Windows XP is (Mostly) Dead

After April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP  its venerable operating system that has been around since 2001, and still runs on millions of PCs around the world. It was replaced by Windows Vista (which was awful), which was replaced by Windows 7 (which was pretty good), which has now been replaced by Windows 8 (which is a mixed bag), which has been updated to Windows 8.1 (which is also a mixed bag, just mixed a little differently).

I’ve been getting some questions about this change from a few people who still have XP, so it’s worth dispensing some advice. Lots of technical news websites have waxed eloquent on it, so you can Google some of their answers, but here’s my advice for non-techies.

What does it mean that Microsoft is ending support for XP?

It just means that they won’t provide any more updates to Windows XP. These updates usually deal with bugs and security holes in Windows, and without them, those holes Windows XP can be used to infest your system with viruses, or hijack it to use for nefarious purposes. While your antivirus software can cope with most of these, Windows itself may be a sitting duck for the bad guys.

Why are they doing this?

Windows XP is old, plain and simple. It’s twelve years old, and that’s a long time in technology. To expect Microsoft to keep supporting it is a little like expecting your Chevy dealership to keep stocking parts for your 1982 Impala.

Will my computer keep working?

Yes. Not having updates won’t make Windows stop working. Of course, those security holes I mentioned earlier may let malware in, which can cause problems. And if your computer is old enough to have come with Windows XP, it could just break down, as old computers sometimes do.

Should I upgrade to a newer version of Windows?

Maybe. Depending on how old your computer is, it might not have enough oomph (that’s a technical term, don’t’cha know!) to run a newer version of Windows. Here’s my rule of thumb: If your Windows XP computer is less than five years old, think about upgrading the memory. updating to Windows 7. If it’s older than that, don’t throw any more money at it, since it is much more likely to break down before you get your money’s worth out of the update.
Your Windows XP system will most likely NOT be sufficient to run Windows 8. Maybe. But probably not.

If it ain’t broke…

My general advice is this: Don’t worry about upgrading or replacing your computer or Windows if what you have is working well for you. If there is something you want to do with your computer that you can’t do, because it’s too old, or it requires a new version of Windows, then that’s the time to replace or upgrade. That brings up a lot more questions about what to upgrade TO, but that’s a discussion for another day.
One caution, though. BACK UP YOUR DATA! An older computer is much more likely to break down, and you risk losing your files when that happens, or at least losing access to them until they can be recovered. I wrote an article on backing up  a couple of years ago, and my recommendation to use Crashplan still stands.
If you have questions about your specific system, please contact me, and I’ll be glad to help out.