Microsoft has set Vista’s end-of-support date as 11 April 2017. After the April 2017 deadline passes, it won't be safe to go online with a Windows Vista PC.
Microsoft won't be releasing the necessary system updates and security patches to protect your computer and your data from potential hacks and scams.
Is Windows Vista safe to use?
The short answer is - no. Even if you're running security software that claims to be Windows Vista compatible, this won't be enough to guarantee your computer is safe when you go online. Microsoft security patches are delivered to combat emerging threats that can install on a computer connected to the internet. These can be major threats to the integrity of the operating system, and security software alone won't always be enough to guard against them.
You can keep running a Vista PC so long as it isn't connected to the internet - say, for Word processing. But going online exposes you to risks of attacks to the operating system.
The recent NHS ransomware attack was an example of what can happen when out-of-date operating systems (XP, in that case) continue to be used.
Should I upgrade to Windows 10?
Windows 10 isn’t free for Vista users (it costs £100). Carrying out an upgrade yourself can be tricky, as the procedure will wipe all your existing files and programs, so you’ll need to back up your data to an external hard drive before proceeding.
In most cases, it may prove easier to buy yourself a new PC. The system requirements for Windows 10 may prove more than a lot of Vista-generation computers can stretch to.
If you're considering the upgrade, see the Windows 10 system requirements
Can I upgrade to Windows 7?
Although it’s an older system, Windows 7 will continue to be supported by Microsoft until 2020. It’s a solid, dependable operating system that most Vista computers shouldn’t struggle to run.
Microsoft doesn’t directly sell Windows 7 for home users anymore. You can find copies of Windows 7 for sale online and have a go at installing it yourself. However, it may prove easiest to pay a local computer repair store to install the operating system for you. The cost for this should be under £100, including a licence for Windows 7.
Should I abandon Microsoft?
If you’re looking to replace your Vista computer, remember that Windows isn’t the only option. For day to day web browsing and email, a Google Chromebook could be a great choice – they start from under £200. Chromebooks don’t let you run Word, or other traditional programs, but there are equivalent Google apps you can use.
Fancy spending more? You could consider an Apple MacBook instead of a Windows computer.
For a free alternative, you could install Linux on your Vista PC. A version such as Mint or Ubuntu will feel fairly familiar for Windows users. however, Linux has a steep learning curve, and there's no official support service. We'd advise steering clear unless you're a fairly confident computer user.