With the end of Windows 7 support in sight, Robert wants to know what he can do to preserve the files on his late wife’s PC.  He writes:

“I have Windows 7 on a computer the belonged to my late wife.

Can I update to Windows 8.1 without losing any of the files or desktop icons?

If I don’t upgrade, what will happen? I’ve been thinking upgrading to window 8.1

I don’t want to lose all of our family pictures or her desktop pictures. Can I do this safely without losing anything?”

I think the first thing you need to do, no matter what you decide to do with your wife’s computer, is to back up all of the important photos and other files. Back them up to a flash drive, hard drive, or even the cloud. You don’t want all of your precious family photos to be only stored in one place.  If there are other family members to whom these photos have meaning, it’s probably a good idea to give them a copy as well.

If you don’t plan to go online with your wife’s PC, you don’t need to do anything. Windows 7 will keep on working after security supports ends, it just won’t be protected from virus or malware. If you don’t go online, you won’t have an issue.

If you’d like to keep using the PC online, you need to change the operating system. Upgrading from 7 to 8.1 really isn’t a good idea. 8.1 is now several years old. You’d be much better off to go with Windows 10, which Microsoft is still actively improving. When you install Windows 8.1, it does allow you to maintain personal files like photos, documents, and music from Windows 7. But you will lose any programs installed on the PC.

If you go with Windows 10, you’ll not only be able to keep the personal files but all of the programs installed on the computer. You’ll probably have a lot easier time finding a copy of Windows 10 to install as well.

Again, no matter which of these choices you make, it’s important to back up those files. Your wife’s PC could still fail at any time for a number of reasons. You want to make sure the files are preserved.