Windows XP nears end

Windows XP remains popular 12 years after it was released, but its days may be coming to an end. Microsoft will officially end support for the aging operating system in the coming weeks.

“On April 8 Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP,” said Jeremy Leo, assistant manager at Personal Computer Solutions. “You will no longer receive security updates, compatibility updates – pretty much you’ll be on your own.”

As Microsoft has worked to get the word out, plenty of people have questions about what will really happen on April 8.

“All computers with Windows XP will blow up,” said Joe Gilbert, of Little Joe’s Computers. “At least that’s what a lot of people think. That is not true.”

Old Windows XP computers will keep working as usual, Gilbert said; but without security updates, they will become more vulnerable.

“XP is very vulnerable to infection. Even with the updates,” Leo said. “It’s been out 13 years; everybody knows the backdoors on how to crack it. I mean, I could go in and with one command I could make that computer unusable.

“Once they stop releasing updates, any of those zero-day infections that come out such as the MoneyPak virus, it’s going to hit that computer, it’s going to infect that computer, and they’re not going to work on a way to patch that hole anymore. Even if you remove the infection it’s just going to happen again.”

“With the change in the way identity thieves have been attacking things lately, I would say it’s a huge security risk. Windows XP is very easy to access files,” Gilbert said. “When you log in to use Windows XP, to use it properly you have to be logged in as an administrator at all times.”

Newer versions of Windows let you log in with a limited account, he said, making it harder for malicious software to reach important parts of the system. But with XP, to get much use from your computer you must log in as administrator, so it is much easier to screw the computer up.

XP users may also have trouble using popular websites.

“The major thing people are going to run into, is right now the highest Internet Explorer XP can go to is Internet Explorer 8 . They’re currently on Internet Explorer 11, and working on 12,” Leo said.

Some websites already show “browser update needed” warnings, he said.

“You’ll see soon enough where those websites won’t even load anymore. … Their best option if they want to keep XP is to use Google Chrome for the internet, until Google Chrome decides they no longer want to support it.”

Firefox also currently makes a browser that works on XP. Both browsers can be downloaded free from www.chrome.com or www.firefox.com.

Even with new browsers, Facebook will not work well on XP, Gilbert said; it will be choppy and slow-moving. And while an updated anti-virus program is important, nothing can really make XP secure.

“No matter how much security you buy for it, it’s still Windows XP,” Gilbert said.

Leo and Gilbert said XP is still widely used.

“We work on XP machines every day. All the time. I just worked on three of them today,” Gilbert said. “They want to keep their machines running as long as they can.”

In fact, people still ask to buy XP computers, he said. While this is no longer an option, Gilbert said he will still repair old computers of all kinds.

“Microsoft made a huge mistake with XP by allowing it to go 12 years,” Gilbert added. “For nine years they never released an operating system. That was the largest mistake Microsoft made because everyone seems to be really attached to Windows XP.”

Some people may cling to XP because of programs they purchased for it, Leo said.

“Then there’s the business clientele,” he said. “Well, their programs may work well with it, but when this comes around with the security vulnerabilities, I would hate to be at a business that’s still using Windows XP.”

Both said while newer versions of Windows are available for purchase, it’s usually better to get a whole new computer. Windows 8 is simply too big to run on older computers, Leo added.

“The analogy I use is, you buy a 2-door car for you and your wife, and that works just fine – until you had three kids, and you’re still trying to use the 2-door car,” he said.

Both stores offer computers with either Windows 7 or 8. Leo recommended the newer system.

“It’s preferred to go with Windows 8 because that’s what they’re supporting right now,” he said.

End of support for Windows 7 will be in 2020, Leo said, while Windows 8 will be supported until 2023.

But Gilbert said Windows 7 may be easier to use for some people; and it’s certainly more familiar.

“We’ve had one person come in and say they like Windows 8 since it released in Oct. 26, 2012. We’ve sold zero copies, and we’ve sold hundreds of computers since then,” Gilbert said. “Hundreds of computers and we’ve never sold a copy of Windows 8.”