Windows XP won’t work fine forever!
By Charles Miller
As this column goes to press in the middle of April 2014, I am anticipating something that has not yet actually happened to me. This week marks the official end-of-life date for Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system, yet the latest statistics gathered from various web sites show that probably 30 percent of Windows users are still clinging doggedly to XP. What I am expecting to happen to me sometime real soon is that I am going to have a conversation with a client who will gloatingly say “See? My Windows XP computer is still working just fine!”
Of course many older copies of Windows XP will still be working just fine after the end-of-life date. Nobody ever said your old computer was going to burst into flames at midnight on April 8th. What happened earlier this month is that the last publicly available security updates for XP were released by Microsoft ending their support for this product. For the last 12 years Microsoft has provided, free of charge, updates and improvements to Windows XP in order to keep this software running smoothly and to protect users from new virus/malware threats as they were discovered. That is now over, and from this point forward the 30 percent of the public who continue to use XP will be forever vulnerable to the next new attack targeted at their computers.
Some erroneous reporting in the news has given users false hope that they will still be able to get patches for XP. The genesis of this seems to be the announcement from Microsoft saying, “If an organization continues to use Windows XP and purchases Custom Support, they will receive critical security updates as new threats are discovered, along with technical support through their Premier contract.” Rest assured this applies only to big corporations with thousands of computers and millions of dollars invested in software. Big companies that are paying for Custom Support under a Premier contract can expect Microsoft to honor those contracts until they expire, but for individual users receiving future updates for XP it is just not going to happen. Sorry.
Why are so many users still using Windows XP? Obviously there is no single answer to that question. Generally speaking, people are resistant to change, and for many people having to learn a new computer operating system is a good reason not to change. Others may cite financial considerations. Still others may be tied to older software applications that cannot run on newer hardware or newer versions of Windows. Eventually, though, almost all the users of XP will change to something newer.
This day might come when the Windows XP computer needs to be serviced as all computers eventually do. When the owner takes their broken Windows XP computer to the repair shop or calls a technician for an in-home visit they will be told that service is no longer being provided for Windows XP systems.
The reason this will happen is that anyone servicing computers will know that no matter how good a job they do, any Windows XP system can be compromised by its unpatched vulnerabilities the minute it is exposed to the internet. Knowing this, no business or individual technician wants to risk working on a customer’s XP computer. There is too much of a chance that computer will not stay fixed, and that an angry customer will want their money back when the repair job fails to last.
All of this conspires against the computer user who clings doggedly to their old Windows XP computer. In spite of the fact that running old software is an inherently bad idea, some people will continue doing so. For them, the end of Windows XP will probably come when they are no longer able to get the old computer serviced.
Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044-415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.