Software usually has a short shelf life, but Windows XP has become a dynasty. Microsoft released its longest-running operating system in 2001, and 13 years and four Windows OS upgrades later, Netmarketshare.com finds it still runs nearly 30% of the world’s computers and most of the world’s ATMs.
Due to this high usage, Microsoft regularly delayed ending support for the now-antique operating system. But the company has also spent the last two years urging users to move to a newer OS, most recently Windows 8.1.
And, as of April 8, Microsoft no longer supports XP, meaning it won’t issue updates or fixes.
What this means for XP refugees
First, hackers will now be free to paw through the system, chewing more holes and adding all sorts of leaks and viruses. No one will be there to block those holes. Second, hardware manufacturers and third-party software developers will drop XP from being included in updates and changes. Eventually, things will just stop working.
What to do
It’s possible, though unlikely, that your computer can run Windows 8.
To find out if it can, go to windows.microsoft.com and search “Support is ending for Windows XP.” The resulting page takes you through the checking process.
If your computer can’t run Windows 8, consider buying a new one that can. (The old one was going to die soon, anyway.) You can get a robust laptop or desktop computer for $500—though it will no longer have a phone jack, or a floppy-disk drive. (But you no longer need them.)
Or, if you simply can’t stand the idea of switching, you have two courses of action.
- Find a computer that runs Windows 7, which looks similar to XP.
- Upgrade to Windows 8 (which requires that new computer), then download Classic Shell. It’s free software that makes Windows 8 look like XP.
You could also replace your old machine with a Chromebook, Linux or Mac. This lets you bypass Windows 8 altogether, but would most likely require you to buy all new software, as well as learn a new operating system (or, in the case of a Chromebook, learn to operate in Google’s cloud environment).
What if I need XP?
If vital CRM and other software seem like they won’t run on systems newer than XP, consider these options.
- Check if the software can run on Windows 8, since you can sometimes trick software into thinking it’s running on an older OS. Go to Control Panel > Action Centre > Windows Program Compatibility Troubleshooter, and follow the instructions.
- Buy a Windows 7 or 8-compatible version of the software.
- Set up an emulator (I suggest virtualbox.org). This type of software lets you run other operating systems within your main operating system. In this case, you’ll be running Windows 7 or 8, and then launching the emulator program to allow you to run XP within its own window. Then, you’d install the XP-compatible program, but could only use it when the emulator is launched.
- Use that mission-critical software only while offline to avoid contracting a virus or being hacked.
My personal XPerience
I updated my server a few years ago because it was still running XP. To avoid having to upgrade every time new software is released, I decided to move all files to the Cloud using a secure service called Cubby.
The service lets us sync the documents between my practice’s five computers, two tablets and my phone.