Windows XP is dying - here's what you need to do

By: John McGarvey

Date: 18 March 2014

Windows XP is dying - here's what you need to do/Broken window? The end of XP{{}}Are any computers in your business still running Windows XP? If so, listen up. The information in this blog post could help your company avoid unnecessary risks over the next few weeks.

As you might be aware, Microsoft is retiring Windows XP on 8 April 2014. After that date, Windows XP will no longer receive updates from Microsoft.

Security issues will not be fixed and bugs will no longer be resolved.

You can keep using Windows XP after 8 April, but that would be taking a gamble. With Microsoft no longer actively fixing security vulnerabilities, you can bet hackers will redouble their efforts to find new holes in Microsoft’s venerable operating system.

You must replace Windows XP

If your company is still using Windows XP, it’s not alone. By some estimates, worldwide there could be 100 million computers still running Windows XP when Microsoft pulls the plug. (Somewhat worryingly, 95% of cash machines are based on XP, although they tend to use a special version that will remain supported for a couple more years.)

For you, by far the safest option is to stop using Windows XP by 8 April. But how?

Well, if your computers are under four years old, it should be possible to upgrade them to a more recent version of Windows. (You might consider a memory upgrade, too.)

Microsoft is keen to push users towards Windows 8. However, it’s still possible to buy Windows 7 from some suppliers. Many people prefer this because the interface is more familiar if you're used to XP.

If your computers are getting long in the tooth anyway, it’s probably time to bite the bullet and invest in some new hardware. New computers are typically cheaper to maintain than older machines, which are more likely to break down.

Before you upgrade, check software compatibility

Before you rush out to buy new copies of Windows and install them on your computers, it’s important to do a few checks.

First of all, make sure all your current software and data will work with the new version of Windows you choose. Some older software packages don’t play nicely with newer versions of Windows.

Pay particular attention to business-critical applications, like your customer database or accounting software.

If you find software compatibility is going to be a problem, consider upgrading that software too, or switching to a different package.

It’s not too late to get Windows XP help

It’s wise to speak to an IT supplier. They can help you understand your options and make sure you haven’t missed anything that might cause problems.

For example, it’s not possible to install Windows 8 straight over Windows XP. You must perform what’s called a ‘clean installation’. This gives you the Windows 8 default settings, instead of carrying your existing settings over.

A good IT supplier may also be able to buy you some breathing space. For instance, in the short term you might continue running Windows XP on a computer that’s not connected to the internet, so hackers can’t attack it.

There’s plenty of official advice on the Microsoft website, although keep in mind that this will push you towards Windows 8 instead of Windows 7. If you’re not sure which version of Windows you have, you can also use Am I running XP? to see if you need to worry about upgrading.

Finally, a number of IT manufacturers are offering deals or trade-in programmes to businesses ready to move away from Windows XP. There’s a good round-up on the PC Pro website.

What does the * mean?

If a link has a * this means it is an affiliate link. To find out more, see our FAQs.