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3/25/2014
11:06 AM
Michael Endler
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Windows XP Game Over: 9 Upgrade Options

Some of you don't want to say goodbye to Windows XP any more than you wanted to retire the Atari. But support ends on April 8: We break down your best upgrade options.
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Stick it out with Windows XP

As of February, Windows XP still accounted for about half a billion PC users. No one -- not even Microsoft -- thinks all of those people are going to upgrade in time.
 
Even after the service termination deadline, many people will continue to depend on XP. If your PCs don't use a public Internet connection and are dedicated to only one or two apps, you might not need continued Microsoft support. Upgrading old PCs to newer operating systems can come with their own problems. 

But what if you do intend to stick with XP, and continue web browsing, email, social media, and other Internet-reliant activities? What are the risks?

There are several schools of thought, few of them encouraging. Experts believe Windows XP isn't all that secure right now, and that it will inevitably grow less so over time. Some speculate hackers are stockpiling zero-day vulnerabilities, waiting until April 9 to wreak havoc. No smoking-gun evidence of such plots has emerged -- but think about it: If you were a criminal sitting on a bunch of unknown exploits, when would you act? Now, when Microsoft is still on guard? Or in a few weeks, when XP will be a sitting duck?

Some XP diehards point out that the most apocalyptic predictions come from Microsoft and security vendors; that is, people who are selling something. These holdouts reason they can keep using the Internet as long as they take necessary precautions, such as installing malware protection, using Chrome instead of Internet Explorer, and disabling Java and Adobe Flash. Although this will decrease the risks, it doesn't guarantee safety.

Continued XP usage is like driving an old car, says Gartner analyst Michael Silver: It requires diligent maintenance, doesn't offer some of the benefits of new options, and might stop working at any time. It's a fair analogy, but if your old car breaks down, your worst-case scenario is probably walking a few miles. If your XP security fails, your social security number, credit card information, and other sensitive data might be at risk. 

If you're unnerved by the prospect of constantly monitoring your system's security, you might be better off with a new operating system.

(Image: Nick Perla, Flickr)

Stick it out with Windows XP
As of February, Windows XP still accounted for about half a billion PC users. No one -- not even Microsoft -- thinks all of those people are going to upgrade in time.

Even after the service termination deadline, many people will continue to depend on XP. If your PCs don't use a public Internet connection and are dedicated to only one or two apps, you might not need continued Microsoft support. Upgrading old PCs to newer operating systems can come with their own problems.

But what if you do intend to stick with XP, and continue web browsing, email, social media, and other Internet-reliant activities? What are the risks?

There are several schools of thought, few of them encouraging. Experts believe Windows XP isn't all that secure right now, and that it will inevitably grow less so over time. Some speculate hackers are stockpiling zero-day vulnerabilities, waiting until April 9 to wreak havoc. No smoking-gun evidence of such plots has emerged -- but think about it: If you were a criminal sitting on a bunch of unknown exploits, when would you act? Now, when Microsoft is still on guard? Or in a few weeks, when XP will be a sitting duck?

Some XP diehards point out that the most apocalyptic predictions come from Microsoft and security vendors; that is, people who are selling something. These holdouts reason they can keep using the Internet as long as they take necessary precautions, such as installing malware protection, using Chrome instead of Internet Explorer, and disabling Java and Adobe Flash. Although this will decrease the risks, it doesn't guarantee safety.

Continued XP usage is like driving an old car, says Gartner analyst Michael Silver: It requires diligent maintenance, doesn't offer some of the benefits of new options, and might stop working at any time. It's a fair analogy, but if your old car breaks down, your worst-case scenario is probably walking a few miles. If your XP security fails, your social security number, credit card information, and other sensitive data might be at risk.

If you're unnerved by the prospect of constantly monitoring your system's security, you might be better off with a new operating system.

(Image: Nick Perla, Flickr)

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TheKLF99
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TheKLF99,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/25/2014 | 4:38:58 PM
Re: Data Execution Prevention required for Windows 8?
I've got quite an old desktop computer running Windows 8.  The motherboard is an old Gigabyte that doesn't support secure boot.

Windows 8 works fine with it, the only thing that doesn't work fine is my LG Blu-Ray writer, for some reason I've only been able to get that to work as an external USB drive ever since upgrading.  All my other DVD burners work fine though (most probably because it's an LG - Lifes Good for Lucky Goldstar!)
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
3/25/2014 | 4:32:06 PM
Re: up grading XP
That sound promising. You can get the Windows 8.1 Upgrade Assistant here. Run it and it will tell you if your system is up to snuff. Also, it might be useful to check out some of the other posts in this thread about motherboard compatibility and other possible hardware issues. Just because your machine has enough RAM and a fast enough processor doesn't necessarily mean it will run Windows 8.1, depending on other components.
billcird
50%
50%
billcird,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/25/2014 | 4:21:07 PM
Re: up grading XP
Have 3.20 GH, 3.17 GH ram
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
3/25/2014 | 4:16:27 PM
Re: My XP laptop works like a spare tire
"My Atari 800 is also sitting here... tested it a couple of months go... still works... Now if I could only find that Star Raiders cartridge..."


Haha, that's pretty awesome. And impressive! I've had some gadgets last a long time, but an Atari 800 has to be around 35 years old. That's a long time for it to remain functional.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
3/25/2014 | 4:12:15 PM
Re: Data Execution Prevention required for Windows 8?
Thanks for the question, Ross. I asked Microsoft to clarify the specific details regarding motherboard compatibility, since I'm pretty sure replacing the motherboard can involve not only technical issues, but also licensing entanglements. I'll post their response once I receive it.

But you are correct that Windows 8 requires a motherboard that supports DEP. The article didn't dive into this level of detail, but this sort of difficulty is one of the reasons we said a lot of old XP systems simply won't support Windows 8.1. EDIT-- After digging around, it seems it would be more accurate to say Windows requires BIOS-level DEP support. I'm not sure what the implications are for all components, since BIOS is part of the motherboard generally but not exclusively. I'll update again when Microsoft sends me more specifics.

In fact, some older PCs lost motherboard compatibility between Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. Win 8.1 required motherboards with CMPXCHG16b support whereas Win 8 did not. So some people with old computers upgraded to Windows 8, found it horribly inappropriate for their non-touch PCs, and then were unable to access Windows 8.1's numerous mouse-and-keyboard improvements. Talk about a bummer.

The next update will reportedly shrink the OS's footprint and enable it to run on cheaper hardware. I think that probably has more to do with incenting OEMs to build new budget Windows 8.1 devices to compete with Chromebooks, but maybe Microsoft will also find a workaround for XP users who don't want to buy new machines. The update looks like it will hit right as Windows XP loses support.
Fantasm
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50%
Fantasm,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/25/2014 | 3:58:23 PM
Re: My XP laptop works like a spare tire
I too have an XP system as a spare... It's not going to get hacked as long as it's not online...

 

Then, for that matter... I saw the quote in the article, " Some of you don't want to say goodbye to Windows XP any more than you wanted to retire the Atari.  "

 My Atari 800 is also sitting here... tested it a couple of months go... still works... Now if I could only find that Star Raiders cartridge...

 
mklink923
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50%
mklink923,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/25/2014 | 3:57:52 PM
Re: up grading XP
It is the processor that must support DEP, as it is the arbiter of whether one can move to Windows 8.x or not.
mklink923
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50%
mklink923,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/25/2014 | 3:56:11 PM
Re: up grading XP
Using the equivalent of slut-shaming to "encourage" people to move to a newer OS from XP is hardly worthy of a professional magazine, but then, professional behavior is getting harder to find anywhere.
rradina
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50%
rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
3/25/2014 | 3:55:20 PM
Challenging Chrome Books on Price
Last week I was travelling and had some time to kill in Little Rock, AK.  I spent some time browsing a nearby Best Buy.  I was shocked that I could buy a Windows laptop for the same price as a Chrome Book.  Unless Microsoft has already started these incentives, it appears the cost difference is minimal or doesn't even exist.
EJW
50%
50%
EJW,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/25/2014 | 3:52:41 PM
Zorin OS - A Windows XP replacement?
Another O/S that may be of interest is Zorin OS...

From their web site (http://zorin-os.com/index.html)

"Zorin OS is a multi-functional operating system designed specifically for Windows users who want to have easy and smooth access to Linux. It is based on Ubuntu which is the most popular desktop Linux operating system in the world."

It has a number of different desktops that look like various other O/S's...

"The Look Changer lets you change your desktop to look and act like either Windows 7, XP, Vista, Ubuntu Unity, Mac OS X or GNOME 2 for ultimate ease of use."

I looked at it briefly a while ago and it looked good, but I didn't use it regularly as I didn't need it at the time. I'll probably load up my old Xeon system with it after April 8th.

I've no affiliation with them, but I thought it may be of interest.

Best Regards,

                     Eric.

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