Windows XP Support is Dead So Now What?
Now what should I do?
What happens if I don’t upgrade?
Is there a way around being forced to upgrade?
All good questions. Here’s the deal and what it means to you.
Microsoft has dropped support for XP. This means a a lot of things, but few things in particular stand out:
1) No new updates. No security fixes. No service packs. Basically you are on your own against every new threat. I have seen a couple registry hacks which supposedly can restore your Updates, but since none of them are being tested actively on Windows XP before release, you can be sure that your “unsupported system” will eventually…or sooner…fail to work properly. Updates are a good thing.
2) No new versions of Internet Explorer. You are stuck on IE 8 until the end of time. IE 8 doesn’t support many newer web protocols already, and the list of sites that don’t work with IE 8 will only keep growing. You may or may not be able to get around this by using Chrome or Firefox, but there still many websites which only support IE, many of which are already requiring IE 9 and above.
3) Software incompatibilities with 3rd party vendors will grow. Already many new titles are Windows 7/8 only, and upgrades to existing non-Microsoft programs will quickly stop supporting WIndows XP if they haven’t already. Newer versions of Microsoft Office already support only Windows 7 and up. That means you’ll be forced to upgrade eventually anyway so that you can use the latest versions of your favorite software. And by eventually, I mean probably soon.
There are a whole lot of other things I’m sure I haven’t mentioned, but the bottom line is that if you don’t upgrade, your security will be reduced and your risk increased. Certainly everyone’s situation will vary, and the degree of risk can be reduced with some simple (or not so simple) changes, but any way you slice it, Microsoft is saying, “Upgrade, or we can’t be responsible for what happens”. Sounds just a bit too much like paying protection to the Mob to stay in business.
But even though Microsoft has mandated that you MUST upgrade (and NOW), there may be reasons you aren’t quite ready to replace EVERY Windows XP system in your office TODAY. You may be locked into using an older software title which won’t run on newer Windows versions. Or perhaps budget constraints are preventing you from upgrading all your systems immediately. Or…here’s a novel thought…your computers may be working just fine for what you need them to do, and you don’t see why you need to waste money on new PCs right now.
I think there’s a good reason to feel that way. Nobody likes being strong-armed into purchase decisions, and it’s easy to look at the negative side of the new “offer-you-can’t-refuse” style of marketing Microsoft is taking here. But there is another side of this story…Windows XP is about 15 years old, and the harsh truth is that upgrading will improve compatibility and performance, in addition to the improved security. While there are numerous ways to work around the security issues created by the lack of ongoing updates, you will be far better off for the upgrade in the long run because of performance enhancements and improved compatibility.
So, our bottom line recommendation is:
Upgrade to Windows 7 as soon as you can. Hardware improvements and 64 Bit computing mean huge performance boosts and best compatibility with the latest software titles. We feel that 64 BIT computing is a must for performance, as 32 BIT systems are limited to 4 GB of RAM.
Move your office as quickly as possible to a 100% Windows 7/8 environment. We are still recommending Windows 7 64 Bit for most business situations, rather than Windows 8, due to software compatibility concerns, Windows 8 also represents a large learning curve due to significant operating system changes between Windows 7 and 8. We recommend Microsoft Windows 7 64 Bit Professional with Service Pack 1.
Phase in your upgrades as quickly as you can. On systems which are stuck on XP, lock down IE 8 and force users to use Chrome or Firefox. That single step will reduce your security threat immensely. Also, if you must run XP for some reason, consider running in a virtualized environment if possible. XP running on a HyperV server can be much easier to secure. It also facilitates shared access which can be helpful for infrequently used legacy applications which must be maintained.
Staying on XP for a little while may make sense, but don’t expect to run those old systems forever without putting your data, network, and possibly your entire company at risk. Running on an unsupported OS means trouble, and the longer you hold out, the more the risk increases. It doesn’t have to be today, but don’t wait until you have problems…they may be much bigger than you expect.