Windows 7 users are being urged to upgrade their system as soon as possible, following Microsoft’s decision to pull support for the legacy system.

The tech giant has this month stopped issuing fixes and support for Windows 7, so it can instead put these resources into “newer technology”.

Though Windows 7 devices will still be functional, the lack of support always signals a time to move on for anyone still using the old system. This isn’t so much about the lack of assistance if issues arise, but more to do with the fact that Microsoft will no longer issue patches to protect against new or emerging threats.

It’s thought that as many as a quarter of Microsoft devices in use today still run Windows 7. This could be a huge boon for cyber criminals, who will now have a vast, unprotected audience to target with the next generation of malware.

The dangers involved with running old systems are well publicised – none more so than the high-profile WannaCry attack on the NHS back in 2017, which crippled systems and caused procedures to be delayed. A government report conducted the following year discovered that legacy operating systems left the door open for hackers – and that the whole attack could have been avoided if they’d been updated.

On the cessation of support for Windows 7, a spokesperson for the National Cyber Security Centre told the BBC that users needed to act fast. “We would urge those using the software after the deadline to replace unsupported devices as soon as possible, to move sensitive data to a supported device and not to use them for tasks like accessing bank and other sensitive accounts.”

They even went on to recommend using a different device to read emails – to be better protected against hackers.

For its part, Microsoft reiterated that Windows 10 (which will still be supported for some time yet) can be purchased and run on older devices. However, there’s minimum levels of processing power required for this (a 1GHz processor, 16GB of hard drive space and 1GB of RAM memory) before it can be run at all. Even then, it’s unlikely the OS will work as smoothly as intended. In most circumstances, a whole new system would be the better option. Though buying new may be a financial outlay now, it could be an investment if it protects you – and your data – from cybercriminals and their latest threats.