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3/17/2014
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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

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PaulS681
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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.
Laurianne
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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.
lharbaugh960
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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.
melgross
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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.
melgross
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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.
moonwatcher
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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....
moonwatcher
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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.

 

 
GrayG879
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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.
Cynique
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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!
RadDoc53
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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.
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