Microsoft Windows XP End of Life: What This Means for Current XP Users

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With Microsoft’s deadline for the Windows XP end of life approaching soon, many XP users are wondering what it all means and what needs to be done to protect their computers and operating systems. Here are a few questions and insights to fill you in on what’s going on and what to consider as you move forward.

What does “end of life” for Windows XP mean?

Microsoft will end support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. This means that, on April 8, the Windows XP operating system will not have security updates or technical support available to keep your operating system running efficiently. If Windows XP is your current operating system, you will want to migrate to a modern operating system or replace your hardware for optimal efficiency and support.

Some additional info on this topic:

I have been in IT for quite some time and have been through a number of so-called “crises”— like Y2K — that ended up being non-events; therefore, I’m trying to give this latest issue the respect it deserves without going overboard. There are a lot of companies and vendors selling fear and panic in order to cash in on this event and deadline, but there are ways to tier your migration if you can’t make the deadline.

For example, I’ve spoken to two colleagues in particular regarding this issue: One is the director of IT for a very large hospital with multiple sites, and the other is head of IT Security for an airline.  Neither one of these individuals is going to have their organizations off of XP by the deadline. They are both looking at the areas where they have XP and transitioning critical machines, as well as machines that perform financial transactions. In addition to this, they are putting in compensating controls on all XP machines until they can be transitioned out. These additional controls include but aren’t limited to:

–          Good perimeter security (firewall with AV and IPS scanning)

–          Current and effective antivirus on the machines themselves

–          Removing local administrator privileges of the logged-in user

Should I upgrade my existing hardware or buy new?

Windows XP end of life
[Image by Ante Vekic]

I recommend replacing hardware versus upgrading XP to Windows 7 on existing hardware. XP cannot be directly upgraded to Windows 7 because Windows Vista is the operating system in between XP and 7. To move from XP to Windows 7, you must back up, reformat the machine, and install Windows 7 before restoring. This process takes longer than moving to new hardware and increases the loss of date risk due to reformatting the original machine.

The other reason I don’t recommend upgrading on existing hardware is that the operating system still has to be purchased (from what I am seeing depending on specials, this cost ranges from $99 – $199).  After spending this money, the usable life of the PC may only be extended for a short time. In addition to this short life span, there may be driver issues that could extend the time for setup. Considering all of these factors, I think money bundled into new hardware is a wiser investment and will actually cost less over the long run.

Should I move to Windows 7 or Windows 8?

Windows 8 is vastly different from Windows 7: Windows 8 is built for touchscreens. The minimum browser version for Windows 8 is Internet Explorer 10, and there are still many work sites that are not compatible with Internet Explorer 10.  As is the standard trend, Windows 8 is also more resource-intensive than Windows 7. For all of these reasons, I recommend moving to Windows 7 over Windows 8 — and looking at 8 later.  Windows 7 can be directly upgraded to Windows 8, so moving to 7 first can always serve as a step in upgrading to Windows 8 if you choose to do so.

For more information on the XP end of life, click here read more on the Microsoft website.

Written by Jason Steuernagel

Jason is the Principal of Momentum Technology Group and works in IT consulting, IT infrastructure design and management, cloud computing, virtualization, and disaster recovery planning and implementation. Click here to see Jason’s profile on LinkedIn.


[Featured image by Jakub Krechowicz]

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