The clock is ticking… Windows XP is EOL!

If you’re still holding onto Windows XP, you’re not alone!  In fact, market share for Windows XP has actually ticked up slightly in the last month! Despite an...

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If you’re still holding onto Windows XP, you’re not alone!  In fact, market share for Windows XP has actually ticked up slightly in the last month! Despite an EOL (End of Life) deadline looming just 34 days away, the 13-year-old Operating System (OS) still runs an astounding 29.53% share of desktop computers!

If you’re still running Windows XP and you don’t understand all the fuss surrounding EOL, then I suggest that you go here:  http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/enterprise/endofsupport.aspx and get the story direct from Microsoft. They will explain that your old friend XP is now going away and that you need to tithe them additional money for a new version of Windows in order to continue receiving technical support, bug fixes, and essential security updates to your computer. What they won’t tell you is that upgrading from XP on your existing hardware might not be easy or even possible, and if you want to use the latest Windows 7 or 8.1 you’re most likely going to have to invest in a new PC very soon!

For what it’s worth, I posted a warning here some 18 months ago regarding the XP EOL issue. In the article, I provided several suggestions for paths one might take to migrate away from XP. Most of those recommendations remain valid, but Windows 7 is no longer the most current OS from Microsoft. It remains however the one most likely to run on your existing hardware. It is also likely the easiest, for someone accustomed to the XP layout, to pickup and use without a facing a learning curve. If you’re a small business owner, and you must jump from XP because of compliance issues (e.g. HIPPA) then you’re probably about as well off to get on Windows 7 instead of jumping headlong into Windows 8 and it’s radically different user interface. Though some of the Windows 8 user interface shock can be cured by installing Windows Classic Shell it’s still a different beast. Windows 8 has also taken over the retail space so it’s unlikely that you can rush down to your favorite big box retailer and buy a new machine with Windows 7 while you’re on lunch break. You can still purchase machines with Windows 7, but you must look harder to find them. You also have the option of installing Windows 7 from scratch if you want to go that route. While Windows 8 has not been a barn burner for Microsoft, it does have some compelling new features, so now might be as good a time as any to jump onto that bandwagon if you have the cash and time to work the issues. Regardless of whether you choose Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, you will need to plan for some extra time to work out the issues of using and integrating it with your existing systems and processes.

If you’re a casual home user who mostly does e-mail and web surfing, and you don’t want to invest in a new PC or OS at this time, then you might consider trying out Linux instead of the Microsoft offerings. Linux is free, and distributions like Ubuntu are remarkably easy to use. Best of all, they will most likely run just fine on your existing hardware. If you’re not very computer savvy yourself, the switch to Linux can be a bit overwhelming, but my experience has been that anyone, from age 8 to 80, can easily use Linux once it’s properly configured for them. If you’re still running XP and don’t know what else to do, maybe now is the time to have your computer geek friend or neighbor over dinner and see if you can talk them into helping you make the move to Linux?

From a security perspective, I strongly recommend everyone move away from XP, but there are going to be cases where people are compelled to keep using it. If you’ve got a particular software package that only runs on XP or for which you can’t license to run on a new machine, then you’re going to need to find a way to keep using it safely. That means disconnecting it from the network and being super careful  to avoid viruses and malware. One option for doing this is to migrate your XP machine to a virtual machine. This will allow you to continue running XP safely from within a newer and supported operating system such as Linux or even Windows 8. I have done this myself to manage legacy software used in my RF/microwave laboratory and it works great! I use Xubuntu as the host operating system and fire up Windows XP in a virtual machine whenever I need to run my test instruments. With the virtual machine approach, the XP installation is safely isolated from the network and easy to restore from backup if something goes wrong. You’ll most likely want to have at least a dual or quad core CPU in your machine to go that route.

So, there you have it! You’ve got options and 34 days to do something. Get moving now before it’s too late!

JR

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