Windows XP: The End Is Nigh!

April 8, 2014.  Today is the official death date for Windows XP.  Should you care?  For the average user, you can survive a little longer.  If you are a large bank or the IT manager for a major government agency, you probably should have dealt with this a while ago.  The reality is, XP will not freeze up on you and you will not have a hacker instantly suck up all your data at the stroke of midnight tonight.  But, you should be considering a move up to a newer version of Windows, both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 are currently available, if for no other reason than to be able to keep up with the latest software, websites and programs.

What does the end of life date really mean for Windows XP?  In a nutshell, Microsoft will no longer support the operating system.  This means they will no longer issue security updates or patches to plug the holes that viruses, trojans, worms and the like exploit to take control of a PC.  It also means that if your PC blue screens in the dead of night, do not call their tech support help line, since they will not be able to help you.

What the end of life does not mean is you need to run out and buy a new PC, immediately.  You can still cope with XP while you explore a replacement PC or get comfortable using Windows 7 or 8 or move to a Mac.  The key is to make sure you are ready to deal with any potential dangers of staying on Windows XP.  The best way to do that is to make sure you run Windows update to install all of the available security updates that were already issued and make sure you have an up-to-date anti-virus program running on your computer.  You will also want to be very diligent about practicing safe internet habits, like not clicking on suspicious e-mail attachments or going to unknown websites.

One of the best articles to help you prepare for life with XP in a post-support world was written by Chris Hoffman and posted on PC World’s website.  The suggestions in the article are worth taking to heart to help prevent heart break down the line.  I would also add another suggestion that does not appear in the article: make sure to buy an external hard drive and save everything valuable on your Windows XP PC.  If you do have a software issue or become the victim of a virus, you will greatly cut down the angst you feel by knowing you have backed-up your documents, pictures, music, videos, family trees and tax returns to an external device.  As Hoffman notes in his article, the initial time period after the end of life will probably see a spike in XP-specific viruses and attacks since there will be no way to patch the holes those attacks find.  Again, it does not mean you will see these crop up overnight and, if you take the suggested steps to protect yourself, you should be able to make it to a new PC without any issues.

Of course, you will still encounter Windows XP machines in places like the library, schools and internet cafes.  In these cases, the PCs are most likely protected in some additional way and are more like a shell running as a computer.  The library internet PCs, for example, run security software that will wipe out anything someone tries to save on the computer.  This includes viruses and other forms of malware.  Not that it means we are sticking with XP, as plans are already underway to upgrade the computers to Windows 7 models.

Which brings us to the need to upgrade.  As Hoffman also notes in his article, the programs you use today on an XP computer will not be available for much longer and nothing new will be coming out that you can install on XP.  Unfortunately, for most people, that means the need to upgrade the whole PC since most PCs built for Windows XP will not accept newer version of Windows, including Windows 7 and Windows 8.  If the thought of having to upgrade and learn a new system scares you, do take the time to explore the world of Windows 7 or Windows 8 at one of the library system’s computer classes.  The classes at the Lawrence branch are all taught on Windows 8.1 computers and the other branches are teaching Windows 7 with a planned upgrade to Windows 8.1 later this year.

- Laura N.


Popular posts from this blog

Ocean-in-a-Bottle Craft for Kids

Neil Gaiman Ruined My Life

N.Y.C., What is it about you?