After a twelve year relationship, Microsoft officially pulled the plug on Windows XP on April 8, 2014. The technology empire has decided to invest its resources into “more recent technologies” that allow it to continue delivering “great new experiences” to users, according to a statement on the company website.
The original end-of-service announcement came back in 2006, but nearly 30 percent of desktop users are still clinging to the aging operating system, according to real time web analytics from Net Applications.* So Windows XP loyalists are faced with a decision now that the hourglass has emptied—do you continue business as usual or upgrade to a newer PC?
If you’re part of the 30 percent whose computer is equipped with Windows XP, you’re probably wondering why the change happened, how it will affect you and what options you have.
We enlisted Rasmussen College tech expert Mark Relf to provide some insight around the Microsoft/Windows XP split and how it will impact users like you.
Why is Microsoft terminating its support of Windows XP?
“You just can’t continue to support applications forever,” Relf says. He says the separation of Microsoft and Windows XP has been long overdue.
"You just can't continue to support an application forever."
In fact, Windows XP was launched in 2001, making it more than 12 years old. (That’s ancient in tech years!) Much like VHS tapes and T9 texting have been dethroned in the past decade, the time has come to lay the outdated operating system to rest.
Microsoft operates on an 18-month generation cycle, which means an updated version of its operating system is born every year and a half, Relf explains. This means Microsoft has released eight updates since Windows XP. The newest operating system they offer today is Windows 8.1.
The bottom line: Microsoft has no choice but to part ways with old technology if it wants to continue creating and supporting cutting-edge technology
What implications does the change have for Windows XP Users?
First and foremost, Relf says, it’s important to know that there is no reason to panic. Computers equipped with Windows XP are not going to detonate or spontaneously combust. In fact, the operating system will continue to function regularly.
The only difference is that Microsoft will no longer provide XP users with routine security updates or technical support, as stated on its website. As a result, continued use of the operating system will make your computer more susceptible to viruses and security threats, Relf explains.
He estimates there are more than a thousand new infiltration methods created each day by individuals using technology maliciously. When Microsoft encounters vulnerabilities, it creates a security patch to combat the threat which is then distributed as a Windows update.
The bottom line: Windows XP will continue running but users should be aware of the security risks involved with using the unsupported operating system.
How should Windows XP users respond to the change?
Now that you have a better understanding of the Windows/XP split and how it affects you, the question remains: What are your options moving forward?
Relf helped us outline two options to help you determine the best course of action after April 8.
Option 1: Continue using Windows XP without support
If you’re the kind of person who believes “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” then you may opt to stick with your current operating system. If you’re happy with your computer and are content with waiting a bit longer for pages to load, it makes perfect sense to remain loyal to XP.
“Believe it or not, there are still people out there who have Windows 95 on their computer and they run it just fine and dandy,” Relf says.
While this option does leave you exposed to possible security threats, Relf says there are ways to mitigate those risks. Downloading new software applications is one of the most common ways to introduce new viruses to your computer.
The good news, according to Relf, is that it’s not likely anyone is developing new software applications to run on a 12-year-old operating system. The biggest risk that remains if you continue using Windows XP occurs when installing a new device to your computer, such as a printer or video card.
In the event that you do need to install a new device, Relf encourages using reputable websites to do so. You can reduce the risk of acquiring malware by going through a trustworthy manufacturer’s website.
Option 2: Upgrade to a PC with a newer operating system
Having to purchase a new computer can be a daunting (and expensive) decision. But the truth is that computer systems equipped with Windows XP were likely purchased between 2003 and 2008. Surprisingly, as the capabilities of technology have increased through the past decade, the prices of personal computers have actually decreased.
Relf says it’s important to keep in mind that purchasing a new tablet, laptop or desktop computer today is going to cost roughly half what it would have 5-10 years ago. So upgrading to a new PC may not be as severe of an investment as you originally anticipated.
In leaving behind Windows XP, Microsoft is simply passing the baton to newer technologies that provide innovative features and help streamline processes for users. Some examples of the improved features you would gain with Windows 8.1 are mobile device management, web application proxy and Wi-Fi direct printing (follow the link to learn more!)
Make the right decision for you
Relf’s final advice to Windows XP users who have yet to make a decision is to evaluate your current equipment and determine if there is a need to update. He suggests you utilize the helpful resources Microsoft provided on it’s website to assist users during this transition.
At the end of the day, the choice is yours as far as how you’d like to respond to the Microsoft/Windows XP split. You’ve already taken the first step in making a wise decision by spending some time becoming familiar with the situation and exploring your options.
*Statistics reflect real-time data from the date of publication.