Software // Operating Systems
News
3/17/2014
10:10 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Windows XP Holdouts: 6 Top Excuses

Microsoft cuts support for Windows XP in less than a month, but millions still use the OS. Are these rationales worth the risk?

Hundreds of millions of people are still using Windows XP, even though Microsoft will stop supporting the 12-year-old OS in less than a month. Most experts doubt that unpatched XP systems will wreak widespread havoc, but they agree that many XP holdouts face significant risks. Even if XP's retirement doesn't cause systemic devastation, it opens the door for cyberattacks that could still crush unprepared businesses or individuals.

If the risks are real, why do so many people continue to gamble on XP? Here are six top excuses we've heard. Let us know in the comments if you're sticking with XP for a reason we missed.

1. Upgrading from XP is too expensive. Tight budgets are a problem for consumers and businesses alike, and many have blamed financial constraints for their failure to upgrade. For many with older XP systems, the cost of upgrading involves not only new licenses, but also new hardware. As smartphones and tablets have become more capable, many people have postponed or canceled PC upgrade plans. As a result, millions of active XP systems lack the specs to satisfactorily run Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Moreover, even among those whose XP systems run on more capable hardware, the expense of new licenses can be prohibitive.

2. Windows 7 and 8.1 pose application-compatibility problems. Many businesses rely on applications that were designed for XP and do not run well, or at all, on more modern operating systems. Some companies depend on software whose vendors have since disappeared, or who will no longer issue updates for XP-based titles.

[What will happen if you're still running Windows XP after April 8? Read Windows XP Goes Dark: 5 Things to Expect.]

For some, the cost of replacing old licenses with new ones can be daunting. Office 2003 will also lose support in April, for example. Some happy Office 2003 users are balking at what they perceive as artificial pressure to upgrade, not only to a new operating system, but to a new version of Office as well.

3. I think XP is good enough. As the preceding point about Office 2003 attests, many people refuse to abandon XP, because they think the OS is already good enough for their needs. For every power user who needs a cutting-edge system, there are several people who just need simple access to email, a web browser, and possibly a few desktop applications, namely Office (or so this line of reasoning goes).

Credit: Nick Perla, Flickr
Credit: Nick Perla, Flickr

This excuse is somewhat debatable. Even if you have very basic needs, tales of XP systems that take 10 minutes to boot are legion. If you have a very relaxed schedule, that might be fine, but it's hard to see how productivity doesn't become an issue at some point, especially for those with older hardware.

But the excuse is also moot. You can argue that XP is adequate for email and Web browsing, but after April you won't be able to argue that XP is safe for these activities.

4. I'm not connecting Windows XP to the Internet. As mentioned above, beyond April, Windows XP won't be particularly safe for general computing -- that is, anything that involves connecting to the public Internet. Luckily, many of the XP systems still running in businesses have been assigned other tasks, such as running a single application on a private, secure network.

5. I planned to upgrade, but I ran into bad luck. In an interview, Forrester analyst David Johnson said some companies began migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7 but ran into delays of some kind, including unforeseen application compatibility problems, changing budget priorities, and other unanticipated factors. Many companies in this position have been forced into secondary plans, such as revoking administrative privileges from XP systems that cannot be retired and relegating these systems to single-application use.

6. I hadn't realized my computer was still running Windows XP. This one might seem improbable, given that XP systems are now issuing monthly pop-up notifications to hassle their owners into upgrading. Still, not everyone is technologically savvy, and many have grown accustomed to reflexively closing pop-ups without bothering to read what they say. Moreover, given that tablets and smartphones have usurped many PC tasks, it's easy to imagine aging XP systems that just sit in the corner, collecting dust and getting turned on perhaps once or twice a month when the user needs Office. Given that several million such systems are probably out there, at least a few people might not even see Microsoft's notifications until after XP support has ended.

Most InformationWeek readers probably don't relate to this level of tech obliviousness, but Microsoft appears to recognize some customers need more help than others. The company recently made PCmover Express, a file migration tool, available for free, and even maintains a website that tells you whether you're running Windows XP. Nevertheless, with so many people still using the OS, it's inevitable that a few will suffer malware mishaps simply because they hadn't realized they needed to act.

Incidents of mobile malware are way up, researchers say, and 78% of respondents worry about lost or stolen devices. But although many teams are taking mobile security more seriously, 42% still skip scanning completely, and just 39% have MDM systems in place. Find out more in the State Of Mobile Security report (free registration required).

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

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
pratrous@fakeinbox.com
100%
0%
pratrous@fakeinbox.com,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/17/2014 | 10:34:23 AM
My only reason for having to use XP
I have a PATA cd-rom with no SATA capability and my bios won't allow usb installs.  XP can fit on a CD, but not Windows 7.  I ended up using that pc as a linux console for use as a Minecraft server.  I would have used Windows 7 possible if they'd had a web install like Ubuntu.
rradina
50%
50%
rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
3/18/2014 | 9:10:42 PM
Re: My only reason for having to use XP
Got a network?  Rip the Windows 7 DVD to an ISO file.  Copy it to the target PC using the network.  Mount it using one of the many free image mounting utilties.

Once mounted, run the setup.  Windows will copy all the necessary installation goodies to the hard drive and complete the install from there when it reboots.

Of course you need a large enough hard disk to hold not only the image file but the stuff that the Windows 7 installer copies to the disk.  You also cannot do a "clean" install this way because you cannot format the drive or you'll lose the Windows 7 install stuff.  However, I'm pretty sure you can tell it to blow away the previous Windows before it does that.  It's been a while since I've done this type of stuff but it should be possible.  You also might be able to partition your hard drive and have the setup copy the windows install stuff to the second partition.  That might enable you to format the first partition and set it up as the boot drive.  Later you can rejoin the partitions using freely available partition software.

I'm almost certain you can get 7 on a machine without a DVD or exernal USB drive.
JohnM07501
100%
0%
JohnM07501,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/17/2014 | 10:37:21 AM
XP Holdouts
Sounds like you work for Microsoft. XP still works fine. Your "excuses " are really valid reasons.
CraigHerberg
100%
0%
CraigHerberg,
User Rank: Strategist
3/17/2014 | 10:48:48 AM
Partially mitigating XP security risks
Clearly, getting new computers with a modern OS is the safest bet, but for those who hold on to XP for any reason, at least get rid of Java and Flash, which are two major attack vectors; and make sure to have a good security suite installed.  Craig Herberg
moonwatcher
50%
50%
moonwatcher,
User Rank: Ninja
3/17/2014 | 12:53:02 PM
Re: Partially mitigating XP security risks
And Adobe Acrobat Reader....replace it perhaps with one of the more secure ones...I'm just going to image my hard drive...then if it starts acting flaky just wipe it and reload...shouldn't be too hard. If all else fails I'll put Ubuntu on in in a dual boot mode and start using it for most browsing.

I'm hoping that going to normal sites using XP such as iTunes, Google, and Yahoo won't get me hosed....We'll see.

 

 
LesD311
50%
50%
LesD311,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/17/2014 | 10:49:58 AM
Windows XP holdouts
The obvious (and free) solution to most of  these excuses is not even mentioned in the article.

Any system which can run Windows XP can almost certainly  run a modern Linux system (such as Linux Mint 16). Installing such an operating system might take less time than booting an XP system encumbered with twelve years of updates: some users report a five minute install.

Once Linux is installed you will most likely already have a familiar browser (Mozilla Firefox) and an office suite (LibreOffice) which does almost everything MS Office does.

Proprietary software designed for XP is just as likely to run under Linux (with Wine) as under Windows 8. For example, Internet Explorer 6 runs with Wine, but doesn't with Windows 8, and a lot of old software relies on IE6. The Linux desktop will be more familiar to an XP user than Windows 8, and LibreOffice will be more familiar to an MS Office 2003 user than the latest MS Office will.

And the old hardware will run faster than it has for years.
FrankOthemountain
50%
50%
FrankOthemountain,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/17/2014 | 10:59:12 AM
Re: Windows XP holdouts
God Cuthbert, why is there always someone like you spouting about mint? Nautious.
moonwatcher
50%
50%
moonwatcher,
User Rank: Ninja
3/17/2014 | 1:00:01 PM
Re: Windows XP holdouts
Mint, Ubuntu or whatever....They are all cool in their own right and nowadays you don't have to be a geek to run them. Main thing is that if millions did this there would be far less waste going in our landfills at least all at one time, since these PCs could easily be used for several more years.

 

I'm planing on dual booting XP with Ubuntu...I will try using XP for going to iTunes and MOG though, hoping I don't get hosed....

I've never tried Mint...Sounds interesting....
melgross
IW Pick
100%
0%
melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
3/17/2014 | 1:09:48 PM
Re: Windows XP holdouts
That's not a reasonable substitute for most people. The latest numbers have Linux distros at 1.18% worldwide marketshare. That's not going to change much.
Laurianne
50%
50%
Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
3/17/2014 | 3:35:50 PM
Re: Windows XP holdouts
I have to agree with Mel here. People who can't get their heads around a new version of Windows are not going to run and install Linux. It's good for a certain slice of the crowd, but it's not going to magically appear on old PCs in retail and hospitality settings, where I often see XP.
Brian.Dean
50%
50%
Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
3/18/2014 | 2:26:50 AM
Re: Windows XP holdouts
Agreed, consumer might have the time to experiment with a different OS but enterprise does not have the time to test an OS that does not come with any support. And support can even come from 3rd party organizations, these organization are also facing extra work without any foreseeable revenue growth, so even if the organizations wants to provide support for XP to their customers the reality is that they can't afford it. Either way, XP is gone.
rradina
50%
50%
rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
3/18/2014 | 9:13:34 PM
Re: Windows XP holdouts
I thought you could get support from company's like Red Hat.
melgross
50%
50%
melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
3/17/2014 | 1:14:27 PM
Re: Windows XP holdouts
Sigh, another clueless Linux user. Look, it's fine for you, for whatever reason. But you guys keep popping up in almost any discussion as though Linux was the answer to everything. The fact is that almost no one uses it, and almost no one ever will. It's not a solution for the vast majority of people. It's something that a small number of fans prefer.
PaulS681
50%
50%
PaulS681,
User Rank: Ninja
3/17/2014 | 6:58:47 PM
Re: Windows XP holdouts
@Mel... Linux is only for the tech savy and even at that there arn't many that run it. You are correct in my estimation. Linux is not an answer.
anon4591713220
100%
0%
anon4591713220,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/17/2014 | 8:25:00 PM
Re: Windows XP holdouts
About 70,000,000 million people use linux as of today. I've used Slackware Linux since it's first public release on July 17, 1993. Numerous Cities and even the NSA use Linux. Countless web servers (the vast majority) run some distro of Linux. Does not sound like "nobody" to me.
Gary_EL
50%
50%
Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
3/18/2014 | 1:32:31 AM
Re: Windows XP holdouts
Linux isn't hard to use at all, I was with a group that taught it to inner-city HS kids. Have you noticed how many recycled XP machines that don't have the power to run 7 are now being offered with Ubuntu? And yes, I realize that this isn't a solution for most people, because sooner rather than later, you're going to run into SOMETHING that you'll need Windows or Apple to do.

Oh, and about excuse 4 - it won't be long before someone, for whatever reason, plugs in a flashdrive with some hidden malware lurking within, and the system will be clobbered.
PaulS681
50%
50%
PaulS681,
User Rank: Ninja
3/18/2014 | 8:18:56 AM
Re: Windows XP holdouts
@Gary,

I think the point here is Linux is not in the main stream. Many of these XP machines are in buisneses that don't have the resourses to support linux.

And yes, you my be correct about using excuse 4 however in my case it's about 8 machines and they run Manf software that run older heavy equipment. In some cases they need to run the older version that runs on XP.

I agree it's not ideal but it is what it is.
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
3/19/2014 | 11:05:11 PM
Re: Windows XP holdouts
"Have you noticed how many recycled XP machines that don't have the power to run 7 are now being offered with Ubuntu?"


I agree with the others who've said Ubuntu is too niche to fill XP's shoes-- but I think this quote brings up a good point. Some really puny hardware that won't come close to running Windows 7 will still comfortably run Linux. Here are the system requirements for Ubuntu: 700 MHz processor, 512 MB RAM, and a minimum display resolution of 1024x768 pixels. Some other Linux flavors support even more meager specs.

Moving to Linux will be something of a project for many XP users, so I don't anticipate many will do so. But if you have a little time on your hands and an old XP machine that would otherwise go in a landfill, Ubuntu could extend the life of your PC. For anyone who's truly ticked at the prospect of buying a new computer, it's at least one option.

 
pbornemeier
50%
50%
pbornemeier,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/19/2014 | 10:28:57 AM
Re: Windows XP holdouts
I think Microsoft is missing a huge income opportunity by not shifting XP to a paid subscription for maintenance and Microsoft Security Essentials upgrade.  Most sites would be willing to pay $25 per year per XP installation (with discounts for more XP machines at a site).
ChrisG034
100%
0%
ChrisG034,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/17/2014 | 10:57:04 AM
Regarding Item #3
Startup time as a reason to migrate to a new system is 100% pure, unadulturated B.S. I have a Windows 7 laptop at home, not even close to 50% filled and it takes as long as my Windows XP laptop at work, which is 95% filled. Granted, hard drive sizes are different. Each has antivirus, each receives and downloads updates right away. My Windows 7 desktop at home also takes as long as Windows XP laptop. There really isn't a difference in loading time from XP to 7, especially if you have a lot of stuff in your system tray.
FrankOthemountain
100%
0%
FrankOthemountain,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/17/2014 | 10:57:37 AM
Fat old ladies
Everyone needs to stop whining around like fat old ladies. Like MS patches are so great..... Just image your hard drive and stfu already.
RadDoc53
50%
50%
RadDoc53,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/17/2014 | 11:01:13 AM
Upgrade from Windows XP
I have an old Windows XP computer, Pentium 4. Compared with my Windows7 box XP is slow to boot and to surf. Scrolling on web pages or Word is slow. The big problem will come when web pages no longer work with IE 8, as this is the last version of IE likely to work on XP. I now have a dual boot system with Mint 16. Installation is easy. Actually it is easier than a Windows install. It recognized all my hardware and my new printer. Open Office is great for most home purposes. It may not serve your business needs however. Frankly I don't expect to use XP. I have it "just in case". One reason to keep XP is to be able to install a SCSI card for use in an old slide scanner or some other legacy SCSI equipment.
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
3/19/2014 | 11:09:10 PM
Re: Upgrade from Windows XP
"The big problem will come when web pages no longer work with IE 8, as this is the last version of IE likely to work on XP."

Good point. A lot of businesses rely on tools that were built for IE 8. To address potential problems, the new version of IE that will launch with this spring's Windows 8.1 update is supposed to have some kind of IE 8 compatability mode.
Cynique
100%
0%
Cynique,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/17/2014 | 11:05:58 AM
All The Super New Features!
Ah yes, the new capabilities in Windows 7/8... The little box you can scroll for commmand and the popup boxes you can't navigate in reverse are really cool!  The thing they call a search box in the upper right corner of Windows Explorer is wonderful because you get to play with all kinds of extra steps if you just want to search contents of a date range.  That Windows Explorer boxes can't even remember their sizes and positions is a feature I would have paid lots of money for.  The locked directories that won't let you get to startup menus and other customizations are indescribably delicious.  The list goes on and on and on...

 

I spend 20% of my work day just enjoying the new features as I work through them on my way to doing my work.  But this is the best feature because I just pass the expense on to my clients.

 

I LOVE WINDOWS 7/8!
GrayG879
100%
0%
GrayG879,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/17/2014 | 11:07:13 AM
What a bunch of BS
I have friends calling me all the time (seniors) asking if they should upgrade their computers becasue MS is threatening to cut off support for XP.

 

I tell them if it isn't broke don't fix it.  I know of companies today that are still running Windows NT 4.0.  MS cutoff support fo NT 4.0 over 10 years ago.

 

There are simple reason to never upgrade.  If your hardware is supported by XP but not by W7 you would obviously be required to upgrade your hardware (get a new computer)  If you are satisfied with your computer and have spare parts or maybe even a few spare computes of the same make and model on hand,  there is no reason to go beyond XP unless you encounter web compatability issues regarding newer browsers and plugins such as flash, Java etc..

 

If you feel the need to pacify others who keep urging you to upgrade to W7/W8 tell them you are absolutely going to upgrade jsut as soon as your XP computer stops working.
lharbaugh960
50%
50%
lharbaugh960,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/17/2014 | 1:43:00 PM
The Real Reason
The REAL reason everyone is trying so hard to get people to move off XP is that it is the last version of the MS OS without the built-in NSA backdoor.
PaulS681
IW Pick
100%
0%
PaulS681,
User Rank: Ninja
3/17/2014 | 6:55:37 PM
Excuse 4
We have some machines at work that are run by older software that needs to run on XP. For this reason we cannot upgrade them at this point. These Machines are either stand alone or on a  private network that doesn't touch the internet.
Brian.Dean
50%
50%
Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
3/18/2014 | 2:11:15 AM
Re: Excuse 4
The majority of our systems have also moved over to Windows 7 and it has been a long time since this move took place. The remaining that are still on XP is due to software compatibility issues, however, most of these issues are because the user of the system is not tech savvy to find a workaround and many of the scenarios that took place during the upgrade from 98 to XP are still lingering in the minds of those users. 
Indian-Art
100%
0%
Indian-Art,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/18/2014 | 12:50:12 AM
Free & Safe Alternatives
Switch to the free & awesome OS: www.ubuntu.com/download

Its the worlds most popular free OS.

:) Or try www.kubuntu.com or www.xubuntu.com
McDaveX
50%
50%
McDaveX,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/18/2014 | 10:10:14 AM
Well...
Why not ask your bank?

95% of ATMs are still on XP, and appararently the cost of upgrading those across the country in (for example) the UK can come to thousands (interim extended support from MS, physical upgrade of equipment, new versions of the software, and of course the OS cost itself) - all of which will be passed on to customers in increased charges.

Bonanza for ATM manus of course, who will get the bulk of that money. No doubt they are very happy indeed with Microsoft right now :)
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
3/19/2014 | 10:52:04 PM
Re: Well...
Yeah, some ATMs can evidently handle software upgrades, but older/cheaper ones (think local liquor store models) will probably need to replaced, which can cost several thousand dollars per unit. Between paying Microsoft for extended service and updating machines, each big bank reportedly faces tens of millions in costs. Higher ATM fees coming our way?
rradina
50%
50%
rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
3/18/2014 | 9:22:58 PM
Reasons 1, 2
Regarding too expensive to upgrade:

I'm pretty sure Microsoft made reduced price upgrades avaialable for Vista, 7 and 8 when they first debuted.

 

Regarding compatibility problems:

Most programs would run but they won't install because their installers made assumptions about where the user folder is or where configuration files should go.  Further, some programs try to write to places outside the user folder and a normal user doesn't have access to do that unless they set their account as an admin and disable UAC.  Disabling UAC in Windows 8 prohibits modern apps from running.

Perhaps I'm splitting hairs but the most aggregious compatibiilty problems generally come from device driver hassles.  Vista changed the driver model and if the hardware vendor didn't provide new drivers for your device, you were SOL.  There's no solution.  This really bugged me because of all the backward, backward compatibility Microsoft builds into Windows, why wouldn't they foresee folks wanting to run a legacy driver?  Why couldn't they have provided a sand-box to run these drivers and at least let folks continue to use their trusted scanners, printers and other peripherals that were fine but rendered useless for no other reason than the Vista/7/8 driver model cannot use their drivers?  I had a relatively expensive SCSI scanner from years ago that I trashed because HP never released updated drivers for it.  That ticked me off big time.
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
3/19/2014 | 10:47:03 PM
Re: Reasons 1, 2
"Perhaps I'm splitting hairs but the most aggregious compatibiilty problems generally come from device driver hassles."

 

I don't think that's splitting hairs or a minor quibble at all, actually. I've heard a lot of complaints about device driver problems. Thanks for bringing it up-- great point.

Any other readers who've encountered device driver issues related to XP?
niblets0492
50%
50%
niblets0492,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/18/2014 | 11:31:12 AM
Re: Windows XP holdouts
Linux blows.
AlphaBase
50%
50%
AlphaBase,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/18/2014 | 11:58:27 AM
We don't want no stink'in upgrade
Using words like "holdouts' and "excuses" indicates that you are on the Microsh*t payroll. We don't need to buy junk like Win8 when XP works just fine. Personally I have XP machines and Win7 machines. I might upgrade XP to Linux Mint on my XP machines since Microsh*t treats it's millions of customers like sh*t. There's no excuse in the world for MS to screw it's user base by pulling the rug out from under all of us. They could easily continue to support XP as they have been doing at little cost to them. Eventually everyone will upgrade anyway - machines die, sooner or later people want the newer features (assuming they work in a user-friendly manner) or they need new functionality not provided in XP. MS needs to learn the value of something called "good will". They ought to learn that doing the right thing is more important than tryiing to squeeze every last dollar out of the rest of us. I'll be damned if I give more money to Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer just so they can have even more billions. Blank'em!
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Dec. 9, 2014
Apps will make or break the tablet as a work device, but don't shortchange critical factors related to hardware, security, peripherals, and integration.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of December 14, 2014. Be here for the show and for the incredible Friday Afternoon Conversation that runs beside the program.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.