Windows XP, having reached the ripe old age of 12 (this is downright ancient in computer years) is finally being put out to pasture. Microsoft plans to end long term support on April 8, 2014. While most would agree that the old girl has certainly earned the right to a peaceful retirement, Microsoft’s announcement has left many people scratching their heads as to what this means for them. In their attempt to sell more copies of Windows 8, Microsoft has resorted to scare tactics to convince people to purchase their newest product. Beginning March 8, computers that still have Windows XP installed will begin getting pop-ups telling them to upgrade, or be open to attack by viruses. But do you really need to upgrade? Is your computer going to become useless all of a sudden on April 8? What does Windows XP’s End of Life really mean, and how will it affect you?

All that the end of long term support really means is that Microsoft will no longer release new updates for Windows XP or offer any technical support whatsoever. Anyone who has ever tried to get support from Microsoft knows that it was pretty much nonexistent to begin with so this won’t be a major change. On the other hand, no longer receiving updates has the potential to be problematic.

Computer programs are incredibly complex. Operating systems like Windows XP are orders of magnitude more complex than regular software. A lot of work goes into translating the 1’s and 0’s that the computer understands into the display that you see and interact with. When a new version of Windows is released, there are still quite a few problems that need to be worked out. Some of these problems go unnoticed, others can make your system unstable, but the most dangerous are the ones that leave you open to attack from viruses and hackers. Windows’ automatic updates are designed to fix these problems as they are discovered. There is a constant battle between virus writers finding and exploiting security holes and Microsoft engineers racing to plug them up. Beginning April 8, the engineers will be giving up and moving on as far as XP is concerned.

How does this affect you? First of all, if you don’t know whether or not you are running XP, visit AmIRunningxp.com to find out. If not, then feel free to disregard this whole article. If you are running XP, then you need to decide whether or not you will upgrade. Realize that most PC’s that shipped with XP are getting pretty old themselves. They are starting to slow down and may even completely die in the near future. We already aren’t seeing very many of these PC’s at our Provo computer repair shop. For most of these machines, upgrading to Windows 7 or 8 is probably not going to be cost effective. A better choice would be to buy a computer that is more up to date.

Another option is to just wait and see what happens after the April 8, deadline. Many techs, myself included, would like to think that after 12 years of polishing, Windows XP should be pretty air-tight. I don’t think it will be the doom & gloom virus apocalypse that many are predicting. Most infections these days come in through exploits in other software anyway. I have a few older systems in service that are still running XP and I’m not planning to replace them until they break down on their own. I have started budgeting for their eventual replacement though.

Whether or not you decide to upgrade, you do need to make sure that you have a good anti-virus program running and that all your other programs are up to date. Be aware that most free anti-viruses just aren’t up to snuff anymore. If you need help, our computer repair technicians would be more than happy to answer your questions and discuss your options. We have a decent selection of used & refurbished computers for sale that may meet your needs. At CompuClinic, we’re sad to see the end of an era come to a close. Windows XP has given us over a decade of faithful service, but now it is finally time to say, “Goodbye.” Enjoy your retirement, good friend.

NOTE: If you are running a business you really should upgrade as soon as possible.  Relying on obsolete equipment and software for mission critical work is never a good idea.

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