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Microsoft just dropped support for the most popular version of Windows

Kory Twaites

More than five years after its release, Windows 7 is still the most popular PC operating system on the planet; according to Net Applications, it's running on 56 percent of all PCs on the web. And today is the day Microsoft is officially dropping support for the software.

If you're running Windows 7, this doesn't mean that your PC is about to stop working. But it means that you'll no longer be able to call Microsoft to get free tech support. And Microsoft is going to stop adding new features to the operating system.

Microsoft will continue issuing security updates for the software for another five years. And during this time period, which Microsoft calls "extended support," you'll be able to purchase paid support if you want to.

After 2020, Windows 7 users are expected to be totally on their own. Microsoft won't provide support even if you want to pay for it. And if hackers find a vulnerability in the software, Microsoft won't necessarily fix it.

A lot of people continue using their PCs long after support has expired. After Windows 7, the most popular operating system version, according to Net Applications, is Windows XP. It was released way back in 2001 and Microsoft stopped doing even security updates for the software last year. But millions of people have gone on using it.

That's obviously a problem for Microsoft, because it would like to sell people new versions of their software. But it's also a problem for the internet as a whole. Ancient PCs are vulnerable to hacking, and once the bad guys hack a PC, they use it to do stuff like sending out spam and attacking other computers on the internet. So if you (or, more likely, your parents or grandparents) have a PC that's entering its second decade, it's time to shop for a new one.

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