What you Should Do if You (Still) Run Windows XP

Just an FYI – Microsoft is officially ending support on 2014-04-08…

gravestoneI’ve skirted around this issue a couple different times.  However, if you’re a consumer and you’re still using Windows XP, you have just a little bit of time to figure out what you want to do. Around Tax Time next year, the 15 year party comes to a close.

So, what should you do?  Great question. My good friend, and former Editorial Director of BYTE, Larry Seltzer wrote an interesting article on this today. It’s funny, because I had the same questions poised to me by an aunt who isn’t very computer savvy. She asked pretty much the same question Larry’s relative asked –

Why should I upgrade a computer that’s working just fine?

Let’s look at that quickly, and then look at what you can do.

Why You Should Upgrade from Windows XP

The simple and short answer is for security purposes.

Windows XP has been around since 1999. That’s almost 15 years by the time Microsoft officially stops supporting it via Windows Update.  As an operating system, it’s an extremely well known quantity and most of its flaws and problems are very well known.

Microsoft has been issuing security patches for it (and older versions of Internet Explorer – IE 9 and older) for a very long time. If you’re still using Windows XP because its ok, doing what it’s supposed to be doing and you’re just not a person who wants to update your computer’s operating system, I understand.  I understand completely.  However, as my Nana used to say – “the party’s over…”

Malware developers (or hackers) are going to be hoping you just don’t upgrade. They’re banking on you hating the idea of upgrading an existing computer to Windows 7 or Windows 8.x SO much, that you stay on Windows XP.  At that point, after 2013-04-08, they’re going to start hitting websites and perhaps your mail server or your PC directly with Phishing attacks, Zero Day exploits and other malware so they can steal personal and private information that either contains financial information or will lead them to it.

Make no mistake, there are criminals everywhere on the planet who WILL try this, and keeping your computer on Windows XP isn’t just you laughing in the face of danger, it’s you begging to be hacked.  In many cases, people don’t know they’re being infected with a virus or other malware. Its only AFTER the infection has set in – after the damage is done – that they see the problems.

So, get used to the idea.  You have 7 months as of this writing to figure out what you want to do.  Once you make the decision to bite the bullet, you have a couple of options.

What you Should Do

This is a GREAT question and it’s a great question to ask now – at this time of year – because there are a number of options open to consumers.  You have back to school sales as well as the upcoming 2013 Holiday Season sales to look forward to, to help you out.  It also gives you some time to get comfortable with the decision.

So basically, you have 2 choices –

  • Upgrade your Existing PC
  • Purchase a New PC

Let’s take a quick look at both. There are Pros and Cons to both scenarios.

Upgrade Your Existing PC

Pros:

  • (May be More) Cost Effective
  • (Probably) No Additional Hardware Required

Cons:

  • No direct upgrade path from XP to Windows 7
  • Must Wipe and clean install for direct to Windows 7
  • Additional software upgrades may be required
  • Windows XP PC’s may not work well with Windows 8 (a clean install is still required)

In many cases, upgrading is always the cheaper route, but in this case, it may not be. There’s no direct upgrade path from Window XP to Windows 7. In order to keep all of your programs installed and on your computer without reinstalling them, you have to upgrade to Windows Vista first. The bad thing with that is you have to buy a license for Vista (which wasn’t cheap) in order to keep all your apps installed.

Upgrading directly to Windows 7 from Windows XP requires a clean install. That means you have to reinstall all of your software from scratch after the OS install completes. That’s a lot more work and that’s if you can find the install media, download links or registration codes for your apps.  After 15 years, that may be a problem.  You may find you need to contact the software provider and request a replacement code or you may have to purchase a new license.

In short, upgrading to Windows 7 from Windows XP can be a hot mess, and may be more problematic than it’s worth, if you’re not savvy enough to jump through all the hoops.

Purchase a New PC

Pros:

  • Cleaner
  • Easier for non-technical users

Cons:

  • More expensive
  • Windows 7 may not be an available OS option at time of PC purchase
  • Windows 8 is drastically different than Windows 7 & is not optimal for non-touch enabled PC’s

Purchasing a new PC is always more expensive, and learning how to use new hardware can present a number of unknown challenges. However, if you’re not up to switching from XP to Windows 7 (Vista isn’t sold any more), this is the easiest way to go.

The biggest thing you have to consider here is if purchasing a touch enabled PC (either Win8 tablet or touch enabled desktop) is what you want to do. In many cases, depending on the vendor, you may be able to order a PC with Windows 7 on it, or request it from the provider to replace Windows 8.
At the end of the day, if you’re still using XP, it’s time to change. You have a few months to get used to the idea, but you need to make that upgrade or purchase choice, very, very soon.

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