On April 8th, 2014, Microsoft officially ended support for Windows XP. The XP OS will no longer receive security patches or updates, leaving it wide open to hackers, malware, viruses, and other Internet-borne diseases.
This should come as no surprise however, as Windows XP is nearly 13 years old. Released in October of 2001, it is nearly as old as the original Google search engine and the first Mac OS X. It certainly predates Facebook. And yet, as many as a third of all PC users continue to use the XP OS. Why?
For starters, XP is sleek, simple, and was, at the time of its release, revolutionary: it was the first OS to feature multiple user accounts and password protection, along with a host of functions that made computer use easy and understandable for the masses. An abbreviation for “experience”, XP was rolled out with great ado:
“Bill Gates and Jim Allchin presented the final Windows XP “gold code” to representatives from six major PC manufacturers. Commemorative CDs containing the final Windows XP software were placed into six gold…cases, and the representatives immediately departed via helicopters to begin the final stages of incorporating the new operating system into their computer manufacturing systems.” (from the Microsoft archives)
Hindsight 20/20, all the pomp and circumstance was not misguided; XP blasted PC sales into the stratosphere and continued to dominate for the next decade. The disastrous roll-out of Windows Vista convinced many XP users to stay with their trusty friend through all the subsequent OS upgrades, perhaps explaining why so many still use XP today. As the years went by, however, it got harder and harder for the old OS to handle increasingly complex security issues, and this month Microsoft finally laid it to rest.
There are still plenty of PC users who want to stick with their old stand-by, including businesses using XP-based software. Is there a way to stay secure? XP die-hards have flooded online forums with all kinds of security advice, and antivirus vendors are hawking their continued support of XP. But beware: this is a bit like building a castle on a cloud – the foundation has dropped away, so any security efforts will be rickety and stopgap at best.
The only way to truly lock down your XP is to simply disconnect it from the Internet. Use it only for local software applications. Nothing gets in, nothing gets out. For some users this may be perfectly fine, as they use their XP to run old software applications that aren’t supported on the newer operating systems. But if you’re like most computer users, you need to stay connected.
How to Move On
Let’s start with the bad news: the newer operating systems are too robust for the old XP hardware. The XP hardware consists of a 1GHz processor, 1 or 2 GB of RAM, and 16-20 GB hard drive space. The Windows 7 and 8 operating systems require a 2 GHz dual-core processor minimum, 4GB of RAM, and take up 20 GB of hard drive space on their own. So will you have to buy a new machine? Affirmative.
Ok, so what about my old XP-based software? Will that run on my new machine? Maybe. It would be a good idea to contact the software vendor or peruse their website to see if the program is supported on a newer OS. Sometimes, old programs can be run in “Compatibility Mode” on the Windows 7 and Windows 8, which basically changes around some settings to make the program think it’s on an XP. We haven’t had a lot of luck with it, however, and have resorted to running old programs in “virtual” XP environments. This process is time-consuming, complicated, and eats up resources, though, so the bigger benefit is usually derived from simply upgrading the software.
If you’ve checked with the software vendor and the program is supported on a newer OS, be sure to grab the product keys from the box or CD sleeve the software came in. Otherwise, you can use a free program like Belarc Advisor (available here) that will scan your machine and list all the product keys in use. You can then use these to re-install your software on your new machine.
In addition to your software, you’ll need your files! There are a variety of tools on the market to assist with file transfer, but locating the files on your old machine, dumping them on a thumb drive or other external storage device, and re-locating them on you new machine is, while a bit intimidating, the surest method of getting those files transferred safe and sound.
This may all sound a bit overwhelming, but the good news is that you’re not on your own. We’ve been migrating clients over to new operating systems for years and have considerable experience with XP migration. The other good news is that our relationship with distributors means you get unbeatable prices on new hardware. Yes, upgrading is a pain in the you-know-what and eats away time and money; we get that. That’s why our process is designed to minimize hardship and get you back to work as soon as possible.
The Bottom Line
All good things come to an end, as they say, and unfortunately Windows XP is no exception. The OS revolutionized the PC market and ruled uncontested for a decade, but is simply no match for today’s complicated, multi-level security threats.
Continue using XP at your peril. As we suggested, it would be best to disconnect it and use it for stand-alone apps only. And we know you love those old apps, but powerful new software is capable of funneling the traditional business process into a centralized, streamlined workflow. So if there are better options available and the risk of running on an XP is high, does it make sense to upgrade? That’s your call. If you have questions or would like more information, we’re always a phone call away.