Monday, September 26, 2022

Dear UnGarbled-Tech,

I have 3 PCs on Windows XP. The PCs are starting to run slowly but otherwise are fine. What are the effects of Windows XP expiring on April 8th 2014?

R.F. - Teaneck

Hi R.F. I’m happy you asked this, as pretty much everyone deals with a Windows system at some point during their day, whether it’s buying food at the bagel store or checking your own email.

On April 8th Microsoft’s Windows XP reaches the end of its support life. This does not mean the operating system will stop functioning. It does mean that Microsoft will no longer release software patches and security updates. These updates are crucial to maintaining the usability of a PC. Let me explain why.

Every time a piece of software reaches mass use, it becomes an enticement for hackers and exploiters, as they can look into its code and find vulnerabilities that will allow them to mine your personal information. Microsoft, alongside all other software developers, releases updates to shore up these vulnerabilities. However, at a certain point, as programming techniques evolve, software can become so outdated that it no longer pays to keep investing resources in closing up its weak points.

To put this in perspective, XP was released 13 years ago. My son is now 14 years old. When XP was released he was wearing a onesie. Today he has the beginnings of a mustache and a deep voice. This seems like a funny example, but it does express my point. An incoming freshman in high school may have never used XP in their lives.

As an IT consultant this is a tough column to write. It’s always challenging to advise users to purchase new PCs. But, the world keeps evolving.

These changes are industry wide. It is not just a coincidence that Apple’s most recent OSX upgrade was free. They were also trying to encourage as many users as possible to get on board with the most easily securable systems.

Moreover, it has become very important to encourage people to move on from XP because it really is three iterations of out-of-date software. Suffice it to say the release of Windows Vista turned into a fiasco (which is outside the scope of this column, but feel free to ask me about it in person), and so, many software companies didn’t embrace Windows 7 because they lacked confidence after Vista. This left many users stuck with legacy software that only worked on XP.

But I hope business owners will take my word for this, waiting for the vendors to come to you to tell you to upgrade is a disaster waiting to happen. If your work PCs are running XP, call all your software vendors. Ask them if they have a Windows 7 or 8 upgrade. If they don’t, I wouldn’t wait, find a new software vendor. It’s never a good sign to see that your software is stuck on outdated hardware. You might even find that these companies no longer even support an XP product they released.

If you’re a home user and you’re in the market to purchase a new PC, reach out to your local IT professional. They can help you migrate your data to a new PC. (See UnGarbled-Tech Backups if you want to do this on your own). It’ll take a week or so to get used to Windows 7 or 8, but don’t worry, before you know it, the new OS will be second nature.

For businesses, if your PCs are still using XP, new PCs really should be purchased. Business data really must be handled properly. I encourage you to get a full- or part-time IT professional to help you with a hardware upgrade. But have no fear, those old machines are not always totally useless. Some of my colleagues have come up with some inventive ways of using old XP PCs. For instance, turning them into a NAS (network attached storage), donating the XP PCs to charity, or even just scavenging them for parts and properly e-cycling the rest. But my recommendation is, if you still have old XP PCs in your home or office, don’t leave them connected to the Internet.

“I am so glad we had this time together” XP - Carol Burnett

By Schneur Garb

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