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Tech Talk: Time to upgrade or ditch Windows XP

POSTED: February 7, 2014 11:33 p.m.

This spring Windows XP will be 13 years old. Considering my car is almost that old, it’s not a big deal except for the fact that my car won’t get an infection, but XP might.

Microsoft recently announced that come April 8, it will no longer support Windows XP with Service Pack 3 (SP3) and many of its related products, which have grown long in the tooth. By support, I not only mean the tech support that businesses running the relic operating system rely upon, but also the cessation of security updates.

Your computer running Windows XP in any of its many incarnations will cease to receive updates, including patches and plugs for security leaks. That means if after April 8 you access the Internet (who doesn’t) with your XP computer, your chances of downloading something detrimental to your system’s well being is essentially guaranteed.

Support for Windows XP SP2 ended on July 13, 2010. Those with SP3 expire in April. Any Windows operating system since XP still has support, although it is limited. Vista (SP1) ended on July 12, 2011. To continue to receive Vista updates, make sure you’ve installed Service Pack 2, good through April 11, 2017. Win 7 is good through Jan. 14, 2020 and Win 8 through Jan. 10, 2023.

Microsoft says on its website that this decision was made “to invest our resources toward supporting more recent technologies so that we can continue to deliver great new experiences.”

So we move on; there are options. Perhaps this is a wake-up call and it’s time for you to get a new computer. After all, it doesn’t make much sense to buy a Windows 7 or 8 CD and install it on an older computer that may not even run it, but that is an option. With the recent technological advances in operating systems and software, they require modern hardware to run them.

Considering the cost of a Windows upgrade CD, for another couple hundred dollars you can get a full new system that will include a faster processor than what your old XP machine had. Plus, you’ll have tons more RAM (and the ability to run it) in something more aesthetically pleasing than a dull gray box.

XP has issues working with new hardware, won’t run many new games and is not optimized for modern computers. It doesn’t recognize large capacity or solid-state hard drives. Microsoft never imagined it would remain as popular as it has proved to be. XP simply wasn’t intended to last this long.

Nearly all of the world’s XP computers run in a 32-bit environment. That means Windows XP doesn’t recognize more than 3.5 GB of RAM, no matter how much memory is installed.

So you can upgrade that old computer with a new operating system or, even better, get one with a new version of Windows, one with Linux, or get Chromebook or a Mac.

Microsoft has a Windows XP Migration Jumpstart service to aid in the transition from XP to a more modern operating system. To assist you in deciding what to upgrade to, Microsoft offers Windows Upgrade Assistant.

The folks in Redmond will also stop providing Microsoft Security Essentials for download on Windows XP as well as support for Office 2003 on the XP termination date.

Any major security exploits introduced after April will go unpatched by Microsoft. In fact because of this, some experts warn that Windows XP could become a hacker’s dream.

Security analysts predict that as soon as Microsoft pulls the plug on the aging operating system, hackers will be quick to find new exploits and vulnerabilities and soon after find ways to infiltrate it.

Windows XP will continue to run, regardless; you will still be able to use it, but without updates, it will eventually become susceptible to hackers. If you continue to use XP after support ends, your computer will still work but will become more vulnerable to security risks, malware and viruses.

Microsoft cites that many users, mostly businesses, currently run the still popular XP. In fact they claim that nearly 30 percent of all Web traffic comes from XP machines.

Even with the demise of Windows XP, Google and Mozilla have decided to continue supporting Chrome and Firefox browsers for XP users until April 2015.

The most important thing to realize about the upcoming end of the XP era is that you will be vulnerable if you decide to keep it. Should you opt for a PC with a more modern version of Windows, remember to extract and save your existing data from your old hard drive to your new one.

After all is said and done, you will be amazed and pleased at how much faster your new computer system will run.
Goodbye XP, old friend.

Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly on the Business page and on gainesvilletimes.com.


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