Microsoft Is Retiring Windows XP This Year

Just a few weeks after 9/11, tech giant Microsoft launched Windows XP to great success. Peaking in popularity sometime in 2007 when nearly 80% of desktop computers were running the operating system, Windows XP is arguably Microsoft’s most successful software to date. Now several years out of style, Windows XP, and its sister product Office 2003, are entering official retirement at Redmond. On April 8, 2014, Microsoft is terminating ongoing product development and support for both systems in favor of newer releases.

Every other version…

There is an anecdote among computing geeks that Microsoft operating systems are one-off successes. The argument goes that, starting with Windows 98, Microsoft has managed to alternate hits and misses almost perfectly against each other. Windows 98 was a success, ME a flop, XP a success, Vista a flop, Windows 7 a success, Windows 8 a flop (possibly a bad one, though the jury is really still out on this).

Endurance is a virtue

There is some data to support this perspective, but almost everyone agrees that Windows XP worked well. In fact, it’s so well liked in the market that its share of the desktop scene actually ticked up by half a percentage point back in 2013 despite Microsoft’s ominous warnings that support for the system was going close the next year. Vague security concerns and a lack of ongoing product updates, it seems, are no match for the fact that XP “just works;” especially on older hardware.

What, exactly, does Microsoft mean?

For many people, the lack of ongoing support doesn’t carry a lot of meaning. After all, Windows updates haven’t made substantive changes to the XP system for years; besides, updates are notoriously slow and obnoxious from a usage perspective. Who needs them, right? After 13 years in development, the product is pretty much perfect; isn’t it?

Like all really good questions, the answer is “it depends.” What you expect from Windows XP, and how you’ve deployed it, says a lot about whether or not you should really care about the impending retirement of the software giant. To be clear, the system will still work just like it always has. It’ll boot up, manage your computer, allow you to install and run programs, and connect you to the internet (through an appropriate browser, at least for now). But, the lack of support means that the longer you run the system past Microsoft’s deadline, the more vulnerable you potentially become to hacking, viruses, spy-ware, and other security threats.

This is because Microsoft will no longer be fixing any holes in the system that might come to light (which they do all the time, for every software). After April 8, if a hacker comes up with a really easy way to walk right into your XP system, Microsoft isn’t going to do a damn thing about it.

Should I care?

This should worry you, though if you are particularly attached to the system (or you don’t have it connected to the internet) then there are some ways to attempt to protect yourself without Microsoft’s help. While an upgrade to Windows 7 (it’s actually pretty good, really) is a more secure option, running Windows XP should still be manageable if you take a few basic precautions. Install and maintain modern anti-virus software. Work behind a hardware firewall (like the kind built into most home internet routers and almost all professional networking systems; in other words, don’t connect to open WiFi hotspots), use only modern (and updated) browser and email systems, avoid opening Office documents from other people (if you’re still using Office 2003 along with your XP dinosaur), and finally, take basic common sense precautions like never downloading files you aren’t sure about from random websites.

Alternatives

These things aren’t going to create a perfectly safe space for your XP fetish (we couldn’t go a whole article without at least one dig at your usage choices), but they can help. Ultimately however, you will want to consider moving on at some point; even if it’s not to Windows 8 (as Microsoft urges). Remember, Windows isn’t the only game in town these days. Mac OS has held onto a stable 10ish percent of the market for several years and newly user-friendly variations of the geek-popular Linux system (such as the free and very secure Ubuntu) are getting pretty close to becoming truly main-stream viable choices for many people. To shake things up even further, cloud-based systems, like Google’s Chrome operating system, and the continually impressive growth of mobile computing platforms (like Android) may make replacing your desktop  a lot easier than you may have thought.

While we understand a fond (or small pocketbook) attachment to older equipment, the reasons for staying tied to Windows of the past are shrinking daily.

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Kjeld Lindsted Kjeld Lindsted
Content Architecture, Copywriting, and Editing
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