10 March 2014
Why should I upgrade from Windows XP?
Microsoft Windows XP is a great operating system and has always been a personal favourite of mine. However, with less than 30 days to its official retirement on 8th April 2014, now is the time to seriously consider upgrading to something newer.
What does this actually mean though? Every week, I still come across a lot of computers that are still running Windows XP and their owners are blissfully unaware of the potential risks ahead. In a nutshell, after 8th April 2014, Microsoft will no longer provide any updates, including fixes to any security holes or other vulnerabilities, after this date. This is of particular importance because the majority of security fixes that are released for newer versions of Windows that are currently supported, like Windows 7, very often apply to Windows XP as well.
This potentially, and very likely, means that computer virus writers, hackers, scammers or anybody else with malicious intent, can very easily identify vulnerabilities in a computer that is running Windows XP, by a process called reverse engineering. Effectively, a computer hacker can uncover a security patch for Windows 7, ‘see’ the security hole and then test whether the same hole exists on Windows XP. If it does, any computers using Windows XP, are wide open to attack and there won’t be any patches to fix the issue.
You might think your antivirus software will keep you safe. However, a lot of antivirus software vendors have released their plans, with many of them choosing only to support Windows XP for a further two years. Microsoft Security Essentials will no longer be supported for Windows XP after July next year. You can view a list of antivirus software that will continue working on Windows XP after April. It should also go without saying, that even if you continue using Windows XP with up-to-date antivirus software, your computer is still vulnerable to threats as antivirus software cannot protect your system from all vulnerabilities.
These days, spyware, adware, phishing scams, ransomware and a whole lot of other types of malware are distributed to computers via the web browser. The latest version of Internet Explorer is version 11. However, for Windows XP, only up to and including Internet Explorer 8 is compatible. At the moment, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have stated that they will continue to support Windows XP for the near future. If you do continue using Windows XP, you should switch from Internet Explorer to either Google Chrome or Firefox to benefit from the latest browser security and it’s important to continue keeping your software up to date. To use Mozilla Firefox, you will need to ensure that you have Service Pack 3 installed.
Hardware and Software Differences
Whenever you purchase a new hardware device, most often it will come with some sort of installation process. To make the hardware work with your computer, the device has to install a piece of software, known as a driver. Some devices will include their own installation disk, or they may install themselves with Windows Update. A lot of hardware manufacturers have already stopped supporting Windows XP and this is likely to increase with newer devices. This means newer devices, such as webcams, printers and digital cameras, may not work with Windows XP.
Similarly, a lot of software applications are written and rely upon a framework to run. A framework gives the developer a set of tools to make writing software easier and quicker and can also improve reliability. The most popular framework for Windows software, is Microsoft .NET Framework. At the moment, the latest version is 4.5 for Windows Vista and newer versions only, whilst XP’s last version is 4.0. As the .NET Framework 4.0 ages, fewer applications will become available for Windows XP, including updates. You might find an application that you currently use, is no longer supported by its vendor and you are no longer entitled to support for that particular product.
After 8th April 2014, Microsoft will no longer provide technical support for Windows XP. If you do run in to problems with your computer, most computer repair companies will probably continue to offer support but it may be limited. Berserk Computers, for instance, will continue to provide technical support to users of Windows XP and repairs to issues affecting XP’s performance. However, Berserk Computers will no longer provide re-installation services for Windows XP. This means, that where your computer’s current installation of Windows XP cannot be fixed without a reinstall, Berserk Computers will not be able to provide you with this service as we do not recommend our customers use an unsupported system.
So, what now?
Just because Windows XP is no longer supported, doesn’t mean to say you need to buy a new computer. Your current computer might well be able to run a newer version of Windows without requiring any hardware upgrades. I frequently come across old computers that are capable of running the latest version of Windows without any upgrades necessary. Where upgrades are required, it is usually only minimal and typically, more memory (RAM) is required. Fortunately, memory is not expensive and is an easy upgrade, which a lot of users might even wish to try themselves. I would recommend trying Mr Memory to find the best value memory that your computer requires, or try the automatic scan.
Computer repair companies, like Berserk Computers, will likely offer a system inspection or healthcheck service to check that your current computer can be upgraded and provide you with a quote for any necessary hardware upgrades and the cost of upgrading Windows for you. You might be surprised to find that upgrade prices for Windows XP can be from as little as £48.
Don’t like Windows 8?
I often hear users complain that they don’t like Windows 8 or the changes that have been made are too different from what they are used to with Windows XP. It does not take long to learn Windows 8 with a proper tutorial, which again, most computer repair companies, like ourselves, will offer. If you don’t like the new Start screen, it can be disabled completely and a replacement Start menu can be provided, which will make the system appear more familiar to you. Stardock’s Start8 is an excellent example of a replacement Start menu.
If you strongly dislike Windows 8, even moving to Windows 7 would be a recommended upgrade. Windows 7 is likely to be supported for a few more years and is also a very robust platform. It’s not too different from Windows XP, if you fear the learning curve of Windows 8 is too big. Most hardware and software currently supports Windows 7 and you may find your existing devices continue to work without any issue.