This week Microsoft released security patches for Windows 10 without fixing security flaws in the company's previous operating system versions 7 and 8. Users of the Windows 7 and 8 operating systems have been left to speculate whether their computer's software, which is still well within the support life guaranteed by Microsoft, is still safe to use. 

It is no secret that Windows 10 is Microsoft's main focus; the tech giant has allocated more resources into moving users onto its latest version than any other before it. Users of Windows 7 to 8.1 were even allowed to upgrade to Windows 10 free of charge, provided they did so within a certain timeframe. As a result, millions of users flocked to Windows 10 and took advantage of its new features, regular updates and better performance. Some users even claimed that they were 'bullied' into upgrading after receiving a bombardment of notifications.

Is it still safe to use Windows 7 or 8?

On the most part, it is still perfectly fine to use Windows 7, 8 or 8.1. The operating systems are still receiving security fixes, albeit later than Windows 10, and security can be further enhanced by using a decent antivirus software package and keeping that updated. That said, time is probably running out for Windows 7 (although Microsoft has extended support in the past owing to high customer demand). Support is due to end in 2020 for Windows 7 and 2023 for Windows 8.

Version End of mainstream support End of extended support
Windows 7 13th January 2015 14th January 2020
Windows 8  9th January 2018  10th January 2023
Windows 10  13th October 2020  14th October 2025

Source: Microsoft

Google's stirring the pot

The revelations that Microsoft is delayed in fixing older versions of its software come from no less than Google's Project Zero team, a group of security experts dedicated to finding and often publicising flaws in consumer software. The team has posted an extensive account of the security flaws which have yet to be fixed, alarming many consumers and businesses who still depend on the software. 

Microsoft's focus on Windows 10 appears to be putting users of prior versions at risk, which when considering that Windows 7 to 8.1 are still in support life, could be quite problematic. That said, by Google publicising the fact that older Windows versions may not be completely safe, it may be helping Microsoft move users onto Windows 10 (or moving users away from Microsoft entirely). Overall, the message from Microsoft couldn't be clearer: Stop using Windows 7 and 8!