Microsoft has tried hard to get the message out there over the last few years and now the Windows XP End of Life day is almost here: 8th April 2014
So, what does “End of Life” actually mean?
Will my Windows XP computer stop working on 8th April?
Simply put: no !
What it does mean, is that Microsoft will no longer release any updates or patches to fix security holes and will offer no support – which leaves Windows XP users vulnerable to harmful viruses, spyware and other malicious software which could steal or damage data and render computers unusable.
So, what should I do?
According to Microsoft, you should upgrade your existing system to a newer operating system (Windows Vista, Windows 7 or 8) or if that is not possible, replace the computer altogether.
Whether or not you can upgrade to a newer operating system very much depends which XP version you have installed at the moment and whether your computer’s hardware (and all your printers, scanner, cameras etc.) are compatible with the newer operating system.
Just to give you a rough idea, you will need a 1 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM and Direct x 9 class graphics card to make any of the newer systems work – although realistically, to make it run as fast as XP, you would need a lot more power under the bonnet than that!
Microsoft has made it easy to check if your system is compatible with the latest Windows 8.1 with their Upgrade Assistant which you can find here.
But do I have to?
Considering that Windows 7 & 8 upgrade versions cost upwards of about £100 and the time and trouble involved in upgrading the system, the important question is – do you really have to upgrade or can you just stick with XP?
If you are running a business, you could possibly run into compliance breaches if you do not upgrade, especially if you keep confidential data on your computer. If you are just using your computer for personal things, it’s really up to you whether you are happy to take the risk.
It is worth remembering that the end of XP also gives other companies the ok to stop supporting their products on XP… whether that is software (including some Antivirus products), printers or other devices.
But I really WANT to keep XP!
Okay, so you’ve been warned about all the security risks, but you either can’t or simply don’t want to upgrade…
Here is what you can do help protect you:
1) Make sure you are using a “standard” Windows account for your regular activities and leave the “administrator” account for just that: administrative stuff
2) You need to have decent Anti-Virus software installed. Microsoft have confirmed that they will keep issuing updates for their own Security Essentials until July 2015 – however, only if you have the software installed before 8th April 2014
3) Internet Explorer is Microsoft’s built-in browser so will be open to security holes that will not be patched – use a third party internet browser instead, like Google Chrome which has confirmed updates until 2015
4) Outlook Express was XP’s built-in email client – which of course also will no longer be provided with security patches – so consider getting a third party client (e.g. Mozilla’s Thunderbird – it’s free!) or putting your email online (Gmail, Outlook.com etc)
Of course all this won’t protect you completely, but every little helps…
Still not sure?
Whether you agree with Microsoft on 12 years of support for XP being more than enough, or whether you hold a more cynical view of this being yet another pitch to boost their sales, one thing is for sure:
You won’t be able to ignore this one!
Have PC Harmony,
So you can concentrate on the more important things in life…