As you may know, Microsoft® will be withdrawing Extended Support for Windows XP on April 8 this year. It’s official, Microsoft’s longest running operating system—the one that outlived 3.X, 95, 98, ME, 2000, and Vista is being put out to pasture This means several things to users—and most likely will mean that you’ll want to migrate to a newer version of Windows. It’s nothing to panic about, but there are a few things you should know first.
Mainstream Support, Extended Support, and Malware Support
Typically, Microsoft phases out old operating systems in 3 stages: ceasing Mainstream Support, ceasing Extended Support, and then ceasing Malware Support. That is, they quit updating and providing customer support for the bulk of the software, then some time later they quit updates and support for security patches, and finally, they drop the malware updates. They usually announce these changes to provide the user enough time to transition to a newer Windows version.
Microsoft has done exactly that with XP. They have already ended mainstream support back in April of 2009. As we all know, they will end their extended support this coming April. Of course, they will provide malware signature upgrades to allow users more time to transition away from XP. This support will end in July 14, 2015.
Hackers and Malware See Fresh Meat in Windows XP
With that said, it’s probably not a good idea to put off moving away from XP until July 2015. Once Microsoft withdraws extended support for XP, that makes it a babe in the woods, sitting duck and all those other similes that all amount to one thing: it’s weak and vulnerable. I’m sure you’ve seen enough nature shows to know where this is going.
Predators in these nature shows always single out the weak, the old, and the sick among the herd for their prey. This is exactly what’s most likely to happen with Windows XP after it gets cut off from support—It will be a huge target for hackers and malware vendors. Experts are saying malware and hacker attacks on XP will probably increase by about 66%!
What’s more, as XP goes on without support from Microsoft, it’s going to be progressively about as effective at blocking attacks as gauze is in stopping a semi truck. The analogy of “swiss cheese” to XP’s exploitable holes is going to be an understatement.
What’s really “beautiful” is that they’ll probably advertise their infested wares with “Still XP compatible.” Which brings up another thing…
Third Party Compatibility in a Post-XP World
Already, many third party applications are gearing up to withdraw their Windows XP compatibility. This is also a normal part of the death throes of an expiring operating system. Simply put, between the increase in security compromises after retirement and the expense of maintaining compatibility with expired operating systems, it just isn’t worth keeping up with those compatibilities.
It’s still “technically” possible to run old versions of software on an expired operating system, but when it comes to security suites, you’re practically inviting an infection. With Internet browsers, they’ll eventually not even be able to surf the Web. With system optimizers, a Blue Screen of Death is pretty much just a matter of time. Things can get pretty sad pretty quickly.
So What are Your Options for Life after XP?
According to Microsoft, you pretty much have two choices: either try to install a new Windows version on your XP machine or simply buy a new machine. In either case, first things first: You’ll need to backup all your files, either on a hard medium such as a backup DVD, or on the cloud. Now let’s look at the pros and cons of these choices.
At first glance, it seems to just make sense to install Windows 7 or 8 on your old XP machine. But this can open up a whole can of worms you might not be ready for. You’ll have to make sure that your processor, memory cards and hard drive are compatible. Even at that, the very wiring of your computer might not be up to the task of running these sleek new operating systems. At around $200 for 7 or 8, all I can say is “caveat emptor.”
Of course, it’s going to be more expensive to buy a new machine (at least on the surface), but at least you know from the start that everything’s going to work. Being realistic, it’s entirely possible that upgrading all the hardware components necessary to run Windows 7 or 8 could add up to making it just as expensive (or more) than buying a new machine.
But what about your favorite apps that are only compatible with XP? Relax, there are a number of virtual machines and emulators out there that can enable these older apps to run in 7 and 8. There is even an optional “Windows XP mode” that you can download from Microsoft.
On that note, let’s have a moment of silence for the old workhorse of Microsoft. It’s been a good 12 years.