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Is Microsoft Wrong to Retire Windows XP?

There's an interesting article in Computerworld today about the dangers surrounding Microsoft's plan to finally pull the plug on Windows XP. The argument goes something like this: Many people still use XP, and depriving them of future security patches could lead to devastating malware infections and, by extension, myriad forms of mayhem.

From the article, by Gregg Keizer:

Microsoft plans to ship the final public patches for Windows XP on April 8. After that, it will not deliver fixes for security vulnerabilities it and others find in the 13-year-old operating system. The result, even Microsoft has said, could be devastating. Last October, the company said that after April 8, Windows XP would face a future where machines are infected at a rate 66% higher than before patches stopped. "After April [2014], when we release monthly security updates for supported versions of Windows, attackers will try and reverse engineer them to identify any vulnerabilities that also exist in Windows XP," said Tim Rains, director of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing group. "If they succeed, attackers will have the capability to develop exploit code to take advantage of them."

Microsoft has justified its stoppage of Windows XP patches by reminding everyone that it has supported the OS longer than any others, which is true: Its normal practice is to patch an operating system for 10 years. And it has argued that Windows XP is old, outdated software that is less secure than its newer operating systems: Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.

That's all true, Keizer says. But the problem is that the user base remains massive. He cited figures from Internet measurement company Net Applications, reporting that 29.5 percent of the globe's PCs ran XP just a month ago. Using estimates of the number of Windows PCs now in operation, that "user share" translates into approximately 488 million systems, he wrote. As for Microsoft's argument that people have had more than enough time to switch to more updated versions of Windows, Keizer says, "If every PC sold in the next 12 months was one destined to replace an existing Windows XP system, it would take more than a year and a half -- about 20 months -- to eradicate XP. Windows XP isn't going anywhere."

I agree about the danger this poses to those who still rely on XP for their home machines. But I've also seen businesses that continue using the antiquated OS. 

The rest of this post is for them.

I've done business with small shops and doctor's offices and have noticed while making payments that they were using XP machines. I won't name them here, but whenever I see a business using XP I make a point of saying something to the owners.

I remember writing about the release of Windows XP SP2 in the summer of 2004. At the time, it was a big improvement. But it didn't stop the almost daily reports of new flaws in the OS and the attacks exploiting them.

Much has changed since then.

Most Windows shops are using Windows 7 and 8, and those versions are far more secure than their predecessors. 

I get that individuals can't always afford new versions. That's part of why so many homes still use XP. 

But for businesses, there's no longer a good excuse to be on XP. We're trusting them to keep our personal information safe, and that trust demands they use the more recent versions of Windows -- even if it means spending more money in the short run.

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14 Comments

i totally agree, we still have xp and important programs that run with it

It's not that I really want to keep my Windows XP computer up and running; it's because I have no choice. Every new Windows version introduced its own challenges, from failing drivers to complete incompatibility with certain software.

Most did still fine on Vista, most did not on Windows 7, let alone on Windows 8 with its Toys "R" Us interface.

Fortunately the XP PC doesn't have to be connected to the Internet, so I'm not too worried about security flaws. The rest of the computers run Linux Mint anyway.

Let me say, in defence of businesses, that the cost of upgrading from XP to Windows 7 (or 8 God forbid) is actually much higher than the cost of the shrink-wrapped product. There are a number of costs, not limited to:

  • Cost of training - Win7 differs to XP and although professional I.T. people might scoff, for a user familiar with the XP interface and the XP products, this is significant.
  • Cost of new software - many products running on business machines do not run on Win7 - these need to be upgraded too and surprise surprise, this costs money. And often necessittes more training.
  • Upgrading to Win7 is a stop-gap since that will be replaced next. Win8 is a whole new kettle of piscines. The split user interfaces, the compatibility, the pain - oh the pain.
  • Hardware - not all the machines being used are capable of running Win7 (or Win8!). So more cost buying more machines.

The ideal, correct, sensible (?) thing to do might be to upgrade but there are many good reasons why it is not feasible for a business, and especially a small business. Cost of the product, cost of the related products, cost of the hardware, cost of the training - and valuable time taken for all of these.

Businesses will fail because of the decision to retire XP. Count on it.

I totally agree with you I.T profesional. I run a cyber cafe with 10 computers. Upgrading to windows 7 was quite an expensive affair.I had to increase the RAM in all machines.
Secondly,windows 7 is quite slower even after the hardware upgrade.Websites take longer to load and have a slight hanging effect while loading.
In my opinion XP was much better and Micrososft should give consumers the right to choose the operating system that suits their needs.

So what be the chances of Microsoft, reversing their decision and continue supporting XP?
I'm guessing zilch!!

So what if its "old" , two words, it works, better than some of the newer operating systems so it seems. !!

I have four computers set up with Windows XP and Office which I use for making a living. I started using Microsoft programs in 1986, and there is no doubt that XP is the best operating system Microsoft ever made. Newer versions simply do not add anything of genuine value, and changing from XP to Windows 7 or 8 is in fact a downgrade, not an upgrade.
Since Microsoft no longer supports XP, it is not wise to continue using the Internet with these four computers. Consequently, I have bought an old, trashed, slightly broken laptop PC from a rather dubious Eastern European (who used one alias for the ad, another alias in his e-mails and a third alias for the shipping note - he probably picked up the PC from a recycling bin). The only reasons I bought it is that a) it has Windows 7, and b) it was extremely cheap.
I am thus able to use this ragged PC for the Internet, can disconnect my XP computers from the net (only one of them was in fact ever connected to the net) and continue working with them as before. Sorry to see you abandoned, XP, you are far better than any of the rather childish greasy-fingers-on-shiny-screens products ever will be.

Actually, businesses have the most reason to continue using XP. not the least: Windows XP was the last professional Windows OS release from Microsoft. Vista, 7 and 8 are consumer OSes, not professional OSes.

It is extremely unprofessional approach and a move designed for raking in additional money by MS. If you see the past, you would note that the so called "better versions" of software always demanded more powerful hardware, which at time was unwarranted.

The race for better hardware followed by better software was unending leaving the poor consumer in a lurch.

Moreover, it is really unethical for a company of the stature of MS to leave thousands of users adrift by simply renouncing the support for a product and forcing them to buy better SW and costlier HW. Does MS ever regret and/or compensate the users for the glitches in their OS?

XP is a great system that runs solidly all the time. No doubt they want to have something new and shiney t make a ton of money with. No problem. But they insure most of THEIR Software ins't compatible with the new OS.

They need to continue to support XP or figure out a way to run XP programs on the crap.

I "upgraded" my home laptop from XP to Win7, although the program which tested whether it could run Win7 said it couldn't. This was actually not an upgrade, but entailed an almost full reinstallation. It was painful, but worth it: my 2MB laptop runs really fine with Win7.

It is my office PC, still on XP, which ran into troubles: after getting the MS warning about MSE not protecting the PC anymore, I bought and installed Malwarebytes Antimalware (which runs fine on my Win7): while checking the PC for the first time, it caused a BSOD from which I haven't recovered from yet.

As to new systems (or software) coming out regularly, forcing you to upgrade not only the software but the underlying hardware: this is the way technology and its related business work, whether you like it or not: it's creative destruction at work combined with planned obsolescence (or, as Laurie Anderson would say, quoting Walter Benjamin, "History is an angel being blown backwards into the future. He said: History is a pile of débris"). Businesses are out there to make money, so it's either by forcing us to buy periodically "new", "better" products, or by leasing them to you. In parallel, obsolescence is needed for inventions to develop into innovation. Whether we the users need it or not. "They" know better.

Resistance to this tsunami is not easy if you want to stay connected.

Ideally, I think the best approach is for all operating systems to become open source when it is no longer supported by the vendor.

If you bought a car - you would expect to be able to continue to use it (with the attendant difficulties in getting spares and so forth) until you the owner saw fit to retire it. Many manuals are written that allow you to fix your car, or you can pay a mechanic.

Software is not sold, by comparison, it's leased. You purchase a right to run it, and sign away your rights when you do so. In theory - that would mean if your install media became damaged - then the vendor should provide another copy at their cost. Good luck with that by the way.

Like any other thing you buy - software should be warranted for defects. The reason they are there is because it doesn't make ecconomic sense for the vendor to fix them unless they are significant enough to embarrass them. If the econonomics was right - then many of the problems would go away. (and there would be less need for Anti-virus software).

The only way you get the ability to keep it going - is if you have the source code. So the solution - until something changes is to move to open source. Or shut up. . . because it was you that accepted these conditions when you opened the shrink wrap.

It is very unlikely M$ will ever release the source code, even though XP is now effectively "abandonware" (a term I hate, but it seems quite appropriate here).

The source code for DOS is exceedingly hard to come by, and I doubt that was ever oficially released - more likely 'leaked' by a disgruntled employee.

Furthermore, does this mean that I can now "obtain" a copy of XP for free? That all the key-gen programs for generating an XP activation code are now legal? If M$ abandon the product, I don't see why that shouldn't be the case!

Microsoft is wrong to retire any OS, considering we pay hard earned money for their support.

And what about MS creating Patched XP with Security Enhancement taken from its successors like Win 7 or 8. And only provide it for free or marginal cost for Genuine XP users. Many people really don't want to shed money on Visual candy provided by MS. They only want to work, if they have paid for Hardware then why should they pay for keeping it running ? I have used XP on decent 512 Mb RAM but current OS's require more than that.

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