Windows XP End of Life Support Information

Microsoft Windows XPNo product is perfect, and Microsoft’s Windows Operating Systems (OS) are no exception to that rule.

Microsoft is aware of this, which is why they offer ongoing updates for their products in the form of Windows Updates. These are primarily security updates which patch known vulnerabilities in their operating systems to ensure that the OS is as secure as they can reasonably make it. These updates vary from negligible to extremely critical, but are all required to keep a computer safe in the always-on-the-internet world that businesses operate in today.

On April 8th 2014, Microsoft will stop issuing updates for Windows XP. This is something of a momentous thing to be happening, as it’s the first time there’s been a major OS this heavily in use when Microsoft ends support on it.

The last OS to get this treatment was Windows 2000 back in July of 2010, but by that point pretty much everyone had transitioned from Windows 2000 to XP.  Now that XP is as popular as it ever was (almost 14 years later), there are still a lot of machines in use with XP and they will no longer be getting updates.

What does this mean for Windows XP users?

It means that as of April 9th, 2014, any and all security vulnerabilities found in Windows XP will no longer be fixed by Microsoft. That means that any computer running Windows XP will have a higher-risk of being successfully compromised by malware looking to gain access to, and control over computers running Windows.

According to Tim Rains (the director of Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing Group):

“The very first month that Microsoft releases security updates for supported versions of Windows, attackers will reverse-engineer those updates, find the vulnerabilities and test Windows XP to see if it shares them.”

Essentially, Windows XP shares a good deal of software code with Windows 7 and Windows 8 (as well as Vista). So, if the vulnerability that gets patched in Windows 7 also exists in Windows XP, then hackers will know that there’s a security vulnerability in XP that will never be patched. At that point, attackers can focus their viruses/malware on a program that exploits the vulnerability, rather than:

  1. try to find a vulnerability that hasn’t been patched
  2. write a virus that tries to compromise the computer using a heretofore unknown vulnerability
  3. write a virus that works without needing a vulnerability.

With Windows XP still being as popular as it is – estimates put Windows XP’s install share still at around 30% of PCs – it’s an obvious and high-profile target for hackers in this situation.

What can Windows XP users do?

There really is only one solution to ensuring that Windows XP machines are kept safe after April 8th: take the computers off the internet, and only use/install programs from known sources.  That means the computer has no avenues of virus infection or exploit of the security vulnerabilities that are now known.

Option: Replace your Windows XP Computer(s)

The best bet is to replace any Windows XP computers that are in use now with Windows 7 or 8 computers (we’re still recommending Windows 7 in most all cases) to ensure that your computers continue to be updated and secure.

Option #2: Upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 or 8

There is an option of upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7, but there’s a cost involved in that. That money, once spent, cannot be recouped.

The time involved in doing the upgrade (or reinstall) of the OS needs to be taken into consideration,  in addition to the fact that once the license for Windows 7 has been used on one machine, it cannot be used on another. So, you’re taking a (potentially) 2-4 year old computer and spending a few hundred dollars on it, when it may make more financial sense to just get a new computer with Windows 7/8 on it.

Are there any other options?

There is a possibility that Microsoft might continue to issue updates for Windows XP.  This end-of-life is a HUGE issue, and as mentioned, nearly 30% of PCs in use right now are running Windows XP.

Come April 8th, hundreds of thousands of computers will suddenly stop getting updates, making them more susceptible to viruses and malware.  However, there are no guarantees that Microsoft will be extending support (they’ve actually extended it once already to get us to this point), so it’s best to plan ahead to make a migration and have a plan.

Need help making the switch from Windows XP?

Contact us if you need help moving your organization from Windows XP to Windows 7/8. We can help you plan the migration process and help minimize the impact on day-to-day operations.

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