If your Windows 7 computer doesn’t need to connect to the Internet, physically disconnect it. Unplug the Ethernet plug or turn off WiFi. On the other hand, if you only need Windows 7 to run one or two pieces of software, you can run the OS in a virtual machine on a modern, still-supported operating system, Windows 10 or Linux. In the event of a hack or virus, you can simply wipe the VM and start from scratch, with no damage to your primary installation. Just make sure to backup Windows 7 data so that you can replace what is lost.
But all of these precautions may not be enough. Because there are pitfalls. For example, it is important to adopt safe browsing practices to avoid downloading malware that comes with phishing campaigns, not succumbing to malicious emails, and not being trapped by fake updates and alerts. , ancillary downloads and more. These precautions are not specific to Windows 7 security, but be sure to back up your data and use a password manager as well.