Windows XP: Don’t Leave It Too Late

Windows xpOn the 8th of April 2014, Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP.  Does this mean that it will stop working?  Does it mean you’ll be forced to upgrade? Does it mean that you’ll find yourself at the mercy of both malware and viruses?

On the 9th of April XP will not stop working; it will continue to start up and run as it always has.  The withdrawal of support will mean that Microsoft will no longer provide security patches, hotfixes or services packs. This is the most powerful push factor to move away from XP and adopt a more modern alternative, but remember that even a fully patched and AV protected installation of Windows 7 or 8 is still vulnerable to attack.  Upgrading to Windows 7 or Windows 8 is no guarantee that you will prevent problems although you will be reducing your exposure.  Still, the best defence against the most common viruses and malware is the person sat behind the keyboard.

If you’re still using Windows XP with SP3 then there’s a good chance that the machine you’re using is also due for replacement.  If you’re intending to run Windows 7 or Windows 8 on the same hardware platform that you were using for XP then do not expect great things from your new operating system because you’ll most likely be starving it of resources.  As always there’s a clear difference between Microsoft’s minimum requirements and what would be required to achieve an acceptable level of performance in the real world.  The likelihood is that, at the very least, a RAM upgrade will be required, but the best performance will be realised by purchasing a new machine.

If you’re going to migrate to Windows 7 there will be a shallow learning curve for your users, but if you adopt Windows 8, that curve is considerably steeper whilst users grapple with the new user interface.  That said, Microsoft have taken on customer feedback, with the release of Windows 8.1 on October 17th which will sports the return of the Start button.

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The other major push factor for moving away from Windows XP is application software.  Whether the vendor is Microsoft or someone else, most software is still fully compatible with XP although that won’t always be the case.  Indeed if you’re hoping to upgrade your business applications to leverage new functionality then you will certainly need to advance to Windows 7 or Windows 8.  Ultimately once software vendors better understand how to get the most from 64-bit operating systems, the support for their older, XP compatible, versions will diminish.  Even the latest version of Office (2013) will not install on an XP platform so the line in the sand has already been drawn.

In conclusion, if you do still operate on computers running XP, take heed of the following steps:

  • Consider your applications: how their performance in a new Windows environment will affect your business and allow plenty of rollout time.
  • Keep Windows secure: always keep your machine updated from Windows Update, don’t neglect your antivirus and remember the user is the best defence to prevent infection.
  • Replacement hardware: whilst your old hardware worked fine for XP it probably will not work as well with modern incarnations of Windows.
  • Consider your infrastructure: if you’re thinking about migrating some or all of your business to the cloud then the push factors for upgrading Windows and its hardware are significantly mitigated as the useful life expectancy of older operating systems and older hardware are extended whilst processing and control are centralised.

By considering these points, you stand to make an effective transition between XP and your new operating system.

Christophe Boudet is Managing Director of Akita IT, in London.