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Laptop computers on display during a keynote speech by then-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at CES 2011. (Picture: Robyn Beck/AFP)

Windows 7 is gone, but China’s dedicated users aren’t ready to let go

Experts warn users to upgrade as Microsoft stops providing security updates for the decade-old OS

This article originally appeared on ABACUS
After more than 10 years, the curtain has finally come down on Windows 7. But it looks like many people in China aren’t quite ready to bid farewell to the country’s dominant PC operating system.
Microsoft ended support for Windows 7 this week, ceasing technical assistance and security updates for all users. While this affects nearly a third of the world’s computers, according to figures from NetMarketShare, the situation is even more drastic in China. In the third quarter of last year, almost half of the country’s computers were still running on Windows 7, according to CNCERT, the national computer emergency response body.
Laptop computers on display during a keynote speech by then-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at CES 2011. (Picture: Robyn Beck/AFP)

Microsoft is encouraging users worldwide to upgrade to Windows 10, currently used on less than 10% of China’s computers, to keep their PCs safe from potential threats. But some die-hard Windows 7 users say they have no plans to move on.

“As long as there’s no virus in Windows 7, I’ll keep using it,” said Bao Juan, a freelancer who told us she thinks the platform works better than Windows 10.

She’s far from the only one refusing to let go. From school campuses to workplaces, people in China say they still see computers limping onward with old operating systems.

“[I] work in a hospital and some [devices] are still running on XP,” said one Weibo user. “Some newer medical software can’t even be installed.” 

Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP back in 2014, nearly 13 years after it was born.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (left) and Harry Shum (center), Microsoft vice president of technology and research, show Chinese President Xi Jinping a display of devices made in China running on Windows during a tour of the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington on September 23, 2015. (Picture: Ted S. Warren/AFP)
Windows 10 arrived in 2015, three years after Microsoft released the drastically redesigned Windows 8 that confused a lot of people. Windows 10 was hailed by some critics as a welcome return to an interface that’s more in line with previous versions of Windows. But the seemingly constant software updates that come with it annoy some users.

“I originally used Windows 10, but since it kept updating, updating and updating, and I couldn’t use it without updating, I switched to Windows 7,” said Ms. Xu, a third-year university student from the southern city of Kunming.

“I will keep using Windows 7,” she added.

Others expressed similar frustrations on Weibo.

In response to a comment that slammed Windows 7 users for failing to adapt, one person wrote, “You must have never been in a hurry. Sometimes I’m in a rush to use the computer, but the moment I turn it on, it updates for 10 or 20 minutes. Usually it updates automatically and then gets stuck, and I can’t even turn it off. Only works when I switch to the pirated version.”

"Visiting the brothel for free" and other secret code words for pirated games in China

But for some people there’s another hurdle: Outdated hardware.

“Most people are reluctant to upgrade to Windows 10 because their computers are too old,” said Gude Mengan, a popular tech blogger with more than 2 million followers. “The popularity of smartphones means people are using their computers less and less.”
Since 2014, China has had more people accessing the internet through smartphones and tablets than on PCs. According to a recent report from research firm QuestMobile, Chinese users are now spending an average of six hours a day online on mobile devices. Mobile apps have become a large part of people’s lives, from ordering coffee to watching the Chinese equivalent of YouTube or TikTok.

As mobile dominates people’s online lives, some are going so long between buying new PCs that they get stuck using older operating systems, even when they want to upgrade.

“It’s not that I don’t want to change, it’s that my computer can’t run Windows 10,” one person commented.
“My slightly broken computer has been with me from college to graduate school, and it’s still running Windows 7,” wrote a health blogger who goes by the name Miss D. “I only use it for writing and browsing the web. That’s why I haven’t changed it. Of course there’s another important reason: I’m poor.”

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But perhaps the biggest challenge for Microsoft is that people are creatures of habit. Amid warnings from experts around the world, some of China’s most devoted Windows 7 users have no plans to upgrade, even if that might leave them exposed to cyberattacks.
“I’ve gotten used to [Windows 7], just like how it was with Windows XP,” said one person. “I don’t want to change again. If I have to run naked, I’ll run naked!”
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