When technology historians look back at our era, they may recognise the early years of the twenty-first century as Peak Windows. And for most of that time, the top version of Microsoft’s operating system was Windows XP.
Now after 13 years of loyal, mainly reliable service, Microsoft has taken everyone’s favourite pet for one last drive to the vet.
It won’t be coming back.
From last week, Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP. That means no more updates and no more security patches.
When, inevitably, researchers find a security flaw in a more modern version of Windows, it’ll be fixed. But not XP.
Here come the crooks
Every cybercrook on the planet will know about the vulnerability. The code-literate ones will be able to write software to exploit it, the less technical crooks will get their hands on the software too.
There’s no rational excuse for not updating from Windows XP.
If you have bespoke apps written for the OS, there are ways to run them in more modern versions of Windows. There are compatibility modes and virtual machines. If those approaches don’t work, the apps are almost certainly risky anyway.
If your hardware is too old and feeble to run a more modern version of Windows, hold your head in shame you cheapskate. A spanking new PC will cost you less than you paid for that copy of XP when it was brand new 13 years ago.
Even if you are on a limited budget you can pick up a second-hand machine capable of running Windows 7 for next to nothing on an auction site.
If you just plain hate newer versions of Windows, buy a Mac or a Chromebook, or get a copy of Ubuntu Linux.
Windows XP huggers in government
There are dozens of cheapskate or lazy corporations and government departments who haven’t got around to upgrading from XP. They can buy expensive, custom support from Microsoft. It’ll quickly work out to be more costly than upgrading.
The British and Dutch governments have signed up to pay. So have US government departments. It’s not as if they haven’t had years to get ready for the end of XP support.
Small companies and individuals don’t even have the option of a support contract. When, last November, I asked Microsoft NZ’s Dean Edwards if they could buy custom support he said prices are likely to start in the million dollar range.
Heartbleed wake-up call
While the Heartbleed exploit doesn’t specifically attack Windows, as far as we know, it is a wake-up call. The bug attacks websites and no doubt Windows XP equipped computers will connect to those sites. Microsoft isn’t planning to update XP to deal with the risks, so, days after the end of support XP users are already on the back-foot when it comes to the biggest threat in recent times.
If you simply must use XP, consider a third-party security product. There are free ones, but the best require a subscription, you may be better off tipping that money into newer kit. And be warned, while third-party security software companies will carry on supporting XP for as long as there’s a viable market, that may not be long. At best you’ll get a couple of years.
Although I’m usually supportive of people eking out their technology for as long as possible — a lot of upgrades don’t bring productivity gains — my advice is to move on from XP as soon as possible. Decent spanking new Windows laptops and desktops (without touch screens) can be had for less than $500. There’s at least one Windows laptop on sale in New Zealand for around $400.
Frankly, if XP is meeting all your needs, then you could probably get buy with a tablet. They can be even cheaper. One simple security breach could cost you so much more than new kit. Upgrade. Please.