Computers running Windows 7 need to be urgently upgraded or could be at risk of cyber attacks or other online crime, Microsoft has warned.

The operating system is now 10 years old but continues to be one of the most popular in the world. Now Microsoft has announced that it will be ending support for the software, meaning that problems will not be patched with critical updates from Tuesday afterwards.

After that date, hackers will be able to exploit weaknesses in the software and they will not be fixed.

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According to NetMarketShare estimations for the end of 2019, Windows 7 is still one of the most popular Windows operating systems with a 32.74 per cent global share, second only to Microsoft's most recent version, Windows 10, at 47.65 per cent.

GCHQ's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has told the public not to access banking, emails or other services containing sensitive information from devices on Windows 7 due to the high risk.

End of support is a long-running measure by Microsoft, as it shifts from dated technologies and increases focus on newer ones.

"The NCSC would encourage people to upgrade devices currently running Windows 7, allowing them to continue receiving software updates which help protect their devices," an NCSC spokesman said.

"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 should also consider accessing email from a different device."

Affected computers will remain functional but will no longer be secure.

Companies which may not be ready for the move can choose to pay Microsoft for extended security updates through to January 2023 - though it is sold on a per-device basis and the price will increase each year, to encourage businesses to upgrade.

Additional reporting by agencies

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