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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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MikeS048
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MikeS048,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/26/2014 | 10:43:53 AM
Re: Great Options
Oh - please. Nobody is going to retrain billions and billions ( thanks Carl Sagan ) of desktop people into Linux. Its a pipe dream. And I like Linux for myself. But lets get real.
MikeS048
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MikeS048,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/26/2014 | 10:40:48 AM
Re: Why no inde;pendent third party support?
Isn't that what most SMB support firms do anyway. Most of our clients do not want to jump at the drop of Microsoft's hat no matter what. How many SMB companies are working just fine with XP and MS Word 2003 because there is nothing compelling in later releases. We have SMB companies with 20 to 30 employees that would not jump unless we the support companies " guarantee " no problems - and we wont.
Indian-Art
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Indian-Art,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/26/2014 | 9:40:17 AM
Great Options
There is a very good chance Linux OS will run well with older hardware with lower specs
Switch to the free, safe, secure & awesome OS: www.ubuntu.com/download
Its the worlds most popular free OS. It has free upgrades & security updates.

For those who like the Windows look, I would recommend: www.kubuntu.com & for older computer with lower specs www.xubuntu.com or http://lubuntu.net

Or try Linux Mint: http://linuxmint.com/
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
3/26/2014 | 8:04:35 AM
Re: My XP laptop works like a spare tire
Not as old, but my Commodore 64 with a 1541 is still working as well as it did when I first got it. Back then companies build quality and had reliable designs. When I compare that to what Dell delivers these days then we have gone many steps back.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
3/26/2014 | 7:59:28 AM
External hardware?
Aside from software that might not run on any other OS than XP there is a also plenty of external hardware that will not work with any of the suggested upgrade paths, maybe except for Linux. A common reason not to move away from XP is cost. I don't see where going the Mac, new Windows PC, or tablet route overcomes that problem. As far as cost goes, switching to Linux appears to be the best approach assuming that there is a suitable alternative for needed software.

I switched several XP systems over to Lubuntu. That flavor of Ubuntu uses less hardware resources and works fine on the older and still working hardware. The UI is different, but since Lubuntu does not use the dysfunctional Unity as window manager the switch is not that bad.
rickyjha
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rickyjha,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/26/2014 | 7:58:27 AM
Re: Why no inde;pendent third party support?
HI Charlie,

Well your idea for starting a XP support seems like a good business idea. Do you wnat to actually think and make a layouton this.

 

Best - ricky
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
3/25/2014 | 5:55:12 PM
Re: Windows XP
@johnggold,

Thanks for the comments. You bring up many good points, but regarding "defense of upgrades," please allow me to clarify.

Certainly, there are a number of valid reasons that some XP users will choose not to upgrade. As you point out, there are a lot of locked-down, single-application systems out there. It's an issue we explored in some detail in a recent article. I can appreciate why these people aren't upgrading, or why they're doing so somewhat grudgingly. That said, I'm not sure this is the group that's vocally criticizing Microsoft, or painting the company as some kind of bully that's forcing everyone to buy new products. After all, these people are the ones who have the least urgency the upgrade. They know the risks, how to contain them, and what they're gonna do. As far as their needs go, newer computers and operating systems don't provide enough benefit, so there's no reason to upgrade. Case closed.

But remember—sources like Net Applications indicate that nearly 30% of desktop Internet users relied on Windows XP machines last month. It derives its data from Web use, so these statistics are very much derived from real Internet traffic. Other sources peg the figure closer to 20%-- but either way you slice it, we're talking about hundreds of millions of XP computers that are still connected to the Internet. These aren't PCs being carefully safeguarded by a knowledgeable IT admin; they're just normal computers used by normal people. With so many people still using XP to get online, many of them will almost certainly become vulnerable if they maintain their current usage patterns.

There's a variety of scenarios at play. Some people (e.g. IT professionals) will keep using XP because it's actually the best choice for their needs. Others will keep using it because they consider it a compromise but still the best overall value. And so on.

But then there are the people who use XP because they're genuinely dragging their feet, or because they truly don't understand the risks. I know average people who use their computers for email and the web every day, and who generally have almost no idea what operating system is running. For people in this position, it's hard not to defend upgrading.

I also know of businesses that still shackle knowledge workers with decrepit XP laptops. XP might be fine for running a few applications in isolation. But suppose you have, say, my job-- the OS would quickly become a productivity killer! Research on a deadline requires multi-tasking, as does collaboration. All of those screen freezes and system crashes are eventually going to take a toll. I thankfully haven't had to use XP for several years—but again, this is not a hypothetical situation. I have friends who lose hours of productivity every week simply because their XP computers are so darn slow. A few months ago, I might have interpreted these corporate-issued XP laptops as a sign of managers and decision-makers who have no idea what's actually going on among the rank and file. Now, it just seems pretty irresponsible.

My point is, there are reasons both to defend sticking with XP and to defend upgrading. Sorry if that got lost at certain points!

Also, good call with Classic Shell. Windows 8.1 users who've wanted a Start menu generally seem pretty pleased with it.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
3/25/2014 | 5:03:41 PM
Re: Data Execution Prevention required for Windows 8?
Interesting. Thanks for sharing your experience. Microsoft hasn't sent over clarification about motherboard compatibility yet, but digging around online, it seems some people with older processors and motherboards were able to make Windows 8.1 work, whereas others had to upgrade components or abandon plans. Good to know there are more options for the older machines!
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
3/25/2014 | 5:02:53 PM
Why no inde;pendent third party support?

Why doesn't someone start a third-party XP support business? It's well documented, and security patches follow known update procedures. Would such a thing be viable, outside Microsoft? 
MikeS048
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MikeS048,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/25/2014 | 4:57:52 PM
Re: Windows XP
With over 35% of users still using XP - most do not care if Microsoft issues updates or security fix, etc. WIndows 8 is a bust and is going the way of WindowsME and WindowsVista. Most users running XP legacy applications also do not want to migrate to Windows 7. There are many companies out there that are going to continue to support XP and XP applications until the market share of XP drops below 10% whicj could take another 5-10 years. Those that do jump to Windows 7 "feel" they need to because they "feel" they are being left out on the Web not because of a pressing need. Windows 7 or Windows "9" is the way to go for most users of XP feeling left out from the web.
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