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Windows 10: Why it's finally time to upgrade from Windows 7

Support for Windows 7 ends in January 2020. For security, software updates and other reasons, it's time to stop procrastinating.

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The revamped, customizable Start menu on Windows 10.

Nate Ralph/CNET

The end is near for Windows 7 users: After 10 years, Microsoft will stop supporting the OS on Jan. 14, 2020, which means it's time to upgrade to Windows 10 to keep your PC running smoothly and securely. (Extended support for Windows 8.1 users ends in January 2023.) 

Some users have been hesitant to make the switch, as the rollout of Windows 10 saw several issues, including a series of bugs that led Microsoft to pull its October 2018 Update days after its release. In April, however, Microsoft laid out several changes to its update approach starting with the May 2019 release, including slower rollouts with additional testing, more options for pausing updates and more disclosure of known issues. 

Many of the issues are due to the fact that updates are happening more frequently, said Gartner Research analyst Steve Kleynhans. "But overall most users seem pretty happy with the OS and like the experience it brings, especially on newer devices," he added. 

Here are the three main reasons why you need to upgrade your personal PC to Windows 10 ASAP.

Security

The need to upgrade to Windows 10 is "primarily a security issue," said Forrester Research analyst Andrew Hewitt. If you are still using Windows 7 or earlier versions come January, Microsoft will not provide security updates or fixes, or technical support for any issues -- leaving your computer at greater risk from viruses and malware

Windows 10 includes the built-in Windows Defender Antivirus to protect against malware and spyware across email, apps, the cloud and the web. Windows Hello offers a password-free sign in option to unlock your devices with your face or a fingerprint reader. And a Find My Device service can lock and erase your Windows device remotely, or map the location of your device. 

Read more: 6 simple security changes all Windows 10 users need to make 

User experience features

Windows 10 offers a better user experience thanks to a number of features, Kleynhans said. One is the Your Phone app, which allows you to access texts, notifications and apps on your phone using your PC -- similar to Apple's Continuity features. A feature called Calls allows you to place and answer Android calls on your PC as well (and you can connect your iPhone to your Windows PC as well). A dictation feature lets you easily record ideas. 

Microsoft's digital assistant Cortana is also available on Windows 10 PCs. The OS also integrates better with Microsoft OneDrive and other cloud tools, Kleynhans said. 

The most recent Windows 10 November 2019 update includes some new features such as changes to notifications that will make them easier to configure and manage from an app or website, and the ability to create events directly from the Calendar flyout on the Taskbar, instead of opening the app. 

Automatic updates

Unlike previous versions, Windows 10 offers automatic updates by default, to keep systems more secure. (You can turn these off if you want to, by going to Windows Update Settings > Advanced Options and changing from Automatic to another option in the drop-down menu.) 

"While some users might actually think that getting no more annoying updates is a blessing, it actually would pretty quickly expose the user to all sorts of potential malware attacks," Kleynhans said. "The good news is that for the most part Windows 10 is a pretty smooth upgrade for the vast majority of users."

You can expect updates to happen fairly frequently, Hewitt said, "almost as if you're using an Android or an iOS device and getting prompts to continuously update the operating system." 

How to upgrade to Windows 10

You can download Windows 10 via Microsoft's website. While Microsoft technically ended its free Windows 10 upgrade program in July 2016, our sister site ZDNet reported that at least as of September, the free update was still available for Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 users. 

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