That fateful day is coming, and it’s coming fast. April 8th, 2014 will mark the end of Microsoft‘s support for Windows XP and Office 2003. After that date Microsoft will no longer be providing important security updates to the operating system and office suite. With an estimated 500 million PCs still running XP this is going to be a big problem. Find out what this means for you and what you can do about it if you are still on XP.
What end of support means for you.
With Microsoft ending it’s support of Windows XP you will no longer receive important security updates that keep your data safe from attacks and viruses. Your computer will still continue to work, but it will become more vulnerable to all of the malicious stuff that is floating around the web. With Microsoft ending support for XP, IE 8 will also not be supported any longer, which will make browsing the web on an XP computer even more dangerous. You can always switch to Firefox or Chrome (which you should) but this will not fix the fact you are still using a potentially dangerous operating system. Worse yet, many security researchers are theorizing that many cyber-criminals are purposely waiting to release exploits until after April 8th, specifically with the intent that Microsoft will not be offering a patch to fix these vulnerabilities. Now this may or may not be true, only time will tell, but I wouldn’t wait to find out.
What to do if you are using Windows XP
PANIC! Just kidding, don’t do that. The easiest way to solve this problem is to upgrade your computer or buy a new one altogether. Easier said than done, I know, upgrades take time and cost money, but it is something that needs to be done. You may be able to upgrade your existing XP computer to Windows 7, you can download the Microsoft Upgrade Advisor and see if your computer is compatible with a newer operating system. There is a good chance however that buying a new PC is going to be your best option, especially if you are looking for longevity.
If you are looking to stay with Windows you have two options you can go with, Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Both have their pros and cons. Windows 7 has been shipping for a few years and has tons of compatible hardware and software. The downside is that because it has been around for a few years, its end of life will come sooner than Windows 8. Windows 8 is Microsoft’s latest operating system, a lot of people have had difficulty transitioning into the new user interface, especially in a business setting. The upside of Windows 8 is that it will continue to receive updates for the next 10 years.
If you are unable to upgrade to a new computer or operating system because you are running software that is not compatible with newer versions of Windows or you simply cannot afford it there are a few things you can still do to better protect yourself.
- Stop using Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer is considered a ‘component’ of the operating system so it will no longer receive important security updates. Google Chrome or Firefox would be your best bet.
- Stop using Outlook. Office 2003 will stop being supported at the same time as XP. I would recommend switching to an email client like Thunderbird instead. It is made by Mozilla the same people that make Firefox. I would also recommend using LibreOffice as your Office software. It is completely free and will work with all of your existing Microsoft Office documents.
- Install Anti-virus software. In a recent blog post Microsoft did say they will be extending Virus definitions for Microsoft Security Essentials for XP until July 14, 2015. This helps, but does not solve the problem, it merely places a band-aid over a growing wound. A lot of the major anti-virus software providers will continue to support XP until 2016 so installing 3rd party Anti-virus protection is definitely something you should do if you plan on continuing to use XP.
An Alternative Approach
There is another alternative to consider as well for your XP computer. You could break free of your Microsoft chains entirely and install Linux. Linux is a Free and Open Source operating system. In years past this operating system was reserved only for the techiest of geeks, but in recent years several user and beginner friendly distributions have emerged making it very easy and enjoyable to install and use the operating system. Many of the different versions of Linux provide what is called a LiveCD version, which allows you to burn the operating system to a CD or DVD and try it out, without actually needing to install it. It doesn’t change anything on your computer so if you end up not liking it you don’t need to worry as your current setup is still intact. Check back here next month when I will cover a few easy-to-use Linux distributions that can help breath new life into your (formerly) XP computer.