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William George (Product Development)

Windows 7? Ultimate no longer...

Written on April 23, 2015 by William George
Windows 7 Ultimate Logo
It has begun. Well, it has really been a long time coming… but it is finally here. The first pangs of the death of Windows 7: we can no longer offer the Ultimate version on our computers.
Microsoft stopped selling new licenses for Windows 7 Home and Ultimate versions back in October of last year (2014), but there has been sufficient stock built up at suppliers and online resellers that we’ve been able to keep getting legitimate OEM licenses until now. The Ultimate version is likely the first to fall because it was the most niche of the three Windows 7 versions we carried. It is really only needed for advanced features like Bitlocker encryption and additional language packs.
Because those features are not available in other Windows 7 versions, though, it means that users who need them will have to go with Windows 8.1 Pro instead. Sometimes Microsoft provides options to ‘downgrade’ from a newer version of Windows to an older one, but there is no downgrade path to Windows 7 Ultimate - most likely because there is no Ultimate equivalent in the Windows 8 / 8.1 lineup.
I expect that at some point in the coming months Windows 7 Home Premium will follow Ultimate into oblivion. The Professional version will be around a bit longer, though, as Microsoft has not yet stopped selling new licenses for it. Further, when 7 Pro does finally kick the bucket we will still be able to offer it via Windows 8.1 Pro -> 7 Pro downgrade rights. That is a bit of a work-around, but it will allow use of 7 Pro for a few years to come.
Some more tidbits about the decline of Windows 7:
  • Windows 7 still has a larger install base than Windows 8 / 8.1
  • It will be supported via security updates until January of 2020
  • Users of Windows 7 will have the option to upgrade for free to Windows 10 during the first year it is available
Sources / more info: 
Windows version lifecycle & support length
Windows downgrade rights
Windows downgrade how-to / details
OS user base comparisons

Windows 10 info & free offer email signup

Tags: Windows 7, Ultimate, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Microsoft

If you're purchasing a computer today, my advice is to go with Windows 8.1 and then go with the free upgrade to Windows 10 when it arrives this summer. I've been running Windows 10 for a couple of months now and like it a lot. Windows 7 had a great run and will go down as one of the best Windows versions ever. But it's time to move on.

Posted on 2015-04-26 17:29:48

Hmm, I dunno. I think if you are used to Windows 7 / previous versions, and you plan to go directly to Windows 10 when it is available, that it would actually make sense to stick with 7 in the interim (even on a new computer). That way you don't have to learn the interface for 8.1 just to have to re-learn 10 a few months later... especially with 10 having some of the characteristics of 7, like a start menu. If 10 were not right around the corner then 8.1 would seem more logical as a long-term solution.

Posted on 2015-04-26 20:46:55

One reason I say this is because, in my experience, Microsoft will test upgrading from 8.1 more fully than they will with 7. Doesn't mean you'll have issues upgrading from 7, and this doesn't apply if you plan to do a clean install. But from what I saw when I worked there, more testing is given to upgrading from the previous release than earlier versions. In fact, I'd say if you have been running Windows 7 for a while, I would recommend doing a clean install rather than an upgrade. I'd feel more comfortable upgrading from Windows 8.1.

Posted on 2015-04-30 16:46:22

That is a good point - it might even be good for us to test how smoothly Windows 7 and 8.1 upgrade to 10 when the final version is released... but I guess at that point the info wouldn't help folks looking to buy a computer (since they could just get 10 directly). I can see your reasoning, though :)

Posted on 2015-04-30 16:48:24

That Microsoft is providing free upgrades for the first year to both Windows 7 and 8 customers does indicate they expect the upgrade process to go smoothly.

Posted on 2015-04-30 16:49:47

Microsoft had better hope the upgrade process goes smoothly or there might not be a Windows 11. Microsoft normally has "good" versions every other release and this would be their "good" one. If they were to mess up with that many people switching over as a free upgrade, even a small blip could be a disaster.

Posted on 2015-05-03 18:38:49
Jeff Stubbers

Sorry, Brett. I agree with William on this point..

Posted on 2015-04-30 16:39:49

IMHO, here's why Microsoft is offering Win 10 for free: 1) Windows 8.x sucks; 2) Windows 7 power users - at least those like me - would rather move to Linux after Win7 versus stomach another awful Microsoft OS.

After I tried Win 8, I decided it was time to move on from Microsoft's horribly buggy platform for good. If I do use Win 10 at all, it will only be out of curiosity and because it's free. There is just plain less and less value in sticking with Windows. The only thing I need even Win7 for is playing games. As more software manufacturers make the leap to creating their own hardware platform (e.g. Steam), the attraction to Windows for gaming will diminish further (i.e. further than it has thanks to consoles).

Other than the Xbox, look at any other Microsoft OS platform and there are better/faster/cheaper alternatives. :-) Even the Xbox, I can already see its days are numbered. It's going to have a shorter effective lifespan than its predecessor. The barriers to entry in the hardware market are dropping faster than AMD's stock price.

Posted on 2015-06-30 21:56:09

Hmm, I dunno. I think it is more about trying to get as many folks as possible on a single platform (Windows 10) for ease of maintenance. At least that would be the appeal to me, if I were in their shoes.

Linux is my last-resort-someday-if-Microsoft-really-screws-the-pooch option, but for both productivity and gaming I really like Windows. And I see Windows gaming getting stronger, not weaker, in the next few years. There is so much more you can do with a PC than a console, and while Linux may someday rival Windows for gaming (thanks to SteamBox and the like) there just isn't the install base with that which Windows has.

Posted on 2015-06-30 22:14:59


True, but the Linux install base is growing rapidly (and has been for some time). Microsoft rode the proverbial wave, when consumers are only aware of one game in town, it's hard not to lose.

The fact that Mac's OS is Unix-based may help Windows' demise at some point. OTOH, it costs a lot of $ to get the best games produced these days and the business-case is not lost on me. Speaking from a strictly personal perspective, I hope to live to see a world with a unified computing platform. If that ever happens, I believe it will be Linux/Unix based or a similar variant (i.e. open source). Red Hat has proven it's possible to create a business and make money - even based on a free OS. Android has some merit for similar reasons, but it's not flexible or robust enough yet that I'd want to run a desktop or laptop on it (if that were even possible).

Now, Microsoft would win some points with me if they'd change to a true extensible framework for their OS. This is what makes Linux so attractive and useful. I don't care how much processor power and storage you have, useless bloated applications suck. Same reason I'd love to have a-la-carte TV service. If I can get a product w/out all the junk that I don't care about and add to it what I want, I'm game for that and I'm willing to pay for it.

Of course, we haven't seen that in the "cable" TV space. Not for lack of demand, but because the TV providers thought they owned the viewers. Now witness the result of their hubris: TV viewers are leaving in droves for on-demand services such as NetFlix and Hula, but Tivo was the true dawn of that age, because it was the first mainstream consumer product that allowed consumers to watch TV shows on their schedule, versus the network's AND it allowed consumers to skip commercials (albeit semi-manually). Tivo was the proverbial canary in the coalmine for broadcast and real-time streaming video services (i.e. "cable" television). None of them paid attention. They are all now suffering, albeit bleeding to death slowly.Even HBO finally woke up and is now playing both sides of the fence.

Microsoft has to know that change is coming and they better innovate with it, or they will be run over by it sooner or later. The question is simply what that change is going to look like. I believe Linux is one piece of the puzzle. SteamBox will be another. NVidia could very well step into this space as well (and they'd have a good chance of bringing games with them if they put enough $ into it, given their existing relationships with gaming studios).

Yet another questions is... are the days of expensive game production that cost more than movies to produce (and take longer) also numbered? My kids play more simplistic games on their phones than they play C.O.D. or Battlefield on their consoles. Any 14-year old can become an Android gaming producer these days. As I said, the play field is expanding.

Regardless, history DOES repeat (because us human beings all have short memories). If I worked at Microsoft, I'd be concerned. :-)


Posted on 2015-06-30 23:09:32