Do you still use Windows XP?

Is your home PC still running Windows XP? If you’ve had the PC for more than 4 years, especially if it’s formerly an office PC, then the chances are quite high.

Microsoft’s Windows XP was first launched in August 2001 and has undergone several revisions during the past 12 years but it remains fundamentally a 12 year old operating system.

Microsoft said last year that support for XP would end in April 2014, and recently re-affirmed this deadline. So, what does that mean? Firstly, your PC will not stop working overnight, although several messages from Microsoft warning of dire consequences are likely!

The biggest single issue is that of updates. Windows XP is a system that’s very well known to writers of viruses, trojans and other nasties, meaning that Microsoft has spent many years plugging security gaps, fixing bugs and doing housekeeping. In April 2014 those updates, security and bug fixes, will end. Your PC will no longer be updated when a new threat is discovered, even if Windows Vista, 7 & 8 all receive the relevant updates.

What are your choices?

  • First option is to retire the PC, thank it for its service over the years. Just make sure you copy any data off the hard-drive before you wipe it.
  • Second is to disconnect your XP PC from the internet (including your local network) and never put it at risk again.
  • Third is to pay Microsoft for an update to Windows 8.1 (or 7) – but only if the PC is capable of running a newer version of Windows.
  • Finally, you could always put a different operating system on it, keep using it on the internet and get regular updates. It just wouldn’t be Windows but it wouldn’t mean paying Microsoft any money.

What’s the real risk of doing nothing? The threat is real, your PC would not be safe from attack and your data would not be safe from damage or theft. The only unknown quantity here is how long after April your PC would remain unscathed.

What’s more worrying is the sheer number of business systems that still rely on XP. To give you an idea of the scale of the problem, some 34,000 XP PCs are still in use in the Indian banking industry. A similar number exists for the call-centres that handle your banking, insurance and utility accounts. Did you also know that ATMs (Hole in the Wall, Cashpoints) all have a PC within them; large number internationally still run XP.

Some articles on the subject: