Software // Operating Systems
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2/28/2011
12:02 PM
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Will Windows XP Really Die On Cue?

Microsoft says Windows XP support ends in 2014, but can they stick to their guns?

I've been happily using Windows 7 as my primary operating system ever since its release in 2009; it's a great step up from Vista -- especially Vista -- or XP. A recent experience, however, makes me wonder if Microsoft can really drop support for Windows XP in August 2014 as it says it will.

A friend was starting a work-at-home contract job for a large organization. The company doesn't provide PCs, but for security reasons has strict rules about the kind of software that can be used on the PC that the contractor provides. For example, no peer-communication software such as IRC or Skype can be installed and the company's monitoring package will not allow it to be present. As a result, she needed a completely different PC that she could use for doing this work that was totally separate from her main computer.

Over the past six or seven years I have collected quite a few computers and parts, some of them from PCs retired as I've upgraded systems for family members. With all that hardware hanging around, it seemed that I could do her a favor and put together a PC that she could use. How hard could it be? Well, darned near impossible as it turns out. In the end, the computer I gave her was the best PC that 2005 had to offer.

The first thing I thought about doing was using one of the old PCs with Windows 7. After all, why not give a friend the latest and greatest that Microsoft has to offer? So I took one of the relatively recent PCs and installed Windows 7. It almost kinda sorta worked, but there was a problem with the video card that caused it to generate all kinds of video artifacts whenever the system went to sleep. I tried different video driver versions but no matter what it would not work.

No problem, though, I had several different video cards. However, none of them were good enough for Windows 7, which requires DirectX 9.0 support. So I tried a few different circa-2006 motherboards that had built-in video. Nope, they weren't up to snuff either. And by the way, this is easier to say than it was to do. With a pile of parts there's no easy way to know if they are good enough to run Windows 7 or not. It may take a couple of hours to set up the hardware, try an install, and find out that it's not going to work.

Perhaps this kind of Windows 7 upgrade pain wouldn't be so much of a problem in companies that keep a good inventory of the hardware they are running, or run a large number of similarly-configured PCs. Just having a working PC in the first place would have made it possible to run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to find out whether the PC was up to snuff. Yet based on this experience, I suspect that there are plenty of PCs in companies still running XP that don't have the ability to upgrade to Windows 7.

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