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What about Windows XP?

Microsoft discontinued support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. We will explore the consequences of this and examine possible responses for those of you still running Windows XP.

What does this mean for me? Do I have a problem and how bad is it?

For starters, there is no cause to panic. Now that the deadline has passed, you’ll notice that your computer still works and nothing truly bad has happened, yet. By discontinuing support, Microsoft will no longer fix problems that might arise with XP. Given that Windows XP was first released in 2001, it is pretty solid by now. Windows XP is the most successful operating system in Microsoft’s history. At the beginning of April, it still is being used on 29% of computers out there.

What you need to be concerned about is that Microsoft has stopped fixing security-related problems. With such a substantial number of XP systems still out there, they become increasingly attractive to people who write and propagate malware (viruses, trojans and other nefarious programs) given Microsoft’s future lack of support. It is likely that some of the security software companies will continue to support XP for awhile, but any issues that require patching the operating system won’t be addressed.

Another consequence is that newer software may not run on Windows XP. This would include not only applications but also support for devices like printers.

What are possible responses for those of us who still use Windows XP?

If you bought a system that came with XP, it is already pretty old. The successor to XP was Windows Vista, which first shipped in January 2007, over 7 years ago. While XP machines were still being sold after that, its likely that your XP computer is 5 or more years old. In the world of technology, that’s ancient. When something goes wrong in the future, it will not be cost effective to fix such an old computer.

Here are some possible options:

  1. Keep using this machine until it dies or it gets hit with a security problem.
  2. Upgrade the operating system on the old computer.
  3. Buy a new computer.

I submit the option 1 is penny wise and pound foolish. While saving money in the short run, it is simply deferring the inevitable, with possibly unpleasant consequences. The cost of recovering your data from a malware infestation or – much worse – dealing with a security compromise is much greater than doing something now. Especially if the security problem leads to identity theft or someone breaking into your financial data or accounts.

It makes little sense to upgrade your old computer to a more current version of Windows. At this writing, the cost of a copy of WIndows 8 software is $100 or more, depending on the version you choose. Given that a brand new laptop running WIndows 8 can cost as little as $400, upgrading is false economy, even if the newer software will run on your old hardware.

The third option of buying a new computer makes the most sense. I have discussed this option in detail here and won’t expand on it here. There is one big question to consider: which operating system to get? Even though the latest version of Windows is 8.1, there are still some new computers for sale with WIndows 7. Why would you want to buy a Windows 7 machine? Basically because Windows 7 is more like XP than Windows 8, which means it might be easier to learn to use it. Secondarily, the Windows 7 machines are somewhat older, and likely to be a little be less expensive.

Learning any new software is going to present challenges. As it turns out, Windows 8.1 (the latest version) is not much different from Windows 7. You will have to “bite the bullet” and learn some new things, but they are not difficult. Most of it will build off what you already know about Windows XP. Since you are already running a machine that is over 5 years old, it’s likely that you will keep your next computer that long as well. Windows 7 is already long in the tooth, with its full support scheduled to end in 2015. So 5 years from now, you will be in the same situation. If you start with a computer running Windows 8.1, it will still be reasonably current and supported in 5 years or more.

Bottom line

My advice is to replace your old Windows XP computer with a new one running Windows 8/8.1 As noted in my earlier article, there are lots of options available, including many at quite affordable prices. Indeed, the new machine you buy today will cost less than you paid for the old one, but will be faster and better.