A Year "Without" Windows 7

January 14th, 2021 at 5:30 AM by Kugee
Category: Tech/Software

Windows 7 running on Ryzen 7 2700 and Asus Pro WS X570-ACE

It's pretty safe to say that Windows 7 has become the 64-bit equivalent of Windows XP, an operating system that will last throughout the ages with a neverending userbase. Doesn't sound like I'm saying much given how often I use Windows 95, but when you take into account just how awful Windows 10 is compared to even its direct predecessor, the allegedly archaic Windows 7 has to be well supported by a number of hardware and software vendors even one year into its obsolescence.

Of course, that "obsolecence" everyone speaks of is a lie, even from an official standpoint. The second year of Windows 7 ESU has begun, but of course home users like myself are not worthy of receiving this walled garden maintenance. Surely I am at a dead end, just waiting for thousands upon thousands of viruses and cyberattacks to hit my system... right?

Pssh... not only have I never run into a single security threat in the entire year I've used Windows 7 after EOL, I've been running it on an X570 workstation motherboard for most of that time! Getting the patched chipset driver to work was a pain in the ass, but since I got that running along I've had no problems with using USB ports. I do not know the most convenient approach to installing Windows 7 on an X570 board with NVMe and XHCI as my installation carried over from an X470 board, but there are some guides out there if you want to try it yourself. You'd mainly have to slipstream some stuff into a USB boot device or a DVD, whichever is more convenient.

I also happen to be using an AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT video card as I type this. Gaming didn't come to mind, but I wanted to lay the groundwork for what I hope will be a triple WQHD monitor setup whenever I can get around to it. In the meantime, the GPU power has been useful for running Folding@home, just to help expedite the development of a vaccine that should get us all out of the mess we're in now. To say the least, though, the video card has been the source of a lot of bizarre instabilities, especially up until the point where I had to get an equivalent card to replace it. Thanks, Gigabyte...

So, how does one use Windows 7 safely? You might be surprised by how straightforward it is; all you need is an ad blocker, a script blocker, Malwarebytes, and common sense. As long as these can still be up to date, you can safely use Windows 7 forever. Now all you have to do is hope that the vicious ARM architecture doesn't try to shove x86 out of the market through brute force.

Of course, it is inevitable that it will become harder to use Windows 7 in the years that follow... we've seen a lot of software vendors jump ship from Windows XP and Vista in 2017, and it seems most likely that the same will be done to Windows 7 in 2023 at the earliest, unless the userbase size remains just large enough to force them to continue supporting this platform.

When Windows 7 was first released in 2009, I was skeptical of it after having been bombarded with all the controversy surrounding Vista. I was at the prime of my Mac usage, clearly more interested in getting Mac OS 10.6. Getting back into conventional PCs was a multi-step process; first, I built myself a Core 2 Quad machine to try out 64-bit counterparts of Linux distros and found myself blown away at the sheer power of what I put together. Then I threw Windows XP on there to use for much of 2010, and at that point whatever bloat it had was trivial; it did everything I wanted it to proficiently.

At the end of 2010, I got a bunch of new parts to put together a Core i7 machine, complete with a copy of Windows 7. While I still used my Macs for video editing, I really started to see a lot more of what I had been missing out on, so I was using this new PC a lot more frequently. Eight threads, 8GB of RAM... I felt like I could do anything, yet I knew I had to make tons more upgrades along the way when I eventually got around to building an even faster hex-core system in 2013. At that point I had done away with Macs, being fully satisfied with Adobe CS6 as a replacement for the software I had before.

While I have used Windows 8.1 and 10 for a while on a laptop I got in 2015, I immediately gave up on the latter when the anniversary update was forced on me, tying up the system for hours on end. I was similarly infuriated by the Windows 8 beta due to it having basically zero regard for desktop users. Classic Shell is a thing, of course, but so is only using some drivers in Windows ME.

How much longer will I hold out? I can't say for sure... I've been wanting to move to a more trustworthy operating system for a while. The FreeBSD/Kdenlive combination I tested in late 2019 was too frustrating, so I quickly ditched that and carried on with Windows 7 for as long as I have. If WINE works well enough so as to be able to run Adobe CS6, I would be glad to move to Linux Mint in the future... hey, if you're going to nag me to use an Arch-based distro, you can package your manager and go home. Welcome to the real world, where you're just a pretentious nitpicker... APT gets the job done, and that's all that matters!

Hell, in an ideal world, I would be using a 64-bit version of Windows NT 4.0 with all the new programs I need and not even give a shit about desktop Linux. I am still a noob with the Win32 API, but I have to wonder... what API calls found in later versions of Windows are truly necessary? Little has changed in 25 years beneath the surface, largely because that optimal point was already hit long ago. Even with all the obvious shortcomings of Windows 95 and NT 4.0, it seems Microsoft will never outdo them due to their obsession with throwing in pointless garbage instead of focusing on their most important userbase, the enterprise sector. They came close with 98, 2000, and 7, but something was always there to botch them miserably.

EOL is meaningless in Windows. Just ask all the developers of these browser forks... RetroZilla, Pale Moon, Mypal, and the like. Even certain versions of Mac OS are so good that they have actively maintained browsers for them. As long as you can make full use of the hardware and software on hand, you're fine, even if it's Windows 3.1 you're stuck on. There's a lot of talk about how unhealthy multitasking is, and it can very much be so depending on what kind it is, so maybe forcing us all to 640KB conventional memory limitations is the key to improving the physical health of the modern populace.