Windows XP - The End of the Line?

Microsoft support for Windows XP ended on April 8, 2014. After 13 years and several extensions, the operating system has finally reached it's end of life. This means that Microsoft will make no further updates of any kind available to the public, and Microsoft Product Support Services will no longer provide any assistance with XP-related issues of any kind.

Why is Microsoft doing this?
The current version of Windows, Windows 8, is three generations on from Windows XP. Based on Microsoft's Software Lifecycle Policy, support for Windows XP should have ended much sooner than it did. Old versions of operating systems are retired for several reasons:

  • Modern versions of Windows are much more secure due to their internal design than Windows XP
  • Modern WIndows is designed to make better use of advances in computer hardware
  • It costs a lot of money to provide support for many different versions of Windows, so eventually support for old versions has to end
  • Device makers (such as web cam or printer manufacturers) don't want to support old operating systems that not many people are using

Will Windows XP stop working?
No! Copies of Windows XP will continue to work as before and your license will remain valid. However, any bugs or security problems that are found will not be fixed.

Will software or peripherals like printers stop working?
Again, there will be no sudden changes. However, software and equipment makers may also stop providing support for Windows XP. This could mean that the latest version of your favourite software will not be available for Windows XP. It may also mean that you may not be able to buy a new printer or other device that will work with Windows XP.

So what will actually change?
The change will happen gradually. New devices will not work, and new software, like anti-virus programs, will no longer be developed. Each software or device make decides their own policy, with some continuing support for longer than others. However, because newly discovered security problems in XP will not be fixed by Windows updates, computers running Windows XP will be vulnerable to malware such as viruses and spyware. Even if you have an up to date anti-virus program, it's ability to protect you will decrease as new, unfixed vulerabilities in XP are discovered by malware creators.

What should I do?
If your computer does not need to be connected to the Internet, you do not need to worry much about security problems. However, if you do use the Internet, and especially if you shop or bank online, you are risking an unpleasant outcome. The best advise is to use a modern operating system. Unfortunately, if your computer is more than a couple of years old, it probably makes most sense to get a new one. Upgrading isn't cheap, but it's the only way to stay safe online.