Leaving Windows 7? Here are some non-Windows options.

If you’re not feeling too comfortable about Windows 10 as Windows 7 comes to the end of its days, there are alternatives.

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Get ready to say goodbye to Windows 7. On Jan. 14, 2020, Microsoft will deliver the final free security update for PCs running Windows 7. There will be no reprieve. So now what?

First, I know many of you — and I’m among your number — really don’t want to move to Windows 10 to get real work done. Even now, in August 2019, with just five months to go before Windows 7’s final curtain, Net Applications reports that 36% of Windows users are still on Windows 7. Only 55.2% of Windows users have jumped to Windows 10, a full four years after its debut.

People are sticking with 7 because they like it better and they feel they’re more productive on it. It just works. Windows 10, on the other hand, has been plagued by one update failure after another. I’ve lost count of how many major Windows 10 foul-ups I’ve endured.

But seriously, what can you do if you really, really don’t want to “upgrade” to Windows 10?

Well, you can stick with Windows 7 — if you’re willing to pay $300 per PC per year for Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU). ESUs will provide you security support through January 2023. But they’re only available to users running Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Enterprise who bought the OS via a volume licensing deal.

With an ESU, you’ll also still be able to use Office 365 ProPlus. Oh? You didn’t know? Microsoft won’t support this version of Office (PDF) after Windows 7 hits its end-of-support life. As for Office 2010, its supported life ends on Oct. 13, 2020. There will be no extended plan for it. After that, Microsoft really wants you to switch to Office 365. As a “last resort” — Microsoft’s words, not mine — you can buy what will almost certainly be the last true desktop version of Office, Office 2019.

Doesn’t sound so good, does it?

Your best option is to finally bid Windows adieu and try another operating system. Before you reject that idea out of hand, take a long, hard look at your work. Do you do all your essential work online? Then any operating system with a browser will do.

Locked into Office? Going forward, Microsoft doesn’t want you to run Microsoft Office on your PC anyway. Instead, the guys from Redmond want you to buy into the software-as-a-service (SaaS) Office 365. It will run on any system with the Edge, Safari, Chrome or Firefox browser.

That means, in theory, you can run Office 365 on pretty much any operating system out there. I’ve run Microsoft Office Online — the free, and also the simplest, version of Office — myself on Linux via a web browser with no sweat or tears.

So, if your applications are already on the net, my first suggestion is to move to a Chromebook. While I love my high-end Pixelbook, any good Chromebook will do.

You can, of course, always move to a Mac. It’s not an option I’ve ever liked. MacOS is radically different from Windows, and Macs are not, in a word, cheap. Some folks say au contraire: Macs are actually more affordable, and better for work overall.

To that, I can only observe: Why, then, has Apple — you know, the world’s first $1 trillion company — never had over 10% of the desktop market? Doesn’t huge revenue and small market share equal really big markups?

Then there’s my own favorite: the Linux desktop. But while I love it, I’m well aware of the Linux desktop’s many problems.

But recently the Linux community looks to be finally getting its act together. So now might be a good time to kick Linux’s tires.

Personally, when it comes to the many distros, I favor Linux Mint. It’s good, secure and fast. It also has the advantage, from your perspective, of looking a good deal like Windows 7. That makes switching over to it easier than you might expect.

But if you need corporate support, you’ll be better off with Red Hat Enterprise Linux Workstation or Canonical’s Ubuntu for desktop. You can, by the by, use Linux desktops with your existing Active Directory domains if that’s what’s stopping you from considering Linux.

Which is best for you? Only you can answer that question. What I can say, though, is that these days you don’t have to just grit your teeth and shift over to the next version of Windows. Thanks in large part to the move to a SaaS model for nearly all applications, you have real desktop OS choices.

Related: How to revive an old PC with elementary OS

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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