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Windows XP, at the time of this writing, has a large install base, but no one has stepped up to support this market as it is getting smaller. Should you keep using it?

My six-year-old Windows Dell desktop, Windows XP, SP3 runs just as well now as when it was new. Do you think there will be a software company or anyone who will provide security updates for all of the many Windows XP users after Microsoft stops supporting in April 2014?

In this excerpt from Answercast #7, I discuss the ramifications of Windows XP security and the various programs that run within it. You can certainly keep using it as long as it functions and you feel comfortable.

Windows XP support

In short, no. Old versions of Microsoft operating systems are well past their support date and nobody has stepped up to actually do what you're suggesting; nor do I suspect that Microsoft would actually support that.

Windows XP does have a large installed base today. It's just under half of all computers on the planet. That number is dropping and I believe that neither Microsoft nor some other company (even if Microsoft would let them) are really going to be that interested in supporting a market that is only by definition going to get smaller over time.

The tipping point

I've pointed out in a couple of articles that you can certainly continue to use Windows XP for as long you feel comfortable. At some point (currently April 2014), Microsoft will stop supplying security patches for it. I do believe that at some point you're going to want to upgrade to Windows 7 or some subsequent version of Windows anyway.

I say that because it's not just about Microsoft supporting Windows. It's about applications supporting Windows XP; it's about hardware supporting Windows XP. All of this is dwindling over time and it's only going to get worse. So, you can keep using XP for as long as you like.

I do think that the issue will force itself through some other path. You'll end up wanting to upgrade: to either a new computer or a new operating system.

A possible continuation?

One thing that did come to mind since XP has such a huge user base; it's entirely conceivable that Microsoft might extend the date yet again.

They already have a couple of times, but I wouldn't actually make any bets on that. I wouldn't count on that as a security approach. But it's certainly something that could happen.

In the meantime, use it as long as you feel comfortable. I do think that before lack of support becomes an issue, you'll end up with something else that will likely be the tipping point to go to a new version of Windows.

Next - Is there a way to move an .exe file from an old drive?

Article C5173 - April 6, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

jerry thomas
April 10, 2012 3:59 PM

My old XP is doing just fine and I thank you for suggesting to continue as long as I'm confortable--I just dread upgrading to windows 7 as it's like going back to school at my age of 82........jt

April 11, 2012 2:59 AM

Changing from XP to W 8 will be expensive just for the software, but even more so if your existing hardware lacks the grunt for W 8, which is likely to be the case with older computers.

Think outside the box; change to Linux, the up-to-date versions of which can, unlike Windows, run quite happily on older, less powerful, hardware. And it's a lot cheaper than Windows. Free, in fact!

April 13, 2012 9:48 AM

"Patch Tuesday", 10 April 2012, demonstrates once again how ALL current Windows operating systems (including the forth-coming Windows 8) require regular security patching.
This does not mean that XP is inherently less safe than 7.
It would be wise to say the least for Microsoft to show a degree of intelligence by increasing the extended support phase of XP beyond April 2014, instead of senior Microsoft personel blurting out smarmy ignorant speeches, telling business (and presumably Joe Public) to just get on with it and upgrade.
Spending cash is easier said than done in tough economic times.

Scott Currier
August 17, 2012 10:08 AM

In order to answer this question we can look back at Windows 2000. I still have Win2k on an old notebook that maxes out at 256mb of ram and really isn't a good candidate for anything newer.

The lack of updates isn't a problem. What you will notice as time goes on is that less and less software works with the operating system.

With Windows XP I expect that .net updates will probably not work with XP after support stops. As time goes on more and more programs will not include support for XP.

The biggest problem with Win2k is trying to find a browser that will work with today's web sites. Even Firefox recently versions don't work with Win2k.

Same thing will eventually happen with XP.

If the computer is not used for much or any web browsing you can probably use XP indefinitely. I find that the old 486-50 notebook that I just setup with Win95 is quite usable, just not on the web.

However, running programs from that era, it works great. Fun toy to play with.

My plan is to run XP at home until there is a compelling reason not to. I suspect that I have at least another few years. Of course, Microsoft is likely to do what it can to hasten the need to upgrade.

As for security, as long as I can continue to run Norton, which is provided by my ISP, I think I'll be ok.

We shall see.

August 26, 2012 2:36 PM

Is there any way to regain the Toolbar funtion in Windows 7 with an add-on program? Used to be able to create toolbars, pin them to the desktop, add ANYTHING you wanted into them, and have them displayed and handy all the time. My efficiency has dropped DRAMATICALLY without them. Will Microsoft ever bring them back? or will someone crate a good add-on?

Not sure exactly what toolbar feature you're looking for, but a quick search of this site for "win 7 toolbar" turns up this article that might be helpful: Making Your Own Taskbar Toolbar in Windows 7

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