How to extend the useful life of your Windows 7 computer Feb 5, 2018
How to protect and extend the useful life of your Windows 7 based computer beyond January 14, 2020 which is when Microsoft drops all support for Windows 7. In this series of articles I will show you how to protect and extend the service life of your Windows 7 computer.
There are two basic categories of Windows 7 based computers: 1) Store or Internet purchase of a computer with 7 pre-installed by the manufacture (Dell, HP, Toshiba, Etc.). 2) A PC you custom built (Do It Yourself) using hardware parts and a “Retail” version of Windows 7 you purchased and installed.
Store bought or home built either way you will need to know the hardware configuration of your PC in order to determine what options are available to you. Both of the categories listed above have an infinite number of hardware and processor combinations, but these can be reduced to a set of basic milestones and guidelines in the 6 years (2009 to 2015) when Windows 7 was Microsoft’s main Operating System sold with pre-built computers. Do It Yourselfers can still assemble and built a new 7 based computer as long as you have a “Retail” product key.
This is a multi-part series of articles covering a number of steps you can take to keep Windows 7 running for years to come. If you have upgraded your PC from Windows 7 to Windows 10 when Microsoft offered a free upgrade some of this article still applies to you.
Part 1 of a multipart article
Protecting your existing hardware and the Windows 7 operating system: Before we look at possible computer hardware upgrades to both extend and improve the performance of Windows 7, here are some of the most important immediate steps you can take is to protect your current investment.
1) Protection from electrical surges and power outages: If your PC is still plugged into a wall outlet it’s time to protect it from surges or power outages. All it takes is one strong electrical surge and your PC is now a pile of junk.
The solution is either a good surge protector or battery powered UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply). Surge protectors are a less expensive solution, but will not prevent a sudden shutdown of your Desktop PC and sometimes results in corrupted files on the hard drive, even a non-bootable PC if power goes out just when your PC is booting or shutting down. But they will at least stop a surge on the AC line from damaging your PC’s power supply or motherboard. Laptops have a built in battery and as long as the battery is still good you don’t need to invest in an UPS, just a surge protector will protect your laptop’s battery charger.
UPS: You should pick something that will give you at least 20 minutes of run time is the AC power goes off in your house, as the internal batteries age the run time will drop to 10 minutes of less which is more than enough time to exit your applications and shut down the PC. A 650VA to 850VA (Volt Amp) unit should do the job. UPS units also provide surge protection.
2) Protecting Windows 7 and your data: Chances are you may still have Windows 7 installed on the original hard drive that came with the PC. Hard drives are mechanical devices and do not last forever. If your drive should fail you have lost not only all your data (Documents, Photos, Music, Etc.), your applications (Word processor, Photo editor, Anti-virus software, Etc.) and of course Windows 7. If you never obtained recovery media (performs a clean reinstall 7 but your software you purchased and documents you created are lost) from the PC manufacture, it may be way late now, so how would you re-install Windows 7?
The answer is to purchase an external USB hard drive and Image Backup software. This is not an inexpensive proposition, with most of the cost going for the purchase of an external USB drive. The cost of Image Backup software varies from “Free” to a range of $30.00 to $50.00 US Dollars. The backup software provides compression so for example 100GB of data and files on your computer should compress down to about 75% or 75GB on the USB drive. Note that .ISO and some photo formats are already compressed and no additional compression during the backup is achieved.
For users who have a Western Digital disk drive there is a free version of Acronis 2016: https://support.wdc.com/downloads.aspx?lang=en Instructions: You need at least one WD hard drive attached in your system to be able to install and run the product.
Note: Additional information on creating Image Backup will be provided in a future article. You can also read the following (Copy and paste the link into your browser):
How to create an Image Backup to a USB Flash Drive http://www.pagestart.com/win10flashdrive0929152.html
How to create an Image Backup of Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 to an External USB Drive: http://www.pagestart.com/win7todo9103161601.html
How to move windows 7 to a new larger hard drive http://www.pagestart.com/acronisnewharddrive01.html
How to move Windows 8.1 from a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) to a Solid State Disk (SSD) using Acronis True Image 2013 or 2014 http://www.pagestart.com/win8atihddssd0724101.html
How to move Windows 7 from a larger Hard Drive to a smaller SSD drive http://www.pagestart.com/win7sddatihim05011201.html
External USB drives: Preferably you want to pick a drive that includes an AC Power module, but they are getting harder to find. Also you USB drive must to support both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 as its likely some early Windows 7 computers only supported USB 2.0 and not the newer USB 3.0 interface. A 1GB “Hard Drive model) drive should cost about $80 US Dollars. Solid State USB model are smaller in capacity and more expensive but not susceptible to shock (accidentally bumped or moved while in use).
I give all my new internal hard drives that I purchase a series of tests that can take as long as 12 hours or more depending on the drive’s capacity. After each test I check for drive errors and the S.M.A.R.T. values for any signs of deterioration. Then and only then do I put the drive in service. Software includes Western Digital’s Data Lifeguard Diagnostics, HD Tune and Passmark’s BurninTest software. See part 3 of this article.
3) Protecting your computer from viruses or malware: Some (but not all) Antivirus vendors will continue support for Windows 7 based systems for 2 or 3 more years past Microsoft’s end of support date. The simple answer is that Windows 7 will still have a significant market share. https://www.techspot.com/news/73068-windows-10-surpasses-windows-7-global-market-share.html
However with the end of Windows Update support after January 14, 2020 any new security holes discovered in Windows 7 will go un-patched leaving a potential for more widely spread attacks on Windows 7 based system. With a good antivirus software package and careful surfing habits and file downloads you can reduce the likelihood of being the next victim.
If you have more than one PC but your Windows 7 based computer contains some valuable software than will not run on newer versions of Windows you can disconnect the LAN or Wireless connection, which will eliminate the chance of being attached. In my case I have a Windows XP based computer that has a high precision scanner, more than $600 worth of software for that scanner that will not run on Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8. Yes there is a function limited Windows 7 driver for the scanner but the software would cost a small fortune to upgrade. So my XP based system is not connected to the Internet and has not been for quite some time, but I still use the software and scanner and transferring the edited photos to my Windows 7 PC when needed for printing purposes.
However if you must have an Internet connect you should contact your AV software company in November of 2019 and ask what their plans are for supporting Windows 7 beyond 2020 as most companies release next year’s version in the fall of each year. If you are using Symantec virus protection products check their community forum: https://community.norton.com/