On 8 April 2014, Microsoft will conclude its technical support of Windows XP, a historical milestone in computer technology. What are the effects for personal and enterprise users?
What are the effects of the conclusion of Windows XP support on computers that already have it? First of all, we need to take into account that Windows XP was launched in 2001 and the last “big” update, or “service pack” in technical terms, was in May 2008, nearly 6 years ago. Since then, technology has advanced significantly. There was almost no HDMI or SSDs, no touch screens and no USB 3.0. To put it in a nutshell, many of the hardware components have changed. Additionally, 98% of Windows XP computers are using the 32 bit version which is unable to exceed 4 GB (realistically 3 GB) of RAM. Here we can begin to understand why changing from Windows XP is becoming a priority. It is also worth noting that the only 64 bit version was able to manage up to 128 GB of RAM only on Intel Itanium x64 processors.
What happens if you don’t want to change your PC?
As part of the conclusion of Windows XP support, Microsoft has already stopped publishing security updates. It is also becoming increasingly difficult to find software which is adaptable. For instance, Internet Explorer has been limited to version 8.0 for many years, while Internet Explorer 11 is now available on Windows 7 and Windows 8. When Internet browser and security fixes are combined, there are many functions related to security in general, and more specifically to the web, that will no longer be available. For example, banks will no longer be allowed to access bank accounts via PCs using Windows XP. We also need to consider the effects on multimedia. The arrival of smartphones on the market has completely changed the technology used to distribute information online, specifically videos, interactive animations and other functions. Even though HTML5 works with CSS3, Chrome, Safari, Opera, and Firefox, browsers which can be used on Windows XP systems, how much longer is this possible if the security updates are not compatible anymore? After Microsoft stops supporting it, this will consequently cease all industry interest to continue maintaining tools on this environment.
Is it a waste?
In practice, nothing is preventing many computers which currently run Windows XP from hosting Windows 7. The problem is that Windows 7 licences are needed since it is difficult to recommend Windows 8 use on XP systems. When many updates carried out on old systems that supported the Windows 7, Windows 8 was found to be fatal to the power supply or the motherboards.
Windows 8 requires computing power which pushes old hardware architectures to their limits. The migration to Windows 7 can cost around 100 euros, but it is still less expensive than a new computer.
A significant risk for professionals
If you are a professional and you lose your data on a PC with Windows XP, even after 8 April 2014, it is not a certainty that a professional insurance company will still cover you. It is the responsibility of the professional to have security tools and to arrange fully operational maintenance for them. Software providers other than Microsoft which continue to maintain versions on this environment may also no longer be covered be covered by insurance. Once it stops being maintained, the operating system is obsolete. Where it could still used in some workplaces or consulting firms for certain purposes, connecting to the network should be avoided. It is uncertain that major security flaws can be harmful on systems which are still marketed and maintained. This appears to be the end for Windows XP. It’s a bit like asbestos; you just have to get rid of it.