How you and your computer can survive when Windows XP XPires.
The computer world survived Y2K. The rest of the world survived 2012. The question now is whether the digital world can survive the official end of service for Windows XP, which will happen April 8, 2014. Many companies cannot afford to switch to a new operating system, while others simply refuse to do so. They, however, have large IT departments dedicated to keeping their computers running. Home users and small businesses are not so fortunate. For the benefit of those without on-staff computer experts, we offer this FAQ.
Should I replace my XP computer before April 8? Yes, if at all possible. We’ll detail the reasons below.
Why is Microsoft doing this? Because it does not make good business sense for them to continue to invest money supporting an operating system they no longer sell. XP has already been followed by Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8. To put it simply, the warranty on Windows XP has expired.
Will my XP computer stop working on April 8? No. You will notice no change, because nothing in your computer will change. Everything will continue to work.
What will stop on April 8? There will no longer be any new security patches for Windows XP. This means that if a new weakness is found in Windows that a virus or hackers can exploit, it will not be fixed. This will leave all XP machines that are connected to the Internet vulnerable.
Won’t my anti-virus software protect my XP machine? For a while, perhaps, but security patches do a different job than anti-virus software does.
Will Windows Update still work to install existing patches? Probably, at least for a while, but no one seems to know for certain.
Will I be able to activate Windows XP if I reinstall it? Again, probably, but Microsoft has not confirmed this as far as we can determine.
Are there other reasons I should upgrade my computer? Yes, and the best one is that a new computer will almost certainly be faster and better than the one it replaces. In the years since XP was in common use, the industry has introduced many advances so most new computers now come with many features not found in older machines. For example, hard drives have gone from ATA to SATA and hold about ten times more data. USB 3.0 is now standard, allowing data transfers to external drives that are ten times faster. Almost all processors are now multi-core, yielding vastly more efficient multitasking. The standard amount of RAM in a computer is at least eight times what it was. Operating systems on new computers are 64-bit instead of 32-bit, resulting in more efficient operation as well as allowing computers to use more memory.
I’m guessing you have still more reasons. Am I right? You certainly are. As time goes on, new software will no longer support XP, just as most will no longer support Windows 98. New hardware will not support obsolete operating systems, so it will become difficult to find things like printers that will work with XP. Even the Internet will move beyond XP and the limitations of Internet Explorer that is built into it.
So, are there no reasons to keep my XP machine? Not exactly. If you don’t connect your XP machine to the Internet or your home network, it should continue to run fine until something breaks. If you have software that will only run under XP, you may have little choice but to keep an old computer just for that program. If you just like living dangerously, browsing the Web may offer some unique thrills.
If I need (or just really want) to keep my XP computer, can I do so safely, including browsing the Web? Yes, but for that you will likely need our help. To keep an XP computer beyond April 8, we suggest doing this:
- Prior to the deadline, you should ideally reinstall Windows XP, its service packs, updates, and most recent drivers. This is because at some point after April 8, it may no longer be possible to do some of those things. You will also need to reinstall any applications you intend to use, along with their updates. Once Microsoft stops supporting XP, you can bet that many software companies will do the same and may remove patches for their obsolete programs.
- Once you have the computer working perfectly, it is essential that you create an image of the entire hard drive. This image works as a sort of super System Restore, allowing you to put the entire computer back to what it was when the image was made. In this case, the image will be of your computer as you want it to run for the rest of its life.
- In the event of a virus infection or hacker attack that exploits a future, unpatched vulnerability in Windows, it will be possible to restore the computer without needing to reinstall, activate, or update Windows.
- This image must be kept safe, since if you lose it you will most likely have no way to fix your computer in the future. It should be possible to update the image if, for example, you add more programs, change settings, update software, etc.
That sounds expensive and complicated. Is it worth it? For most users, probably not, especially since new computers today are generally quite inexpensive ($300 to $500 will buy a computer more than powerful enough for most users). However, if you really need to keep your old computer for reasons mentioned above, it may be your only option. Remember, if you can’t replace the computer, then you can’t afford to lose it.
Can’t I just upgrade the operating system? Neither Windows 7 nor Windows 8 can be installed on top of XP. Both require you to erase your old hard drive. Besides, most XP machines are just not powerful enough to run the newer operating systems. If your XP computer is new and powerful, it might be worth it, but the best way to know is to ask us to evaluate your situation.
How do I pick out the new computer that’s right for me, and how can I get my programs and data moved over? Ideally, you call us. We can find the computer that fits your needs and then set it up to run the way you want. We do not sell anything but service, so you can be sure that we won’t pressure you into getting more computer than you need just so we make more profit.
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