Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Windows XP goes “End of Life” on 8th April 2014

Q. End of Life? What does that mean? 

A. Microsoft’s most popular operating system ever, Windows XP has been with us since Oct 2001. It is still installed on almost 30% of computers. Microsoft bring out newer, more secure, operating systems every 3 years or so and they are now retiring Windows XP, so that they can stop having to support it.

Q. How does that affect me?

A. After 8th April Microsoft will no longer release security patches for Windows XP. Hackers are forever attempting to discover new vulnerabilities in the operating system of your computer, which could allow them to gain control. If you are still using Windows XP then the chances of a successful hack, or virus infection, of your system will quickly grow over the next few weeks.

Q. How do I know if I have Windows XP?

A. Click the “Start” button. You should see either “Run” or a blank white box. Type “winver” and hit the Enter key. This should bring up a box showing information on the version of Windows that you have. Also, if you do have Windows XP you’ve probably had annoying pop-up messages from Microsoft, warning you of its end-of-life status.

Q. Why should I care? There’s nothing worth stealing on my computer!

A. Don’t be so sure. All of your banking details? All of those photos you’d rather keep private? All of your friends email addresses? Your Facebook log-in details? Also, any new hardware or software will probably not work with Windows XP.

Q. What do I need to do then?

A. You need to upgrade from Windows XP to a newer operating system, with the choice currently being either Windows 7 or Windows 8.

Q. Is this a free upgrade?

A. No. Microsoft isn’t one of the world’s most profitable companies for nothing. You either need to buy a new computer, which will come with a new operating system, or you could buy a Windows 7 or 8 licence and upgrade your PC from DVD.

Q. So, what will it cost?

A. A new computer can cost anywhere from £350, but for a decent spec, business-grade PC, expect to pay more like £450. A copy of Windows 7 or 8 on DVD can be bought for £85 or so.

Q. The new licence sounds a cheaper option. Is that best?

A. Probably not. A computer running Windows XP is almost certainly too “old” in computer terms anyway. You would not find that upgrading it would suddenly make it run any better. In fact, the reverse may well be true; and it is possible that the computer simply won’t accept the upgrade. This isn’t for the faint-hearted though, so seek advice first!

Q. Will Microsoft offer any advice or support on upgrading?

A. The effective answer is “no”. You can find material on Microsoft’s websites, but this tends to be factual information regarding the cut-off dates and why they are doing this. You should contact your IT Support Company or a local, independent computer shop for serious advice.

Q. April 8th? That doesn’t leave me much time, does it?

A. No, but “Don’t Panic”. We recommend upgrading as soon as possible, not only because your computer will become more vulnerable, but because the very fact that it is running on Windows XP means that an upgrade is well overdue anyway. We would definitely advise making the move before May 31st 2014, which gives you some planning time without taking too many risks with your PC.

Q. OK, I’m willing to upgrade, but should I go with Windows 7 or Windows 8?

A. This really depends on what you use the computer for. The two operating systems are much the same “under the bonnet”, but they look very different in use. (Microsoft would tell us that Windows 8 has much greater security built in, which is true, but not of great importance to businesses with good IT support). In our opinion, Windows 7 is more suited to business users, whereas Windows 8 is better for home users, especially those with a touch screen computer.

Windows 7 looks more like Windows XP, so the inevitable learning curve is much less onerous for a normal computer user than is the case with Windows 8.

Windows 8 is also targeted more at “social” use, rather than business use.

Q. What if my business critical software will only run on Windows XP?

A. You could run a “virtual” instance of Windows XP within your new computer. Or, could you keep one or two PCs separate from the rest of the network, just for running that software? But, your best option is to accept that the time has come to also upgrade that software, which has to happen sooner or later.

Q. Wow. This is more involved than I thought. What do I do next?


A. Speak to The IT Dept about your best options, as there may be different solutions for different people. As Microsoft Partners we are very well placed to offer you the right advice, with the minimum of confusion.

____________________________________________________
Sign up for our Monthly Newsletter
The IT Dept offers computer support services in Lancashire, including Monthly On-Site or Remote Support Contracts; Secure Online Data Backup; Domain Hosting; Server and Desktop Sales; Software Supply & Installation. We cover all of Lancashire, including Chorley, Preston, Blackburn, Darwen, Bolton, Wigan, Blackpool, etc.
© Michael Donkin 2014