Should you Keep Using XP?

By Dick Sandlin

Mac, Android, and Linux users, I will say up front that you don't have to worry about this. However, your OSes have their upgrade concerns as well.

What's Up with Windows XP?

Microsoft has dropped support (including updates) for Windows XP, effective April 8, 2014. What does that mean exactly? Some people think that they can't actually do that, but I'm not convinced.

We used to say, "Software is never having to say you're finished" (much to the chagrin of our management). There are still plenty of holes in XP and virus writers enjoy finding and exploiting them, just as they do with other popular OSes. Macs were exempt for a few years until they became numerous enough to attract the attention of these malefactors. Even Linux with it's smaller share of ordinary users is starting to attract them. And now that Google has morphed Linux into Android, it's starting to attract them as well.

I've heard the argument that XP is fine and there's no reason to upgrade it any more because Microsoft had a hard time getting it right and it's taken them this long to finally patch all the holes in XP. But Microsoft doesn't claim that all the holes have been found. Without Microsoft's support, there aren't any more holes being reported in XP. Any new hole that's discovered will stay there and attract the attention of more and more bad guys. Since XP has a huge user base of folks who don't keep up in the software world, it's a vast playground for people who enjoy ruining your day or who want to put their hand in your pocket.

Should Microsoft keep on patching XP forever? Of course they should, from our viewpoint. But they have other motivations. There's nothing in it for them to continue spending to support something that's encouraging people to not buy their newer products. They compromise with us by driving a stake in the ground and saying, "We'll support it for this long and no longer." At least they're up front about it.

So, what should you do?

If you have an older XP box that you use for file warehousing and it's not connected to the outside world, I'd say, "Fine. There's no need to upgrade that." But if you have one that's usually connected to the internet (a major malware source), consider these options:

  1. If your computer is more than 10 years old, think about keeping it for warehousing and buying a new one for regular use. You'll be so happy with how much faster and better it is (after you learn how to use it - see #4 below). Buy it in the States and bring it back in a suitcase, if you can.

  2. Upgrade to Windows 7 or Vista. Windows 7 is the new XP. You'll still be behind the times, but you'll have Microsoft support for a few more years. It'll cost you something, and you'll have to install it, but it's the option with the least impact.

  3. Switch to open-source (i.e., Linux). There are many flavors that look a lot like Windows and most of them are free. You'll have to accept a significant learning curve, however. And you still won't escape the need to upgrade occasionally. This is the option with the least cost.

  4. Upgrade to Windows 8 or 8.1. There's a definite learning curve with this option. But it offers new capabilities and, if you really try, you can make it look much like the Windows you're used to. These will be around the longest of the current Windows options. Win 8 was a significant conceptual change from Win 7 and it was controversial for those who resist that, but MS "softened" it a bit with 8.1. Windows 9 is in the works, but it'll be quite a while before it's ready.

The good news is that you're a member of a club that can help you through the transition. We definitely don't know everything and we don't make house calls, but we can often help. I try to stay current with Windows and somewhat with Linux and we have other folks who can help as well. The club is not dropping support for XP. We will continue to try to help you in any way we can.

If you have a question or comment about Windows XP, send it to the club president.

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