End of the line for Windows XP

This is the first blog in a series where we discuss the end of life for Windows XP scheduled for 8 April 2014.  This series will continue with Windows 7 or Windows 8, followed by Is a Mac for me? , finishing with What about my files and software?.  The goal of this series is education about the issues facing you, the Windows XP user.

xpEach month Microsoft releases updates for Windows via Windows Updates which includes XP, Vista, Win 7 & Win 8.  These updates include fixes for errors (bugs) and security patches.  As of April 8th there will be no more fixes or security updates to Windows XP.  So what’s the big deal?  After all, your Windows XP computer has been running well, all of your programs work, it doesn’t crash, you like XP and you may have heard bad things about newer versions of Windows.

The security updates are the real issue.  As soon as a new vulnerability is discovered, the “bad guys” will be looking for all of those Windows XP computers to exploit.  Unfortunately, the criminals will be working overtime to locate security holes and find ways into your computer.  They know that there will be no fix to keep them out, no one riding to your rescue, making your computer a sitting duck, just waiting for someone to find it, and wreak havoc.  How bad could it be?  That would be up to the criminals and common incursions include, but are not limited to:

  1. Stealing your identity, including your banking information, and worst case your money
  2. Leaving a virus that locks you out of your computer, ransoming it back, and then erasing your files (FBI/Interpol viruses)
  3. Using your computer to attack other computers (bots)
  4. Disable your antivirus software and remove all security so other hackers can exploit your computer
  5. Erasing your hard drive, just for fun

While we can debate the merits of whether Microsoft has an obligation to fix a vulnerability after 13 years (XP was released October 2001), this is a no win situation. Microsoft has moved this date several times, and they have stated this is it, no more extensions.  Over the past 13 years Microsoft has built better protections and security features into the newer versions of Windows.  Issuing patches for an issue on XP is more involved and convoluted than it is on Windows 7 & 8, and there are just more vulnerabilities in XP.  In the end, it is a cost and staffing issue; maintaining XP is a drain on corporate resources.  Additionally, many software vendors have announced they will no longer support Windows XP, following Microsoft’s lead, including some antivirus providers.

The first thing you need to do, before you do anything else, is run Windows Update and get all available updates downloaded and installed on your computer.  It is not clear if you will be able to get the already published fixes after April 8th.  In addition, if you wait until the last-minute, many others will be doing the exact same thing.  Avoid the traffic jam and get your updates now.

Now what do you do?  What are your options for a long-term solution?  Windows Vista computers are no longer available for purchase.  Windows 7 computers can still be purchased, but usually not in store, only online.  Windows 8 computers are available but you’ve heard bad things about Windows 8.   The next articles will explore the options so you have a better handle on the options.

I make reference to specific Microsoft, Apple or other products.  These names are or may be trademarks of their respective owners.

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