Even though Windows XP was released way back in 2001, it’s still a pretty great operating system. It’s stable, has a Start button and gets the job done. That’s why there are literally hundreds of millions of computers that still have it installed. It’s so popular, in fact, that it’s the second most installed operating system in the world, only a little bit behind Windows 7.
Unfortunately, this isn’t really a good thing. The reason being Microsoft. Up till now, Microsoft has been extending the deadline for when it would drop support for Windows XP, but now it seems they are really going to kill it off. On April 8th, 2014, Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP completely. This is big news because it means in about 4 months, there will be millions of computers that are going to be vulnerable to hackers.
End of support means Microsoft will no longer provide any technical assistance to businesses or consumers for Windows XP troubleshooting. In addition and more importantly, Microsoft will no longer provide any security patches or updates for the operating system. On top of that, you won’t even be able to download Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows XP, the free antivirus software, after this date.
This is really bad news for anyone who has Windows XP installed after this date because there are literally hundreds of security vulnerabilities detected in Windows XP every year and once support ends, all of those security holes will be exploited by hackers and there literally won’t be anything to stop them.
Several Microsoft executives have also stated openly that businesses and users who do not update the operating system or buy a new PC will be open to many new attacks. One possible solution if you still have to use XP for whatever reason is to disconnect the computer from the Internet. Obviously, the PC can still be infected over the LAN network, but you’ll have a better chance than if it’s connected directly to the Internet.
For any business that needs support for Windows XP past the April 2014 deadline, another option is to install Windows Server 2003. Windows Server 2003 uses the same kernel as Windows XP and therefore can run all the same apps without any compatibility issues. Support for Windows Server 2003 does not end until July 15th 2015, so you can get an extra year to upgrade your apps to a newer operating system.
As for consumers, according to Microsoft’s official statement, they would love for you to upgrade to Windows 8.1.
The other reason to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 or Windows 8 is so that you can use the latest software and devices with your computer. XP is so old that a lot of new software simply will not run on it. In addition, some newer devices and gadgets may not be recognized by the system properly.
Upgrading an old PC to Windows 8 is actually not a bad idea. I wrote a post a while back on revitalizing an old PC by installing Windows 8 on it. The system requirements are pretty low, meaning you can install it on some fairly old hardware. Of course, you’ll have to buy Windows 8 Upgrade, which currently costs around $119, but that might be a better option than buying a new computer altogether.
If you do install Windows 8 and you get any kind of error about the CPU not being compatible, check out the link. I’ve personally installed Windows 8.1 on a couple of old desktops at home and they work great for browsing, email, watching videos, reading news, etc. With Windows 8.1, you also kind of get the Start button back, so if you have been holding back because of the lack of a Start button, it’s not that bad anymore in 8.1.
Whatever you end up doing, if you don’t upgrade a Windows XP computer, make sure you don’t have any important data on it because everything will be at risk. However, if it’s connected to your local network, a hacker could still take control of the XP machine and then wreak havoc on other computers on the network, so really the best thing is to get rid of Windows XP altogether. If you can’t, tell us why in the comments!