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3/25/2014
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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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Image: cooling999, deviantart.com
Image: cooling999, deviantart.com

You've held out a long time, brave Windows XP user. Maybe you joined the XP game in 2007, when you steered clear of Windows Vista. Or maybe you've been using XP since the operating system debuted all the way back in 2001, when many of today's youngest Microsoft employees weren't even in high school.

Security experts have chided your hesitancy to upgrade. Microsoft, which is now tempting XP users with $100 off Windows 8.1 devices, has been practically begging you to move along. Your PC takes 10 minutes to boot up. It relies on components that are outclassed by what's inside your average smartphone, let alone the latest PCs. But you've remained unmoved by these bells and whistles. Let's give credit where it's due: In an age when the newest, flashiest devices have become status symbols, your resistance to new tech is impressive.

[How will Windows XP's end-of-service deadline affect government IT? Read Windows XP: Feds Brace for End of Support.]

Yes, you might be getting by with XP because you're also using a smartphone or tablet. Or you might still be using your antiquated PC for almost all your computing needs, just as you have for years. Maybe you've replaced a hard drive here or there to keep everything up and running. But as long as your computer still boots, you've been determined to squeeze every drop of life out of it, the alleged benefits of newer, shinier machines be damned. For today's wired youths, you are the technology equivalent of walking uphill both ways in the snow, and there is some virtue in that.

But nothing lasts forever. Whether you've delayed upgrade for reasons of principled austerity or financial necessity, your day of reckoning is almost here. On April 8, Windows XP will officially become an unsupported operating system. Unless you're a big company willing to shell out millions for extended support, Microsoft will no longer update your XP machines or protect them from new cyberthreats. Right or wrong, like it or not, if you're running XP, it's time to make a decision.

Based on the reader emails we've received in recent weeks, a lot of people are approaching this decision with uncertainty: "Do I really need to upgrade? And if so, to what?"

The answers are fairly simple. No, you don't have to upgrade, but if you have to ask, you probably should. If you want the option that's closest to Windows XP, Windows 7 is probably the best bet. If you use your XP machine primarily for email and the Internet, literally any modern replacement device, tablets included, will be adequate. If you also do moderately heavy word processing, anything with a keyboard will suffice, although smaller devices might be more cramped than you're used to.

Beyond these basic guidelines, let your individual needs, sensibilities, and budget guide you. We've broken down the pros and cons of various upgrade options. Which one will you choose? Have you already made a decision? Share your thoughts with us in the Comments section below.  

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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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
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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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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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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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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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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
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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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