As of April 8, 2014 Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP. This puts your computer and your data at serious risk that will only increase over time. If you are still running Windows XP after this date you are playing with fire in terms of data security.

This is not fear-mongering, and this is not a Microsoft plot to push everyone on to Windows 8. This is not about me trying to land new business. This is information that you should be aware of so that you can take the proper steps moving forward. I don’t want anyone to be surprised when the daily news starts over-hyping this on April 7th and telling you that your living room is going to be invaded by hackers.

That being said, your operating system IS obsolete, and you NEED to upgrade it. The sooner, the better. You have a variety of choices that you can make in regard to your upgrade path. RDB Interactive can help you with all of this and make it as painless as possible.

I’m sure you have a ton of questions after reading that. Let me answer some of the most common ones here.

What is Going to Happen on April 8, 2014?

Microsoft will officially end all support for Windows XP. In fact, mainstream support for Windows XP ended on April 14, 2009. The operating system will not cease to function, nor will you lose any data. You will be able to use your Windows XP machine indefinitely. However, no new security patches for Windows XP will be distributed, and Windows XP will remain vulnerable to new threats. Security patches are critical to the health of your operating system, your data, and your personal information.

As a side note to those of you running Vista: Vista mainstream support ended on April 10, 2012, and extended support will end on April 11, 2017

Why is Microsoft Doing This? Why Can’t They Just Support XP Indefinitely?

To use an analogy that most will understand, we’ll look at cars. You don’t see many people driving around in Ford Model A’s much anymore. The car has evolved to become faster, safer, more comfortable and efficient. Computers and their operating systems are not much different (for the sake of this analogy anyway). Over time, technology evolves. Hardware becomes much more powerful. The people that code operating systems can do more with the new hardware, and have learned and perfected new techniques to make the operating system faster, safer and more efficient. As time goes by, and users move on to the newer and better, justifying the cost of updating older operating systems becomes harder.

Windows XP was first introduced in 2001. At the end of its lifecycle, it will be 13 years old. This is an eternity in terms of computers, their operating systems and applications, and technology in general. Microsoft has been most generous in supporting it and dragging it along through three new operating system releases (Vista, 7, & 8).

What Does This Mean to Me?

This means that users who continue to use Windows XP after April 8, 2014 will “no longer receive new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support, or online technical content updates.”

Microsoft will, however, continue to push security updates to Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 until their respective lifecycles expire. But, When the new patches for the modern operating systems are released, attackers have the ability to reverse-engineer them and discover new ways to exploit the now un-patched versions of Windows that are still being used.

Despite any anti-virus software and firewalls that you are running, you run the risk that after the cut-off date “attackers will likely have more information about vulnerabilities in Windows XP than defenders.”

Windows XP has had a great run. It has been rock-solid for millions of users since its introduction, but it is now time to move on.

What Do I Do Now?

The choice is fairly easy, and not as daunting as it may seem, especially with the proper guidance. Many choices are available.

Windows 7 vs 8

Windows 7: Windows 7 with Service Pack 1, as of the time of this publication, will be supported until 2020. Upgrading to Windows 7 from Windows XP will require a fresh install. This means backing up your data, digging up your installation media for your software (or finding newer versions), and a very slight learning curve.

Windows 8: Windows 8, as of the time of this publication, will be supported until 2023. Upgrading to Windows 8 from Windows XP will also require a fresh install and involve a slightly higher learning curve than Windows 7. The upgrade process requires backing up your data, digging up your installation media for your software (or finding newer versions) and learning how to use or avoid using the”Modern” part of the new operating system (which isn’t even close to awful, as some might have you believe).

Linux Mint Desktop

Linux is another possible (and free) alternative. Many versions of Linux have matured into solid operating system choices. Many users even prefer Linux over Windows. Some of the available versions of Linux run extremely well on older hardware, and can breathe new life into it, saving you the cost of purchasing new hardware.

Moving to a Linux operating system will also require a fresh install, there is no way to go from Windows to Linux without starting from scratch. Your data, however, can be saved and moved over to the new operating system, and most, if not all of it will be readable by Linux applications.

A move in this direction includes a couple of caveats. First it requires you to learn a new operating system which, depending on the flavor of Linux you choose can be a fairly simple task. Second, there is the issue of finding alternatives to your Windows applications that will work on Linux. Most Windows applications have alternatives built for the Linux environment that work just as well as their Windows counterparts.

OSX Mountain Lion Desktop

Mac – OSX: Finally, there is always the Apple ecosystem. This choice will require that you purchase new hardware to run the Mac operating system, and applications that will run in the Mac environment. While certainly a more costly alternative than the other choices, it is a solid environment that can run (Mac versions of) some Windows software. So, those of you that need Microsoft Office or Adobe applications will have the option to purchase and install the appropriate versions of that software on your new Mac.

As with moving to Linux, moving to the Mac operating system will also require a fresh install, there is no way to go from Windows to Mac without starting from scratch. Once again, your data can be saved and moved over to the new operating system, and most, if not all of it will be readable by Mac applications.

Obviously this is a lot to digest for those of you who rely on sitting down at your computer and having it just work for you without giving any thought to the technical aspects of it. This is where I come in.

I can sit down with you and discuss all of your options for your upgrade so that you end up with the exact set-up that you require. I can upgrade your existing hardware, or help you in the choice of new hardware. I can install and configure your new operating system for you, and I can train you and answer any questions that you may have while you adjust to using it.

Just give me a call, or send me a message, and we will sit down together and move you into a new safe, secure environment as painlessly as possible.