Microsoft has said goodbye to Windows XP. Although the operating system is more than 12 years old, and Windows XP computers haven’t been shipped since 2010, there are still millions of them in use. It is estimated that as much as 25 percent of Windows PCs in the workplace are running XP.
Q. Why so many XP computers?
A. XP’s successor, Vista, was unpopular, so many XP owners held off upgrading. In addition, many are now buying Smartphone’s and tablet computers instead of upgrading old PCs. It will still be possible to use Windows XP computers, but that comes with risks. This guide takes a look at your risks and options.
Q. What happened on April 8th ?
A. Windows XP reached what Microsoft called “end of support.” In recent years, Microsoft hasn’t done much with XP beyond releasing updates on the second Tuesday of each month to fix newly discovered security flaws. April 8th was the last time Microsoft did that for XP, so any problems discovered after that won’t get fixed. You’ll still be able to run XP computers and install past updates. If you need to reinstall XP from scratch, you can do so if you still have the discs that came with your computer.
Q. How do I know if my computer is running XP?
A. This Microsoft site will check: http://amirunningxp.com. If you have XP, the site will go through your options. Even if you don’t visit the website, you may still get a pop-up notification, depending on how your computer’s configured to check for Windows updates.
Q. If XP will still run, why do I need to upgrade?
A. A big reason is security. Hackers know Microsoft will no longer fix security flaws, so evil-doers have extra incentive to look for them. In addition, if a flaw is found for Windows 7 or 8, there’s a good chance a similar issue exists for XP as well. So when the fixes come out for Windows 7 or 8, hackers can go back to XP to look for an opening.
Hackers have become more sophisticated, and lately they have been breaking into computers for financial gain rather than just pride. So the risk is greater than when Microsoft retired past systems such as Windows 95 and 98.
There are also performance issues. If you buy a new printer or scanner, it might not work on XP. Same goes for new software, particularly if it needs faster processors and more memory beyond what was standard in XP’s heyday. XP also lacks features that are common with newer operating systems, including energy-saving measures for laptops.
Q. What are my options for upgrading?
A. You can upgrade to Windows 7 or 8 by buying a disc. You will need to back up your files and have discs for any programs you may have installed, as upgrading requires completely wiping your hard drive and starting from scratch.
That said, it’s probably not worth the upgrade. Your XP computer is several years old and might not even meet the system requirements to upgrade.
Microsoft have software tools for checking the system to see if an upgrade is possible.
Be aware that either way, you may also need to buy new software, as older versions might not run on Windows 7 or 8. Microsoft, for instance, has also ended support for Office 2003.
Q. My XP computer works fine and fits my needs —and I don’t want to spend money on an upgrade or a new machine. What should I do?
A. If despite the warnings, you are still running XP, here are a few things to do:
- First, be sure to run all of Microsoft’s previously released updates, plus the last one on April 8th. Then think about what you really need the computer for. If you don’t need an Internet connection, unplug it. That will minimize the risk. Be careful about attaching USB storage drives, as that might introduce malicious software.
- If you need the Internet, try not to use email, Facebook and other communications channels through which malicious software might travel. Use a tablet, phone or another computer instead.
- It’s also a good idea to lock down your computer by using a profile that lacks administrative rights. That will make it harder to install anything new, including malicious software.
- Removing older software applications you no longer use. The less you have running, the less vulnerability you’ll have