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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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pjdxxxwa
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pjdxxxwa,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/28/2014 | 3:03:15 PM
The BEST option

Your best option to replace XP -  if you are worried about security or viruses (and being expensive forced to buy anti-viruses internet security software yearly), and a company trying to bully you even couple years to upgrade their software, or a computer that does not last is to buy a MAC.

Bought my Mac Pro desktop in 2006.  The only think I ever needed was to add more memory and that is only because of all the bells and whistles that all these interet sites think they need. Sure,  I needed to get MS WORD for Mac (only because I am used to it), but it comes with its own Office suite of Safari, Numbers (think Excel)  and Keynote.  And many of the MAC software is Free on the Internet if you want more,  because Apple users believe in shareware.  

With MS trying desperately to make a Mac-like computer (and failing big time) I am so glad I did choose to switch. In the long-term its less money going out, less worry about viruses, and far more reliable. Something    to think about.

Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
4/24/2014 | 10:00:46 AM
Re: Common Usage
@Michael: One thing I've noticed is that Firefox doesn't have this problem in Windows 7.  Yet another reason to not use IE, I guess.  (At least, in Windows 7.)
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
4/11/2014 | 6:11:01 PM
Re: Common Usage
That was a personal pet peeve for me, too. It might sound like a small change, but I really didn't like it the first time I used Windows 7. Eventually, though, I got used to it and found ways to make it work for me.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
4/11/2014 | 6:08:21 PM
No love for Mac or Chrome among the XP loyalists?
It's interesting that in all these comments, there's been talk about upgrading an old XP PC to Windows 7, Windows 8.1, or even Linux-- but pretty much no one who's advocating Macs, Chromebooks, or tablets.

Google's been baiting XP users for months-- anyone out there move from Windows XP to a Chromebook? Anyone decide that OS X was a better upgrade option than Windows 8.1?
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
4/11/2014 | 6:05:15 PM
Re: Data Execution Prevention required for Windows 8?
So, it's not the categorical response we might have hoped for, but here's what Microsoft said on the issue:

"'NX' is the hardware feature that enforces Data Execution Protection, so in effect yes, Windows 8.1 computers require support for NX for hardware-assisted data execution protection. But there are additional requirements as described here."
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
4/11/2014 | 6:03:12 PM
Re: The Windows/Mac crossroads
Sorry, Wyatt! I missed this question.

I think Microsoft is doing a strong job moving Office and other core properties to the cloud. It's not a perfect antidote to incfreased OS competition; the Mac Office products haven't been updated in some time, for example, and Microsoft will have to show broader benefits to persuade some people that subscriptions are better than standalone purchases. Indeed, they'll have to show broader benefits to persude some people that subscriptions are better than all the free products that have emerged. 

For enterprise customers, I think Microsoft is already making a good case, and Office for iPad could signal some  consumer progress, though the company still seems to have a hazier strategy there. If Cortana, the Windows Phone 8.1 digital assistant, is released for iOS and Android before the end of the summer, that would be a strong statement.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
4/1/2014 | 9:57:07 PM
Re: Common Usage
One thing that I REALLY like in XP more than in 7.  If you have multiple tabs or documents open in the same program, and minimize them or hide them, when you click on the icon, you are forced to switch the particular tab/document you want right then and there.

In XP, it simply took you back immediately to whatever document or tab you had most recently worked with/opened.  This was FAR more efficient and far less time consuming.

So boo on Windows 7 for that.  Mleh.
PaulS681
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PaulS681,
User Rank: Ninja
4/1/2014 | 12:43:42 AM
Re: Common Usage
I can see cost being an issue to upgrade and running legacy apps as well. But if cost is not an issue and you dont run any old apps I don't see the problem. Windows 7 is a much improved OS. I don't understand why some want to stick with XP.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
3/31/2014 | 11:22:33 PM
Re: Common Usage
My opinion/experience: The consumer tech market secretly drives the enterprise tech market -- at least when it comes to upgrading and adopting new technology.  Execs and their families get the toys at home, then want to adopt them in the enterprise from there.  (iPhone, anyone?)

A great example was Windows 95/98.  What helped drive adoption in business was the fact that many game developers (and other software developers) started developing exclusively for Win 95+ -- with no backwards compatibility.

In the consumer market, however, there has been very little compelling reason to upgrade from XP to 7 unless you're particularly conscious about security (and, let's face it, most consumers aren't).  We are seeing the result of that apathy in the enterprise.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
3/31/2014 | 11:17:43 PM
Re: Risk
Is it too late to downgrade to MS-DOS 5.0?
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