Windows XP: Going but not forgotten

Windows XP: The (mostly) reliable old dump truck among operating systems.

Windows XP: The (mostly) reliable old dump truck among operating systems. Photo by Darron Birgenheier

The venerable Windows XP operating system entered immortality (so far as an OS can I suppose) on April 8, 2014.

This is Microsoft’s End-of-support date, meaning it will no longer fix issues found in Windows XP after this date. Microsoft always provides a good long tail for operating systems – 12 years in this case.

Now brace yourself: Extended support for Windows Vista ends on 4/11/2017 (the horror!).

Vista seems to be virtually nonexistent in the SMB space, so there’s not much worry about that one. Windows XP is far more common in the workplaces I visit, for good reason: it is generally very stable (especially with all its updates applied) and its performance is generally acceptable on the older hardware still in use. This is especially true in lab and industrial environments where the PC may have a single (albeit important) function. These of systems are often difficult to upgrade because of the required downtime and because expensive proprietary or custom-developed software would need to be upgraded at the same time.

So what to do about Windows XP?

In the office environment: It is really high time to be off XP and onto (at least) Windows 7 for this kind of system. Office workers constantly use the ‘net and so the threat from malware is just too great to continue using an outdated OS. The cost and complexity of an upgrade (either with an OS upgrade or a new PC) is minimal.

In lab, production and manufacturing environments: There is certainly risk here too, and a plan for upgrades and possibly special security measures is indicated. I know of one large organization which banned XP machines from their LANs in all locations as of the end-of-support date. I think this is too drastic for most companies, but if you can operate with your XP systems off the net or isolated from the public internet, do it. (This may have a side benefit of keeping operators focused on work instead of Facebook!)

It’s important to get all of the XP machines updated to the final set of updates. The best way to do this is by using Windows Update for home and very small offices, or a Windows Server Update Services server for larger groups.

For situations where Windows XP needs to be re-installed (such as a hard drive failure in one of those critical lab PCs) I maintain a bootable USB drive with all  XP updates integrated.  The unofficial SP4 for XP created by harkaz provides a convenient way to do this and is available at . You can also install this package directly onto an existing Windows XP installation.

When you need help planning your Windows 8.1 rollout contact me.

If you need support for your well-loved XP systems, contact me (no teasing I promise!).