How to secure your Windows 7 PC in 2020


Microsoft is no longer compatible with Windows 7 with security updates. In other words, Windows 7 is now like Windows XP: an older operating system that will gradually accumulate security holes without patches. Here we show you how to keep it as safe as possible.

We recommend upgrading to Windows 10. In fact, you can still upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10 for free. But, if you keep Windows 7 for now, we have some security tips.

Commercial users can pay for security updates

We recommend that companies and other organizations pay for extended security updates if they still use Windows 7. This option is not available for home users, and the exact price of the updates depends on whether you have Windows 7 Enterprise or Windows 7 Professional.

RELATED: How to upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 7 for free

Disconnect your Windows 7 PC from the network

Even if you need Windows 7 for some reason, you don’t have to use it for everything. If you need Windows 7 to interact with a specific hardware device or run a software program that does not run on Windows 10, we recommend keeping that Windows 7 computer out of your network, if possible.

Malicious websites and other network-based attacks will not be a problem. Your Windows 7 system cannot be compromised and put against other devices in your network. You will not have to worry about security problems if the Windows 7 system is disconnected from the dangerous Internet.

If you need to run an earlier software program that does not run on Windows 10, it may also be worth updating to Windows 10 and running that previous application on a Windows 7 virtual machine on your Windows 10 desktop. Keep in mind that most of old applications will work fine in Windows 10, so this should not be necessary for most applications.

We know that many people will continue to run Windows 7 and connect to the Internet. If so, we have some security tips to block things.

RELATED: Windows 7 dies today: this is what you need to know

Run the compatible security software

We recommend running a good antimalware tool that is still compatible with Windows 7. Make sure you are actively receiving updates.

Microsoft says it no longer offers downloads of its own Microsoft Security Essentials tool, although MSE still appears to be available for download on the Microsoft website. Maybe Microsoft plans to remove the downloads soon. However, if you have Microsoft Security Essentials installed, you will continue to receive malware signature updates until 2023.

Other security software companies still offer antivirus compatible with Windows 7. For example, Lifehacker recommends Bitdefender Free.

Whatever you choose, we also recommend Malwarebytes. The free version of Malwarebytes will allow you to perform manual scans to remove malware and other junk software from your system, and it also runs on Windows 7.

Microsoft has removed its EMET security tool that helps protect against attacks in favor of the Exploit Protection built into Windows 10. However, anti-exploit software is integrated into the Premium version of Malwarebytes.

Microsoft Security Essentials continues to receive definition updates in Windows 7.

Use a secure browser

If you still use Windows 7, you should definitely avoid running Internet Explorer. Even Microsoft has recommended moving from Internet Explorer to a more modern and secure browser.

  • Google Chrome still runs on Windows 7 and will support it with security updates until at least July 15, 2021.
  • Microsoft’s new Edge browser, based on the same underlying code as Chromium, is also compatible with Windows 7 and will do so until at least July 15, 2021.
  • Mozilla Firefox still runs on Windows 7 too. Mozilla has not said how long it will be compatible with Firefox in Windows 7.

Since the operating system itself no longer receives updates, its security software and web browser acquire a newly discovered importance to block it from online threats.

A Google Chrome window on a Windows 7 desktop.

Secure your operating system configuration

If you use Windows 7, you should definitely visit Windows Update and make sure you are up to date with all the updates that Microsoft released for it. We also recommend that Windows Update automatically check for updates. Microsoft could release especially critical updates for Windows 7 even after the end of support, just as it did for Windows XP.

Watch for the update news, too. Microsoft released a major security update for Windows XP that you had to download manually in 2019.

The tips to ensure your Windows PC are the same as always. Leave important security features enabled such as User Account Control and Windows Firewall enabled.

Avoid clicking on strange links in unwanted emails or other strange messages sent to you; This is especially important considering that it will be easier to exploit Windows 7 in the future. Avoid downloading and running strange files.

Windows update by downloading updates in Windows 7.

RELATED: Basic computer security: how to protect yourself from viruses, hackers and thieves

Remove (and update) installed applications

Windows 7 was launched a long time ago, so you may have quite a few applications that you really don’t need to install. Worse, they may be outdated.

For example, older versions of browser add-ons such as Java, Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader and QuickTime are potentially vulnerable to attacks. Review the list of programs installed in the Windows 7 Control Panel and remove any applications you don’t use.

Make sure all the applications you use are updated to their latest available versions as well. For example, if you still have an earlier version of WinRAR installed, you must update it manually or your PC could be vulnerable to malicious ACE files.

There is no silver bullet here. Windows 7 will become more dangerous over time as failures are found. However, the exact attacks to which Windows 7 is vulnerable will depend on what security flaws are found, how serious they are and how easy they are to explode.

You can continue using Windows 7 and it will continue to function normally, with some annoying messages. Just keep in mind that Microsoft has washed your hands to repair the security holes in your machine. We love Windows 7, but its time has passed.

RELATED: RIP Windows 7: We’re going to miss you

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