Welcome back to the Computer Fixer’s blog, Modern Nerd edition. This week, we remember an operating system that was as iconic as it was long lived, as Windows XP is coming to an end. Technical support and automatic updates for one on Windows’ best versions has come to an end as of April 8th. This is an announcement for everyone about your options and your next steps if you haven’t made the leap away from Windows XP in the last 5 years since the release of Windows 7. Remember this moment back in 2001? We’ve come a long way since…
Windows XP – Rest in Peace
If anyone is old enough to remember Windows ME, then you are probably wishing that you didn’t. Windows XP brought a stability and versatility to the operating system that was sorely lacking in the previous version. For myself personally, I would have to repair my friend’s computer that ran on Windows ME every other week.
Windows XP also brought with it support for the 64 bit operating system. Back before 4 to 8 GB of RAM was necessary for the higher-end applications of today, there was the 32 bit operating system. It was hard-capped by its’ coding at 3.5 GB of useable RAM. While it took a while for programs to be reconfigured to take advantage of the increased capacity, the 64 bit OS is now standard, and it started back in Windows XP.
Windows XP is still used by an amazing 1 in 3 PC users. Applications written for this platform are not going to be compatible with Windows 7 and 8, and programs written to add to Internet Explorer 6 are going to fall by the wayside. Some equipment, printers, and monitors will be rendered useless as well, due to driver incompatibility. This will hit the business world much harder than the home users, but there are very little excuses as the writing has been on the wall for a while now.
…So now what do I do?
What are the options for replacing Windows XP? Realistically, I would recommend you look at Windows 7 first and foremost. 7 has great stability, on par with XP, and does not suffer from the performance issues that Vista did. More on that in a minute. Windows 8 is a good choice as well, but to truly take advantage of everything that 8 offers, you need a touchscreen or a system that has cutting-edge specifications. Windows 7 is the best choice for a computer that has kept up with performance, but still runs on XP. If you are looking to add tablet, touchscreen, or app functionality to what you do with computers on a regular basis, then Windows 8 will be your choice of system.
Windows Vista tried to do too much with too little. By this I mean the virtual memory requirements of the operating system were leaps and bounds ahead of the standard RAM that computers had, so if you ran with 2GB of RAM, you would find yourself maxed out very often, because the background processes took a lot of memory to run.
Can I just ignore this?
At your own risk. With the heartbleed bug awareness widely spread around, the emphasis for the last few months has been on passwords and online security. With Microsoft making a huge announcement, it is almost an invitation for less savory types to attempt to gain access to your systems, knowing that the current security flaws of Windows XP are not going to be repaired, ever. You are taking a risk by not upgrading. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s message to XP users has been less than helpful, stating that after 12 years of their OS it is time to upgrade. While from a business perspective it makes sense to focus on new and better software, it is hard to see things like that for a tech giant that isn’t in any danger of going away.
But new toys are also fun…
If you don’t have the hardware to run a Windows 7 or 8 system though, it might be time for a new machine. If you don’t have at least 4 GB of RAM you might want to look into this. A midrange PC with the power to handle the newer systems is around 700 dollars, which isn’t chump change but will give you a serviceable platform for another 5 to 7 years with plenty of power and utility.
Another final option is to disconnect the computer from the internet, but in my opinion you lose too much utility that way. It becomes a lot more difficult to do anything if you don’t have any connectivity.
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