The end of Windows XP and what to do about it.

posted 4 Feb 2014, 12:05 by WillisITServices   [ updated 13 May 2014, 11:28 ]

A lot of my customers have read that support for computers running Windows XP will end on 8th April 2014, and have therefore asked me what the solution is.

The good news, and the short answer, is: nothing. Windows XP will not suddenly cease to function. Your computer will still work on April 9th, and it's unlikely that you will see any warning messages about the end of official support.

However, it does mean that any manufacturer of hardware or software will no longer be obliged to make their product work in Windows XP. So for instance if you buy a new printer, camera, or download some new software after that date, it may not work with Windows XP at all. On the other hand, this will not be a sudden change, and many things will still be supported.

In terms of software support, Microsoft always focusses support on the latest versions of Windows, even those still officially supported. 

This table shows which versions of Microsoft software will work with each version of Windows.

This is because Microsoft are interested in pushing sales of the latest product. Third parties however, will be much more keen to attain the greatest amount of customers possible, regardless of the age of their computer.

Existing software that does not require updating or an internet connection will continue to work forever. The only software that matters to an older computer is that which needs to be updated regularly in order to work. In most cases this is just your web browser and security software. For those of my regular customers, you are most likely using Google Chrome and Avast anti-virus. Google will be extending support for another year and Avast have a good history of supporting older computers. Windows 2000 is still supported!

But could you just update to Windows 7 or Windows 8? Yes and no: Both can still be purchased, but that costs £75 to start with. The process is not simple however:
  • You can not skip versions when upgrading Windows. Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 implies skipping Windows Vista, so you would have to upgrade to Vista first, which is no longer available!
  • Instead of an upgrade, Windows can be re-installed. But in order to replace XP with Windows 7 or Windows 8, all the data would need to be backed up, Windows re-installed, then all your software re-installed and the data restored.
  • Then there is the problem of compatibility. If the hardware manufacturer has not intended for anything later than Windows XP to be used, then the required software may not be available i.e. your sound, wireless adapter or printer may not work.
  • Software compatibility could also be a problem if you have old software only designed for XP i.e. accounting, photo, genealogy, etc.
  • The speed of the computer designed for Windows XP may not be fast enough to run Windows 7 or Windows 8. Upgrades like memory may be available, but may not be enough to prevent a slow computer.
  • Even if you overcome all of the above, you still have an older computer, which will not provide the lifespan of a new one, so it will have to replaced again soon, requiring yet more work.
So the solution? Keep your Windows XP computer well maintained until either:
  • It becomes too old and slow to be useful.
  • Hardware failure renders it uneconomical to repair.
  • You can no longer download a required update.
  • You purchase a new device or software package that no longer works with Windows XP.
There is one final exception: Some computers that were built around 2006/7 were provided with an option to have either Windows XP or Windows Vista, and will run Windows 7 with no hardware upgrades. Upgrading to Windows 7 or 8 now would provide a much longer life than typical Windows XP computers, which are much older and slower.