End of Support for Windows XP

Since April 8, 2014, technical assistance for Windows XP (and Office 2003) has been withdrawn, including the automatic updates that help protect your PC. You can continue to use Windows XP, but your computer will become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses.

This means that, though Windows XP will continue to work perfectly well – if you use your computer to connect to the Internet, you are now at far, far greater risk of damage.

If you do use the machine for Internet access, you really do need to think about upgrading.

Windows XP first appeared in October, 2001.  It was upgraded several times: the latest was Service Pack 3 issued on July 10, 2008.  Apart from security updates, that is where it stopped.  You are using 5 year-old software!  Since then, three new Operating Systems have been released:  Windows Vista (2007), Windows 7 (2009) and Windows 8 (2012).

The first two have very much the same look-and-feel as Windows XP.  You’ll not notice a great deal of difference.  Windows 8 is a fairly dramatic change.  Your entry screen is full of large “buttons” and the familiar “Start” button is gone.  It is designed very much around the touch-screen functionality of a tablet or smart phone; this is the way that a lot of development is going.

Windows 8.1 (October 2013) has replaced the Start button after many howls of protest.  There are several other improvements too.

If you are using Windows 8, it is certainly worth upgrading to Windows 8.1 

Windows 10 is due to be launched in the third or fourth quarter of this year (2015) and has good reviews so far.  It may be worth waiting for - but it will be a free upgrade from Windows Vists, Windows 7 and Windows 8, so there is no real reason for delaying.

What can you do with your Windows XP machine?

An easy answer is to buy a new computer and ditch the old one!  Easy, but not always affordable…  However, if you are still using Windows XP, that is a pretty good indication that your computer is due for an upgrade.

If you do decide to upgrade to a new machine, I would generally suggest that you get Windows 8 on it.  When upgraded (if necessary – and for free) to Windows 8.1, you should not find the experience too daunting!

Can I upgrade my current PC to Windows 8.1?

Windows 8.1 can run on a few older PCs but not many of them!  You will need to have:

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
  • Free hard drive space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver

That’s all a bit technical-sounding – and remember that these are minimum requirements.  If your computer is not much different from the above, Windows 8.1 will work – but it will be pretty slow - possibly to the extent of being just about unusable.

Microsoft has produced a useful tool that you can download and run on your computer.  It will produce a report that will tell fairly definitively whether Windows 8.1 will run on your machine. 
Find it at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?LinkId=321548

Peripherals

Whether you upgrade your software or buy a new machine, you need to be aware that many peripherals (such as printers or scanners) do not have the driver software needed for them to run under Windows 8.  It is sometimes possible to find a solution to this; sometimes not. 

Generally speaking, the better-known makes have wider software support – and, of course, newer models are more likely to be compatible.  As you consider upgrading, it is always worth looking for your model of printer, scanner or whatever on the manufacturer's website.  See if you can find a Windows 8 driver to download.

Many printers are relatively cheap.  If yours is an old inkjet, you could well find that the ink costs (particularly if you use a reputable "compatible" suppliers*) mean that a new printer will quickly save you money.

* I buy all of my printer ink and laser toner cartridges from Internet-Ink.com and find them very reliable - and very significantly cheaper than the manufacturers inflated prices

What if I don't want Windows 8?

Windows 7 is still available.  Bizarrely, it will probably cost a bit more than the Windows 8 upgrade package.  However, the hardware that it needs to run is very much the same as Windows 8.  Don't think that, by only upgrading to Windows 7, your elderly computer will run better.  The reason not to upgrade to Windows 8 is more about the look and feel of the software.  New computers with Windows 7 are still fairly readily available, but it may be worth remembering (if you intend to keep your computer running for many years) that in about 2020, I'll be writing another page like this, to say that "Windows 7 is about to disappear"!  Windows 8 will last a bit longer - but do see the paragraph above about the launch of Windows 10.

Why is there no Windows 9?

The (plausible) rumour is that so many programs looked to see if a computer was running the old Windows 95 or Windows 98 operating system by simply looking for the "9", that using a "9" in the name would have caused confusion.

What else can I do?

If you don’t want to bite the bullet and spend, either about £85.00 to upgrade your machine to Windows 8 or around £300.00 to buy a new computer, what options are there for you?

The answer is probably to move to a different operating system.  There is available an OS called Linux.  It is free and it runs on much lower-specification equipment.  It is not Windows and it will not run some (much) of your old familiar software, like MS Office and Internet Explorer.  There are free alternatives (like Libre Office and Safari).  You’ll be able to do all that you could on your Windows XP platform - just with some different software.

There is a bewildering array of different versions of Linux - a site such as Tech Radar's will probably blow your mind! 

  • To dip a toe into Linux, download Knoppix.  This will run from a CD without disturbing your Windows XP - and let you look at one version of Linux.
  • On elderly machines, it could be that Puppy is a good choice.  It is a small download and specially suited to low specification computers.  This also allows you to run it from a CD (or flash drive).
  • Two of the traditional favourites are Ubuntu and Mint.  Opinions vary as to which is "better" for new Linux users. Whoever helps you to install it will probabably advise!

I can’t afford a new laptop to replace my ageing XP machine.  This is the way that I shall be going shortly.  I’ll let you know how I get on!

Further reading:

There's an excellent article here from Susan Bradley on the Windows Secrets website:
Securing XP PCs after Microsoft drops support  You'll need to click an answer to a simple question before you can see the text.  Reading it, I see that Susan is saying throughout that, unless there is a very pressing reason for keeping Windows XP, the proper, sensible answer is to leave this 12-year-old software behind and move on!