3 More Reasons SMBs Stick With Windows XP

Microsoft says Windows 8 selling like hotcakes, or at least like Windows 7. Here's why some SMBs are just saying no.

Kevin Casey, Contributor

January 11, 2013

6 Min Read

8 Key Differences Between Windows 8 And Windows RT

8 Key Differences Between Windows 8 And Windows RT

8 Key Differences Between Windows 8 And Windows RT (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

The clock might be ticking on Windows XP, but not every organization is operating on the same upgrade schedule.

Some small and midsize businesses (SMBs) are sticking with XP, now three versions and 11 years old, because of legacy applications, peripherals and even a stockpile of printer toner. Those firms aren't alone. An online discussion among IT professionals, many of them working at SMBs, over at the Spiceworks forum underscores the diverse list of reasons for continuing to run XP for the foreseeable future. Microsoft will end support for the OS in April 2014. Legacy applications and specialty hardware are indeed two common reasons for keeping XP around, but they're not the only ones. Let's look at three more.

1. Hardware Headed For Retirement Home.

Some IT pros will continue to support PCs running XP simply because they have no plans to upgrade the hardware. They'll run those machines until they -- or in some cases, their users -- retire.

"All new PCs here will be Win7," said forum member Denis Kelley. "Except for a few that had the drivers for it, all existing PCs will not be upgraded to Win7 and will eventually be retired."

MTSBrian noted a similar strategy, a Windows 7 upgrade driven by an incremental hardware refresh rather than an office-wide migration: "We are rolling out Win 7 x64 machines as the XP ones die or experience problems and need to be refreshed."

[ Ready for the latest? Check out Windows 8: 8 Big Benefits For SMBs. ]

In some cases, it's a matter of retiring employees rather than hardware. C_J's company is over 30% Windows 7, with all new PCs coming online with the newer OS, and plans to upgrade some of the faster XP machines. But it won't be a 100% upgrade. Said C_J: "The rest? They'll stay on XP forever. Just because MS has stopped supporting it doesn't mean that I have to." Older software -- think DOS -- is partly to blame, as are some users who simply don't want to be upgraded. "Hopefully the engineers who use that old software will be retired by the time those machines fall apart ... fingers crossed," C_J said.

2. Those Darn Pesky Users.

Indeed, end users muck up the upgrade process for some IT pros. "We are rolling out some Win7 machines and Office 2007 for people that are comfortable with it," said Chad.w. "Mostly it was a training issue here as our users are not particularly computer savvy or good with change."

S.Murray offered the following advice for coaxing stubborn user communities into the modern era. "I give them a choice. Option 1: keep your old, slow XP computer, and keep using the old system. Option 2: upgrade to 64 bit Win 7, get more speed and power, and lose the old system," S. Murray said. "Once I explain how 32 handles memory, and other things, most go for the upgrade. As a special reward, I give them all 4GB of ram (most had 1-2), which makes Win 7 run just fine on older hardware, and it is a win/win."

User training is a real -- if occasionally divisive -- issue. But S. Murray noted that once-grumpy employees can become IT's best ambassadors once they get up to speed. "Yes, you will need to teach them how to use things, which can be trying [with] users who have been using XP since it was new. But once they see the difference they help encourage the other troglodytes to join the cool kids on Win 7." 3. They Just Haven't Done It Yet.

Hey, it's not like there's a magical switch you can flip to move seamlessly from one OS to the next. Moving dozens, hundreds or certainly thousands of machines -- and their aforementioned users -- can take time. Budget's one reason. Slim IT staffs are another. There's testing to be done and a host of other tasks, too. They're moving on their schedule, not Microsoft's.

Nate6203 said: "We have around 200 XP left but will be replacing them within the next two years with Win7." Likewise, Jim9456 probably won't make Microsoft's support cutoff: "We have about 40 Win 7 and 80 Win XP. Are slowly replacing the XP machines with Win 7. At the rate we are going will probably not make the April 2014 deadline."

Sometimes, it's the nature of the business that hampers -- or altogether prevents -- an OS migration. That's the case for Eprince, who supports around 100 XP boxes and just a handful of Windows 7 machines. "We've been close to moving on Win 7 for a couple years, but business needs leave us only certain windows of opportunity to do it," eprince said. "Another issue is an IT staff of two and both positions have had turnover which upends planning. I'm hoping to finally get images and a plan in place by the end of tax season. As an accounting firm, nothing can be done between Jan and mid April, except planning."

Mobile and remote workers can cause upgrade headaches, too. "Hard to get some of the laptops scheduled for an upgrade when they haven't even been in the office for over a year," noted afeitguy. Nonetheless, his organization is "mostly" on Windows 7 now, and he takes a less rosy view on the prospect of missing that April 2014 end-of-life date. It's not so much support that worries him but a lack of security patches.

"The day XP is unsupported, I'm hoping all of you with XP machines immediately disable their Internet access. Those machines will become liabilities," afeitguy said. "I know it's not always up to us, as IT staff, to decide whether you move forward or not, but it's not like Microsoft just cut out XP with no warning. There has been ample time to plan for this. More so than any other OS in the history of computing, pretty much."

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About the Author(s)

Kevin Casey


Kevin Casey is a writer based in North Carolina who writes about technology for small and mid-size businesses.

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