By Steve Alexander

Q: Dell’s website says that my six-year-old Windows 7 laptop (an Inspiron 5521) was tested and found compatible with the earliest versions of Windows 10 (called build 1507 and build 1511). But it isn’t listed as being tested with newer versions.

How risky is it for me to upgrade to the latest version of Windows 10? Or should I go for an older version?

— Steve Dunlap, St. Paul, Minn.

A: There’s no clear-cut answer for whether you should upgrade your Windows 7 PC to Windows 10. Here’s why:

• You can’t upgrade to the older versions of Windows 10 that you know are compatible with your PC, because they’ve been discontinued and pose a significant risk. A PC using Windows 10 “build 1507” or “build 1511” no longer gets security updates.

• Upgrading to the current version of Windows 10 (“build 1909” introduced in November) is a bit risky because Dell hasn’t tested your computer with it. I suspect that Dell has simply quit testing older PC models for Windows 10 compatibility. That said, there’s no certainty how well the latest version of Windows 10 will work.

As a result, I have to fall back on some standard advice: Upgrading any PC that is six years old isn’t a great idea, because technology keeps changing and the PC doesn’t. Even if your older PC works with the current version of Windows 10, a future Microsoft update to the operating system might cause problems. And there are likely to be updates to “build 1909” before Microsoft discontinues it (for consumers) in May 2021.

Because of the uncertainty about whether you should upgrade your PC, it would be less risky to buy a new Windows 10 computer.

Steve Alexander covers technology for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Email him at steve.j.alexander@gmail.com. Please include a full name, city and phone number.

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