Windows XP support ends April 8. What does it mean for you?

REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel/Files

REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel/Files

Syd Bolton, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:29 PM ET

I never regretted that decision, but when a similar laptop made its way to me years later, I was happy to put Windows XP on it. By that time, XP had matured into a much more stable operating system with vast support in the marketplace for both hardware and programs.

In fact, XP went on for the last 12 years to be arguably the most successful operating system Microsoft ever built. It runs on the some of the lowest hardware configurations right through to more modern systems although, understandably, its most comfortable somewhere in the middle.

Microsoft has announced that on April 8, technical assistance for Windows XP will end, and the automatic updates that patch known security issues will no longer be available. Microsoft will also no longer provide Microsoft Security Essentials for download on XP, but those currently running this add-on will still continue to receive updates for an unspecified period. So what does this mean for the average person still running XP?

First and foremost, relax. Your computer will still continue to function and operate as it always has. The biggest potential risk is that as new threats to computer's are uncovered your machine may not be up to the task of dealing with it. Before throwing in the towel, let's try and assess your situation.

If you are still using Windows XP on a computer that you use frequently, ask yourself if that computer needs to be connected to the internet. In my experience, many people are still using Windows XP to play games that they enjoy that won't run on more modern computers (or at least, that is what they are lead to believe). If this is you, simply unplug your computer from the internet and it will continue to function happily in the corner as it always has. Without the risk of getting infected from the outside world, the machine will stay happy.

Secondly, learn to be a better, smarter user. Security expert Steve Gibson (grc.com) has publicly stated that "they're going to have to rip Windows XP out of my cold dead heads" before he will stop using it. He has indicated that the operating system, even with its flaws, is still the best choice for him and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Granted, Gibson is a super user. But by not opening attachments in e-mails, staying away from downloading programs with malware-embedded toolbars, and just being more "aware" of what you are doing, you can be safe and secure too.

Upgrading is always a choice. Keep in mind that if you are currently running Windows XP that your hardware may not be strong enough to go Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. The good news is that the cost of computers continues to plummet, especially as tablets seem to be taking over the middle space quite handsomely. If you are willing to "settle" for a desktop computer, there are a number of bargains out there. And remember, you don't necessarily need the latest and greatest. Last year's model will likely suit you just fine.

If you plan on keeping your XP machine for a while, (research suggests that up to 30% of active computers out there still use XP) you may want to use an offline updater such as WSUS. This tool will help you get all of the current updates onto the computer so that you can burn it to a CD or copy them to a USB stick so that you can still apply all of the updates without using the Internet in the future. This can be handy if you ever have to re-install the operating system and are worried Microsoft will no longer provide updates.

While it is always sad to say goodbye to a good friend, Windows XP did serve us well and I think will continue to do so for quite a while yet. Just because Microsoft has moved on doesn't mean you have to. Then again, there is nothing as constant as change.

Syd Bolton is the curator of the Personal Computer Museum and the manager of Information Technology at ACIC/Methapharm.  You can reach him via e-mail at sbolton@bfree.on.ca or on Twitter @sydbolton.

 

 


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