Windows XP: Game Over?

Category: Windows

A reader asks: 'I have read that Microsoft will drop support for Windows XP on April 8th. Does this mean my computer will stop working? Will I need to buy a new PC?' If you're still clinging to Windows XP, you DO need to take action. Here's what you need to know about this looming deadline...

Windows XP Support Ends April 8, 2014

For those still using Windows XP, it’s time to get serious about upgrading to another operating system. The date Microsoft has set to end all support for XP is just two weeks from today. Here's a Q&A that will answer your questions about the end of XP, and my advice on where to go from here.

Q: "Will my XP computer stop working on or after April 8th, 2014?" -- NO. Your computer will still function. You'll just be taking a much bigger risk by continuing to use XP on your current PC. Read on to learn why, and what you should do.

Q: "Why should I care if Microsoft stops supporting XP?" -- The end of support means the end of security patches. Hackers and cybercriminals have had the date 04-08-2014 circled in red on their calendars for a long time.
XP Dies April 8th, 2014
There's no doubt they have already discovered a trove of XP security holes and vulnerabilities, and they're eager to exploit them. But they're not stupid... they'll wait until AFTER Microsoft stops releasing security patches. Not only will you be unprotected, you will become ever more vulnerable and attacks on your systems will increase.

Q: "Why is Microsoft dropping support for XP?" -- Windows XP was released in 2001, and although it's been a solid performer for over a dozen years, that's a long time for an operating system to hang around. Even though Microsoft released Vista in 2007, Windows 7 in 2009, and Windows 8 in 2012, XP still runs on about 20% of all computers worldwide.

It's tempting to think that Microsoft just wants you to buy a newer version of Windows. But it's expensive to provide support for an aging operating system. And it's a fact that even with the latest security patches and top-shelf anti-malware protection, XP is MUCH more vulnerable to viruses and other exploits than Windows 7 or Windows 8.

Q: "Got any clever metaphors to help explain this?" -- Actually, yes! Think of XP like an old car that's slowly rusting, and requiring frequent repairs to keep it running. Hardware and software technology both change rapidly, and the security landscape even more so. XP's mainstream support phase ended in 2009, and the product has been in extended support ever since. That means no new features have been added since 2009, and only serious bugs or security fixes have been addressed since then.

Application software for XP will also deteriorate. There will be few updates to existing applications and certainly no new ones. From the moment XP support ends, your productivity will fall further behind at a faster rate. Home users may think they can get by with XP even after support ends. But that’s as dangerous as thinking that you can drive on bald tires or squealing brakes. It’s a matter of WHEN you will have a serious problem, not if.

Q: "Are businesses especially vulnerable?" -- Yes, business users who cling to XP will face increased legal liabilities as well as diminished competitiveness and security risks. Customer data stored on XP systems will be more vulnerable to theft, and customers damaged by such thefts will have very good cause to sue. Even before breaches occur, businesses may find themselves disqualified from many contracts if their systems do not meet security requirements.

Q: "Won't I be safe with a firewall and a good antivirus progam?" -- I've heard some people say they'll continue using XP until their computer gives up the ghost. They reason that a good anti-virus program will protect them, even in the absence of continuing Microsoft security updates. But some exploits, such as security holes in browsers, buffer overrun issues, or other flaws in Windows components, can't be mitigated by your anti-virus or firewall protection.

Q: "What about Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium and other security products which claim they can identify malicious software by its behaviour?" -- Some anti-malware products use heuristics (behavior analysis) instead of (or in addition to) virus signatures to identify malicious software. Will they protect you from all threats that your XP system may encounter going forward? To quote Billy Joel, "You may be wrong for all I know, but you may be right." It all depends on your tolerance for the potential of data loss and/or identity theft. Personally, I would not count on any security tool to do the job.

Q: "I don't visit any sketchy websites, or download from CNET. Will I still be vulnerable?" -- Yes. Your web browser is just one of many attack vectors when your computer is connected to the Internet. (Wondering why I mentioned CNET in this question? See DOWNLOAD ALERT: Foistware Warning)

Q: "Are there ANY exceptions?" -- I'll give one caveat here, with hesitation. Let's say you have an XP system that's NOT connected to the Internet -- perhaps it sits it a corner and is only used for word processing, or video games, or a legacy database program. If you have a really good reason for not wanting to upgrade, there's not so much urgency to do so, because almost all of the dangers involved come from the online world. You'll still have to deal with the possiblity of a virus infection that enters via an infected flash drive or CDROM.

Moving Away From XP - What's the Path?

If you've heard horror stories about Windows 8, don't worry. It's really not that hard to tweak a few things that make it look and feel like Windows 7. See Switching to Windows 8 Made Easier.

Migrating a business to a new operating system is complicated and fraught with peril. Business users are advised to engage a Microsoft-certified consultant with expertise in such migrations. Home users may be able to work through the migration process on their own. It’s best to start with the WindowsXP.com website Microsoft has created to help with the transition. There are also these two tutorials from Microsoft: Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 and Upgrade to Windows 8.

Both tutorials have links to “Upgrade Assistants,” free software tools that analyze your Windows XP system to determine (a) whether your hardware will support an upgrade, and (b) what existing XP application software will be compatible with the new operating system. Armed with this information, you can decide what you will need to buy in order to upgrade to each OS.

Whichever new OS you choose, you will be able to transfer your XP system’s data files and settings to the new system automatically. However, you will have to re-install all your software one package at a time. And that can be a pain. But Microsoft is also offering a free tool, Laplink PCmover Express for Windows XP, which will help users transfer files and settings from their current PC to a Windows 7 or Windows 8 computer. It will also transfer up to three installed programs.

If you have additional programs to move, Laplink's PC Mover Professional For XP is a $24 utility that will do the job. It saves you the trouble of finding all the software installation media and license codes. You can even selectively choose which folders and applications you want to move to the new system.

Of course, you are not limited to Windows 7 or 8. You could switch to Ubuntu Linux on your existing PC hardware, or cross over to the Apple world. But one thing is certain: if you stick with XP beyond 8 April 2014, you'll be putting yourself (and everyone who comes into contact with your computer) at risk.

Are you still running Windows XP? What's your plan to move forward? Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Windows XP: Game Over?"

(See all 32 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Ray
25 Mar 2014

So how long do Windows 7 Professional version users have before we have to go through the same thing? I bought a new PC a year ago. It came with 7Pro and I even paid the small fee to upgrade to Win8 as soon as it was released. It did, I did, total disaster! It took my PC support team a week to get me back up and running on Win7Pro. They could not migrate back to Win7 from Win8; 8 refused to release it's hold on the HD. They would up send a new HD with Win7 installed! I cannot state how much I hate Win8. But my home PC is still XP. If I buy a new PC and have Win7Pro installed from factory (if it is even still available), how long before we are facing the same mess again? BTW, I tried to switch tracks to Mac, but that, too, was a disaster. I'm an old dog who's been jumping through Windows hoops since their first release. I was SO lost with that Mac that I sat and looked at the blank screen for two days before sending it back and getting something I was totally familiar with. Sorry I got off the subject. So what's the abandon date for Windows 7 all versions?


Posted by:

Dave Roche
25 Mar 2014

I have used Win XP for six years, and I have never downloaded any security updates since I installed it in 2008. So far I haven’t had any real security issues as the Anti-Virus software that is protecting my system seems to be doing a good job. If my Anti-Virus can protect me for six years without any XP security updates, why should I change over to Win 7 that still suffers from a Vista hangover?


Posted by:

Carole
25 Mar 2014

What I like about XP is being able to still access my DOS programs. Another thing I like is being able to use Outlook Express to view my email. I have found that Firefox email software is similar to OE. It is called Thunderbird. It takes a little while to get use to it.

I would like to know if Windows 8 or 8.1 comes with Windows Explorer or do you have to keep all your files on a cloud?


Posted by:

John Silberman
25 Mar 2014

I switched to Ubuntu about 4 years ago. Never looked back. For the occasional "have to have Windows", you can always use Wine which allows many windows based software run in Linux. I still like utilities like Editpad and Iview, both run just fine using Wine. Alternatively, you run a virtual machine inside of Linux.


Posted by:

RandiO
25 Mar 2014

About 4 days ago, the news came out that "Microsoft now offers $100 off new PCs for trading in a Windows XP machine". I think there are some limitations to this offer but some of your readers (with the older WinXP systems) maybe enticed to upgrade.
Additionally, they can donate their older WinXP system to their local church, or senior center and maybe able to use it as a deduction in their tax returns which is 7 days after April 8th deadline for WinXP support.


Posted by:

Inga
26 Mar 2014

I'm a writer. Windows XP was in my mini-laptop and I never liked the laptop very much--key board too small, but I wanted to use the 111 Gigabytes of hard drive. With help from articles online, I removed the hard drive from the laptop, turned it into an external memory for my Windows 7 computer. Love it! It's the storage place for all my writing.
It didn't cost much at all to do this.


Posted by:

Elinor
26 Mar 2014

I have my late husbands EEE computer with XP. the only time I use it is when Windows 8.1 is fouled up on my new laptop and I need to print something. So far I have had to re-install Windows 8 four times and Office 2013 three times because Word wont open anymore. Dell tells me I need to re-install Windows 8 and not upgrade it to 8.1 if I want my Office to keep working. Microsoft released both before they were ready, and they want me to pay for support. As soon as Apple comes out with a touch screen, I am switching with money no object.


Posted by:

salim
26 Mar 2014

in answer to your invite, Bob, to post here, I have my 2 xp laptops in a box en route to the Philippines to be donated to a remote medical missionary outpost in the northern part of the country, to be used at faith-based health presentations. thanks for the warnings!


Posted by:

Joe
26 Mar 2014

My surgeon's office (which has 9 doctors of different specialties) is all running XPs - as a matter of fact, Its a branch office, of many, of a Hospital based in a the western part of a state (I'm not saying which state because they must have 1000s who pay their bill with credit cards.)
I told them about it but seems like I'm talking to the wall.


Posted by:

cruelas
26 Mar 2014

I was thinking of taking the risk and keeping XP--I can't afford a switch. I am going to try Linux one of these days, but I may still use XP after April 8th. I was thinking that the worst that could happen would be that my computer became unusable, so I will make sure to back up daily, BUT IS THERE A MORE SERIOUS DANGER that I'm not thinking about?

I just got WiFi for the first time, so I'm especially paranoid. Assuming that there are people poised to attack me :), am I in any real danger of having my email accounts accessed or having my personal information stolen because of the end of support for XP? Thanks.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, I'd say there is a real danger. Even more so if you are using Wifi that doesn't require a password, but that's a separate issue.


Posted by:

Jim Cauthen
26 Mar 2014

I'm cashing in and moving to Costa Rica. Adios
Newspapers, radio, TV, the internet---it's all the same-just another advertising medium. 50% commercials and 95% Re-runs.


Posted by:

Jim Kays
26 Mar 2014

I've known about Microsoft dropping support of XP for a while now. I have a couple of old XP systems that will not support upgrading to Win 7 so I decided to install Ubuntu (13.10) on one of them as a test. I first went with a dual OS of Windows XP and Ubuntu. That didn't workout so well as Ubuntu never completed the install, so I decided to just run with Ubuntu. The install seemed to go fine and everything looks great. I start up the system and the Ubuntu logo comes on and the system asks for my password, once I type in the PW and hit enter the screen goes black and just sits there. So far most of the 'support' forums I've seen are totally useless. Of course it makes it tough when you are trying to explain an error with no error message and on an OS that you are completely unfamiliar with. Just an FYI in case you think Ubuntu will be your savior. Yes, it's free, but you usually get what you pay for. And I wouldn't even attempt this unless I had a second PC I could still access the internet with for support. (think of 'support' as a bunch of whanks giving useless info without explanation)

EDITOR'S NOTE: I think it's fair to say your experience with Ubuntu is not typical. Millions of people use it, and many of them on older computers. Yours sounds like a problem with your graphics adapter. Use Speccy to get the make & model of your graphics adapter, then search for that and Ubuntu.


Posted by:

J. R.
26 Mar 2014

What is an unemployed and broke person supposed to do? I can't afford to upgrade & I can't afford to stay off the internet. What do you suggest?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Try Ubuntu with the Windows installer (http://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop/install-ubuntu-with-windows) You can try out Ubuntu Linux without partitioning your hard drive, and you can switch back to Windows by restarting your PC.


Posted by:

RCC
26 Mar 2014

I have some specialized Media Center computers that run XP and an old XP machine I use for a file server. Is there some way to configure the networking on these machines so that the computer can't get any communication from the Internet, but could still communicate over my home network? Wouldn't that configuration (if possible) protect the XP computers while still allowing them to be functional?

EDITOR'S NOTE: You should be able to login to the router and disable Internet for those computers.


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
27 Mar 2014

Bob ... Just a personal note ... I listened to what Steve Gibson said, about Windows XP and his decision to keep using it. First of all, this show was about security and I know, that Gibson has some of the best security suggestions, on the planet. He is a genius, with computer codes and computers, in general. He didn't say not to migrate to a "safer" Windows, just that for him, he felt that there was more hype to this overall, than was necessary.

Let me back step ... There were 2 questions asked by viewers of Leo LaPorte's podcast on Security Now and very valid ones. Steve was responding to those 2 questions, with their specific issues. Steve felt that under their conditions, it would be alright, for them to continue to use Windows XP, since, neither viewer were going to use these computers on the Internet. They were basically used for business and only in the their own environment. It made sense to me, with what he said.

Now, Steve himself, will not be migrating to another Windows OS ... He has himself, pretty well covered. Leo LaPorte happened to have disagree with him, on this issue. It was a real pleasure to hear their discussion on this topic, I must say!

These 2 men, have the greatest respect for each other's knowledge and I have always loved, when they "argue" the fine points of issues! It truly is a wonderful debate, to hear ... Plus, it is always with respect. Something, all of us on the Internet could learn from ... Proper Internet Etiquette ... Respect for others opinion. Sorry, I got off track, thinking about so many Political and/or Controversial websites, where Flaming and Rudeness is the Norm.

Anyway, Steve was supporting the individuals who asked their questions, not to upgrade Windows XP to Windows 7 or above. He just happen to mention, that he felt there was more hype, to this issue, than necessary and would not be upgrading himself. As Leo LaPorte said ... We will see, in a couple of weeks, where the truth lays.


Posted by:

Origami1212
28 Mar 2014

It is the OS that is losing support. Nearly all exploits are against browsers and programs like Flash and Java. Also, studies show that 100% of browser exploits and ~80% of other exploits are blocked simply by NOT running as an administrator. 1. Run as a normal user (not Administrator), 2. Delete Java (okay to run Java Script and Flash in a browser), 3. Run a modern browser--the versions of Internet Explorer that will run on XP are NOT modern--so use Firefox (with the NoScript add in) or Chrome, 4. Keep everything updated and 5. Stay out of the dark corners of the Internet. If you do these simple things, you should be reasonably safe. Or, you could update to Windows 7 or 8.1 (Win 8's bad rep is largely undeserved)--but you should also still do steps 1 thru 5.

EDITOR'S NOTE: In life, it's the "nearly" and the "reasonably" that'll get you. :-)


Posted by:

daWoofa
29 Mar 2014

Bob - would installing a VPN on an XP machine provide the needed protected internet accessibility post Apr-08? Products that I have researched include "Sophos UTM Home Edition" and "TunnelBear". My nascent understanding of these services is: they offer secure, encrypted access to their servers and that one's internet surfing is then routed through their secure servers which in conjunction with your box having current AV and firewall should keep out most of the nasties?

EDITOR'S NOTE: That may protect your web browsing, but as I mentioned, "Your web browser is just one of many attack vectors" and "some exploits, such as security holes in browsers, buffer overrun issues, or other flaws in Windows components, can't be mitigated by your anti-virus or firewall protection."


Posted by:

Kokkok
30 Mar 2014

I've got a new i5 CPU and am trying to use Ubuntu 13.10 with Virtualbox, a free virtual machine program running Windows 7 and am trying to find programs in Linux that is equivalent to the windows programs I am currently using so I could slowly migrate to Ubuntu.
Installing Ubuntu was pain free and took around 30 mins for the basic package which have a word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software which can open and save into Microsoft office format. Very good Firefox browser packed in installation. No issue atall with that.
They have an Ubuntu app center something like playstore in Android devices and you can search for r programs there.
The issue I am having is getting the drivers for my printer and scanner for Ubuntu right.


Posted by:

Mike
01 Apr 2014

I've been quite happy with Windows 7 and 8 on my desktops. Nevertheless, for my eight year old laptop (IDE drive, a single core processor, XP, and an unused upgrade license for Vista) I'm thinking Ubuntu may be a more appropriate investment than any Windows product.


Posted by:

Dave B
04 Apr 2014

Bob, I have some legacy programs that won't run in Win 7 so I run them in a Windows XP Virtual Window. None of them need to connect to the internet. Is there a way to disable the internet connection for the XP Virtual Window without disabling it for the Win 7 host?


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