/ Technology

Microsoft Windows XP support ends – what will you do next?

Windows XP

As PC operating systems go, they don’t get much more venerable than good old XP. Yet the curtain is being drawn on this stalwart version of Windows, with Microsoft withdrawing its security patch support on 8 April.

So what next for you and your home computer? Microsoft’s news has caused a fair ripple of rage among the millions of XP users worldwide, many of whom may be feeling forced into an upgrade they never wanted and don’t take kindly to paying for.

While I’m not thrilled by the news at all, I’ll concede that Microsoft has at least kept support going for over a decade, which in the context of wider manufacturer commitment to their products is pretty good going. It’s costing Microsoft plenty to keep XP support going – there are overheads to keeping the support up, plus it keeps customers from upgrading to newer products.

For me, this news could mean goodbye to one of my more treasured possessions – a trusty little XP laptop of nearly 10 years vintage, passed down to me by my dad and quite happily used ever since. As it doesn’t have the specs needed to upgrade to Windows 7 or 8, I’m left with the decision of keeping it but using it offline only, sending it to landfill, or simply taking my chances with no more operating system patch updates from Microsoft.

What’s the risk?

You’ll still be able to run conventional security software on an XP laptop. Even Microsoft has climbed down from an earlier threat, and agreed to continue its support for Security Essentials to XP users into 2015. So that’s everyday viruses taken care of. What you won’t get is the safety net of patch updates to cover security risks to the operating system itself. In short, XP won’t be watertight if you want to go online with your computer.

Understandably, plenty of XP customers are being left in a difficult position. Even the UK government has had to make a last-ditch effort to keep XP support going for the thousands of computers used in the UK public sector, paying £5.5m to Microsoft in an agreement set up by the Cabinet Office.

Time to spend?

But what can we do? If you want to keep your PC, and it has sufficient specs, you can update to the much maligned Windows 8 (around £100), or the vastly simpler-to-use Windows 7 (around £80 if you track it down online). For a free alternative, you could dip your toe into the waters of Linux, a free operating system that may take a fair bit of adjusting to for long-term Windows regulars.

Or perhaps it’s time for a new purchase. If you buy any new Windows laptop, it will come with Windows 8, an operating system that’s nothing if not baffling to get the hang of (we have some tips for making Windows 8 easier to use). If you can stretch the budget, there’s Mac OS X – a new MacBook Air would set you back around £899, but the smoothness and speed of the operating system could be a delight to anyone used to two-minute startup times on an XP computer.

Are you an XP user affected by this? Let us know what, if anything, you intend to do next now that Microsoft is pulling the rug out from under this long-term operating system.

What will you do now Windows XP won't be supported by Microsoft?

I'm not on XP, so it's not my problem (35%, 356 Votes)

Risk it and stick with Windows XP (24%, 247 Votes)

Buy Windows 7 (15%, 152 Votes)

Buy a Mac instead (11%, 116 Votes)

Buy Windows 8 (9%, 89 Votes)

Move to Linux (6%, 63 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,023

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brassed off says:
4 April 2014

I have been a faithful fan since 2006. So I can’t bury my head in the sand and hope it won’t happen, I have taken the plunge and bought a new iMac, (with the help of Which of course} It is at first a steep learning curve but anything new is always difficult, I am a Silver Surfer and am now past the stage of regretting it. Two things I miss, one is Microsoft Money program and the other is ProShow Gold a program for creating slide shows with photo’s. Everything else is coming together.

There is a product called ProShow Web with most of the features of ProShow Gold, and that will run on your iMac. iPhoto, which comes with every Mac, is well worth exploring too.

Alan Reilly says:
4 April 2014

As a long term computer software specialist, I have dealt with just about every operating system iteration from MS ever since the early days of DOS, so I do have a reasonable understanding of the pros and cons of all the versions ever issued (in the UK).

Sadly I feel that the article is somewhat biased in that it seeks to give the impression that come April 8th the wolves will get you unless you change. This is alarmist and totally unnecessary.

The fact is that that XP is one of MS’s best offerings, although Windows 7 with the all the service packs is almost as good.

Because Windows has to do so many different things to satisfy world-wide requirements, all the versions did contain, do contain and will continue to contain aspects, features and omissions which can be exploited for neferious ends.

What MS wont be doing after April 8th is issuing any more patches to get around such issues if any MORE should come to light in XP. Since XP is a mature produce, it is unlikely that there will be any more serious or even trivial issues left to be exploited, that are not already known and dealt with.
So I, as an experienced XP user, will continue to use it for some long time yet. I will just make sure that I have installed all available updates after April 8th and I am confident that my XP machines will continue to work well, for years to come.
So don’t embark on expensive upgrades/replacements, unless you have other reasons for doing so.
Always make sure that you have good antivirus software installed, take regular backups of your data, and know where your system re-install disk is, and keep using your XP machine.
Don’t listen to the panic merchants!!!

The annoying part of Microsoft ending support for XP. Is that they are not ending support for XP they are just ending support for individual customers. I understand large organisations E.G National Health Service are paying for support. If they are researching & solving problems about XP why can’t they continue giving free support. I wonder if there was a really big bug would they offer a patch to all?

I suspect that MS would do almost anything to avoid the NHS shifting across to Unix, but that said you’re right. What they’re really doing is trying to drive us over to W8.

TonyTaff says:
18 June 2014

I managed to ignore/bury -my-head-in-the-sand about the April 8 cut-off date. I shall follow Alan’s advice and stick with XP; as my previously free anti-virus tools are now charging, I’ve gone for Avast Free Edition. I’m sleeping easily – I hope it’s not the sleep of a fool!

What is unfortunate is that the upgrade path to WIndows 8 is not available for so many people with perfectly adequatley powered older computers e.g.those with Pentium 4 cpus.

With WIndows 7 upgrades not officially available anymore , many users are left with little choice but to buy a new PC or laptop. I cannot recall this ever being necessary for any previous OS upgrade.

I agree. Perhaps Microsoft will in future offer a free upgrade to the latest operating system to those whose computers can cope with it. That is what Apple has done and what is standard with phones.

Linda says:
4 April 2014

What seems to have been missed in all this is that it’s not just the cost of upgrading to a new computer – many things like printers and scanners which worked on XP do not have Windows 7 or Windows 8 drivers available so they will need to be replaced as well.

I agree with Alan – just keep on using XP until your hardware gives up and you have to change, maybe by then there will be a better version of Windows available – after all with the huge number of XP users out there Microsoft will need to do something to get them to upgrade to something other than a running out Windows 7 and a poor for, desktop users anyway, Windows 8.

Linda – You might well find solutions to the driver problem. Others will be facing the same problem and you have nothing to lose by searching for advice online. I have been able to keep old HP inkjet and laser printers working on modern operating systems by using third party or generic drivers. I had an old scanner waiting for disposal after Epson said that they would not be making a driver available, but they did. These examples relate to drivers for Apple computers, so I think there are bound to be solutions for PC users because of the greater demand.

I have been a Windows user since Windows 3.1. When I bought a new desktop I was uncertain to get a PC with Windows 8.0 (before 8.1) or Mac. I would have preferred a new PC with Windows 7 but I didn’t have this option other than to buy with Windows 8 and then install Windows 7 (why should I pay extra?) Apart from Apple being more expensive, when I calculated which software I would have to buy again for the Mac, I thought it too expensive. I have now a desktop with Windows 8 and installed over it Start8 and ModernMix to bring it nearer to the Windows 7 experience. In retrospect I now wish I’d bought a Mac – I feel it’s poor for Microsoft to have every other iteration of Windows, which you’re forced to buy with any new PC/laptop, to be poor. Windows XP and Windows 7 were reasonable ones though their progressively slow load-up times was irritating. I had a PC with Windows Vista – didn’t like that. My laptop has Windows XP and won’t run Windows 8 even if I was willing to. I will follow Alan’s advice and continue using it. When the laptop itself is about to expire, my loyalty to Microsoft is gone and it will be Apple. After all, I don’t think Microsoft has shown loyalty to me and it’s many other long-time users. My daughter has already changed her (old) Windows laptop for an Apple laptop. Other family members have said the same about any new computers.

I have a couple of laptops running Windows XP, but these have limitations related to the size of the hard disks and the maximum RAM that can be fitted, which makes running some applications rather slow. Having heard a lot of horror stories about W8 I looked for a new machine which came with W7 and found it from Morgan Computers. Owing to the fact that Morgan sell manufacturer refurbished machines (complete with manufacturer’s warranties and full documentation), I also managed to get a high spec machine for a low spec price!

Martin says:
7 April 2014

Sticking with XP. No risk in my opinion, with the usual precautions taken.

Microsoft couldn’t afford to ignore any major holes found in XP and will in all likelihood issue a patch; to do otherwise would be a PR disaster.

If the government is going to pay for continued support for XP, it is a pity that it cannot be made available to the public.

Is it not time for the government to move from Windows to Linux?

I have a late 2005 desktop with a pentium 4 cpu at the moment I have made it a dual boot Pc and have installed linux lite which I find very different from windows xp. What I have noticed is how fast it boots up which is great if you do internet banking and want to check something. The canon scanner works well with it without me having to install any new drivers. The downside is that I can’t use the canon printer with linux as it can’t find a driver for it. I don’t see why anyone should rush out and buy a new PC unless the spec on it is too outdated.

This is an extract from a comment on the Tech Daily site. It makes a lot of sense if you are able to deal with the technological challenge involved. Tech Daily should be able to assist. It will make a refreshing change from testing all the latest gadgets.

“One useful feature of Linux is that many versions of Linux can run from either a live CD or a USB stick. Hence a very simple dual boot option for old XP PCs would be to boot (i) from a Linux live CD when browsing the internet or (ii) into XP for “standalone” operations. Live CDs of Puppy Linux work particularly well in this way. Less ancient computers that can also boot from USB devices also have the options of using a USB stick equivalent of a live CD or even a “full install” onto a USB stick.

These are good ways of trying out Linux because they avoid the need to make any changes to the actual PC hard disc – so an existing XP installation can be left in place. I do not expect that Linux will be “everybody’s cup of tea” – but it is free to download and try (or use) for as long as you want.”


Richard says:
17 April 2014

As many programs won’t run properly with the newer stuff

browse with Chrome or similar, protect with Avast (free)

An alternative is dual boot with Linux – simples

Derek Putley says:
20 April 2014

I recently installed antiX Linux on a 10 year old Toshiba laptop, after trying out a number of the available alternatives. antiX is a good example of a Linux distribution that is designed to work well on older hardware, e.g. so that old XP machines can be given a new lease of life.

antiX is set up with a “look and feel” that is not too far removed from Windows XP and seems to be a good candidate for use on 10 year old PCs.

Where does Which? get its experts from? In the current magazine I read “Although we haven’t tested it, we’re aware of the benefits that Linux can bring as a free alternative to Windows. But Microsoft XP users should be aware that Linux is complex and won’t work with many programs. You should only consider using it if you really know what you’re doing on computers.”

Sorry? They’ve not tested it, but it’s complex? How exactly do they know that it’s complex?

The truth is it’s no more complex than shifting across to a Mac, and considerably less complex than moving up to Windows 8.

I suspect the idea that a lot of programs won’t work on Linux comes from the fact that when Which? reviews software, they forget to check if it runs on Linux or not. Don’t forget, most of the best free programs started life on Linux, and most other (paid for) programs have free Linux equivalents.

Just go and check out a few of the variations of Linux, choose the one that seems the most familiar to you, download it or go onto Ebay and buy a copy for not much more than the price of the disc, and curse yourself for not saving all that money long ago.

NukeThemAll says:
30 April 2014

Sorry, I can’t let this one go……for many people, Linux will be fine – it will do everything that you need ie web browser, e-mail, instant messaging, MS Office equivalent, photo manipulation and slideshow – you get the drift eh? And modern versions are easy to install. It’s not complex at all. No really, it isn’t.

But for many folk Linux is useless, if you have specialist software that only runs under Windows and won’t work on Linux utilities that claim to run Windows programmes. For example Mathcad (mathematics programme) simply won’t run in any way using Linux. The TomTom software (various versions) don’t exist for Linux and the software either won’t run or is ‘peculiar’ using the ‘Windows in Linux’ utilities. There are many more examples. There **may** be ‘equivalent’ programmes in Linux but the reality is that many folk have invested a lot of time in learning the power user aspects of the Windows versions, and, for example, there really isn’t anything like Mathcad under Linux. Not even close (and if anyone says Matlab of Mathematica, they are very different in their operation cf Mathcad).

So there it is – Linux might be a viable XP alternative. It all depends on your needs.

Heh. On my screen your handle has displayed as ‘NukeThe mAll”, a sentiment with which I can only concur. But, as you’ve probably guessed, that’s where the concurrence ends.

Naturally if you have specialist programs that only work on Windows, then you’re trapped in the Windows-go-round, the same applies to all operating systems, but just how many people are in that position?

I’ll wager that almost everyone that uses Windows uses nothing but the basic programs supplied. In my case I am tied to Windows by two programs, so I still have Windows co-running with Linux, the point being that I have no need to upgrade to anything. My desktop was until recently still running Windows 98, but after my last upgrade I just couldn’t be bothered to make all the adjustments to it in order for it to run on to run on today’s hardware. My sister, who is a true computing genius, is still defiantly keeping her W 95 machine running because it contains a program that won’t run on anything after that and she’s got stuff on it that she wants to keep. I should add that like you, she’s a Microsoft supporter and thinks Linux is only for people with nothing better to do. She also thinks W8 is great…

All that said all three of us are in the minority. I don’t personally know of anyone who uses the power features of Windows, but in any case most of them are duplicated in Linux, in fact in a lot of cases they originated in Linux. Microsoft didn’t get where they are today by coming up with good ideas all by themselves. Remember those spoof W7 ads that MS had whipped off Youtube in double quick time?

I for one, would like to thank Microsoft for making me look at alternatives, having for a long time been increasingly angry at Microsoft’s abuse of power. I have now converted an old Sony Vaio to Linux Mint Cinnamon edition and am so far delighted with the results. I am now using Firefox for web browsing, Thunderbird for email, and Open Office, which covers 95% of my requirements. The learning curve has been surprisingly easy, and would heartily encourage anyone with an old PC to try it.

Derek Putley says:
11 May 2014

In the world of Windows, I have yet to need any software that only runs on a later version of Windows than XP. All of the Windows software that I use (and like) runs under XP, so I’ll be keeping some XP machines (both real and virtual) for this.

As I discovered last year, even a Windows 7 PC running a Which? recommended security program (okay it was only MSE and not anything better…) did not keep me safe against a virus attack. Since then I’ve use Linux as the OS of choice for my internet use. So I’m not really using Linux as a cheap (but supported) substitute for Windows XP, I am using it as an “upgrade” to a less vulnerable means of internet access.

I use Quicken 2004 and I do not like the look of any of the alternatives (I have been using Quicken versions ever since I got my first pc). I have read various bits of advice for trying to make the programme run satisfactorily on Windows 7 and 8 but I have decided that I will keep XP on my pc and notebook and if necessary put the Q2004 onto the notebook and stop using that on the internet when I feel I can no longer keep XP on the pc.

In the meantime, as Garmin have said that they will not continue their free life time updates support via XP I am being forced to buy another notebook with Windows 8 so I can continue to receive the free (but costly!!) updates.

Of course, if anyone can suggest a better solution I would be more than willing to consider it!

XP – I use Firefox operating system on my Laptop as it supports XP, MSN.co.uk, not internet explorer, and McAfee security, it all works well.
On my desktop 7 I use internet explorer 11 and McAfee security.