Microsoft will end support for the Windows Essentials 2012 suite on January 10, 2017. If you use any of the suite’s component apps—Movie Maker, Photo Gallery, OneDrive, Family Safety, Mail, or Live Writer—here’s what you need to know.
Windows Essentials 2012 has been a popular suite of apps since its release, and a surprising number of people still use some of those component apps today. On January 10, 2017, Microsoft will end official support for the suite. You’ll still be able to use it, of course, but the apps will no longer receive updates of any kind, including security updates. You also won’t be able to download the installer software anymore, either. If you still use Windows Essentials 2012, read on to find out what the end of official support means to you and where you can look for alternatives.
Official support for Windows Essentials 2012 will end, but that doesn’t mean you have to quit using it. If you’ve already got it installed, you can keep on using it just like you always have. Just be aware that there will be no future updates, including security updates. For users of Windows Live Mail, having no security updates will matter the most. For the other apps in the suite, it’s less important.
Microsoft no longer offers the installer for Windows Essentials 2012 for download. There are copies of it floating around the web, but we generally don’t recommend installing from third-party sources you don’t know or trust, so we won’t link to them here. You’re probably better off with one of the below alternatives anyway.
So what if you want to replace Windows Essentials apps with modern equivalents? We’ll start with the easy stuff: All the features of the Family Safety app and OneDrive have been built into Windows 8 and 10, so if you use either of those, you’re good to go. In fact, if you are using either of those, you won’t even get the option to install the Family Safety app along with the suite.
If you’re using Windows 7, there are Parental Controls built in. They’re not quite as fully featured as those that the Family Safety app offered, but they should do most of what you need.
OneDrive is also now built into Windows 8 and 10. If you’re using Windows 7, you will need to download the OneDrive app, but it’s all new since the one offered in Windows Essentials 2012 and it’s continually updated.
Windows Live Mail is probably the most important component of Windows Essentials 2012 for you to replace. Though you can still keep using it if you want to, we don’t recommend it. Having new security updates available is pretty important in an email client.
To be fair, most people these days have switched over to using a web-based email service like Gmail or Outlook.com. And those are probably your best bet in terms of continually updated features, spam protection, and increased security. If you favor a desktop client, the Windows Mail app built into Windows 8 and 10 is actually a pretty solid choice if you don’t need extra features like rules-based sorting.
If you already own a copy of Microsoft Office that includes Outlook, you should explore that option. It may have more features than you need out of an email client, but aesthetically it still feels very much like Windows Live Mail.
And if you want to check out third party options, we recommend taking a look at eM Client, Mailbird, and Thunderbird. All three are free—or have free versions—and have been around long enough to develop full feature sets.
Photo Gallery has long been a favorite for organizing, viewing, and editing photos. Though it will not get any more feature updates, you can go on using the version from Windows Essentials 2012 because security updates won’t matter much in your image viewer.
If you’re hankering for something a little more modern, the Photos app built into Windows 8 and 10 is not a bad choice. It offers features for viewing, organizing, and performing mild edits to your photos. For a bit more power and easy sharing ability, you might also want to check out online offerings like Google Photos, Prime Photos (for Amazon Prime users), and Flickr. All three offer loads of online storage, automated and manual organizational tools, and various degrees of image editing features.
Movie Maker is an odd beast. A version of it that was exceedingly popular was included with Windows XP and Vista. When Windows 7 came along, Microsoft separated the app from the OS and released a new version as part of the Windows Essentials suite. While the new version wasn’t quite as powerful, it still offered a great balance between power and ease of use that a lot of people still appreciate today.
The good news is that the current version available in Windows Essentials 2012 still works just fine in Windows 7, 8, and 10. The app hadn’t really been updated in years anyway, so the end of support likely won’t matter much to anybody. The possibly even better news is that Microsoft plans to release a new version of Movie Maker to the Windows Store sometime in the near future. We’re guessing that the new version will be limited to Windows 10 users, but beyond that we don’t really have any details on the features or timing of the release.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for something a little more modern than the current version of Movie Maker and don’t want to wait for the new version, we recommend Ezvid. It’s free and, like Movie Maker, it strikes a good balance between ease of use and features. If you’re ready to move onto something more advanced—but still free—DaVinci Resolve is fantastic for the low cost of $0.
Live Writer is one of those apps that you either love…or have never heard of. It’s a blog publishing app that offers a pleasant and feature-filled interface. It features WYSIWYG editing and links up to multiple blogging platforms, including WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal, and many more. You can also switch around easily if you work on multiple blogs.
The good news here is that in 2015, Microsoft released an open source fork of Live Writer under the name Open Live Writer, which you can download and use for free from the Open Live Writer site or the Windows Store. Just like Live Writer, Open Live Writer works with a number of popular blogging platforms, including WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, Moveable Type, and DasBlog. It’s being actively developed and new features are released regularly.
With the right alternatives in place, you won’t mourn the death of Live Essentials—in fact, you’ll probably be using something better.