Solutions for Windows XP Computers

What to do now support for Microsoft Windows XP has stopped?

As of today Microsoft has stopped support for Windows XP this means that machines as young as five years old are no longer supported. So what are the options going forward?

Keep Calm and Carry on using XP?

XP may have worked well enough yesterday and if you do not access the internet at all using the computer running XP and it does not have access to a network that connects to the internet then it is safe to carry on using XP. However, the problem comes if you wish to transfer files from other machines. If you do this then you must make sure that the files have been virus checked before transfer as it will be impossible to maintain anti-virus software up to date on an XP computer which is not connected to the internet.

Keep Calm and Install the Best Anti-Virus Software Available?

This route suggests that you will maintain an internet connection, so that antivirus updates are available. Choosing this route may technically work, however you should also consider setting up a restricted user to login to the computer and not login on a day to day basis using the Administrator route. The new user should have their permissions set so that they cannot install new software as this will reduce, but not eliminate, the opportunity for viruses to infect the computer.

So, does this eliminate the risk? Possibly, but unlikely. The demise of Windows XP has been long heralded so there has been plenty of time for people to identify security holes in the operating system and of course any hacker determined to do damage would wait until support ended for XP before unleashing their damage. Anti-virus software may be able to protect against this for a period, but it is impossible to predict how hackers may develop their access routes to XP systems.

It could be argued that it is in Microsoft’s interest that old Windows XP machines immediately become a problem as it will force more upgrades!

Panic and Upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8?

This certainly works, but is expensive. If the existing Windows XP machine has sufficient memory and disc space and a good enough processor then this is at first sight a low(ish) cost option. However, if you have other programs such as Microsoft Office, Outlook etc. then you will probably have to pay to upgrade those too. Now it is getting more expensive. Although you could mitigate some of the costs by moving to web based applications such as Gmail and Outllook.com which are free.

Alternatively, you could splash out and buy a new Windows 7 / 8  machine with the software that you need. This is the most expensive route. It is clearly safe and future proof for the next few years. For business critical systems where the latest versions of software are required then this is a sensible choice.

What else can you do?

There is another route that you can follow that is rather less expensive. In fact it could be potentially free! We have installed Linux on a number of Windows XP machines and then installed Chrome as a browser. Chrome is our personal preference, but the default Firefox is equally good.  Linux is free and generally is immune from the virus problems of Microsoft Windows because of the way it is designed. There are many implementations of Linux and for non-computer experts Linux Mint is an excellent choice.

Linux mint comes with Libre as part of the package and this software is free and will open and allow editing of Microsoft Office files for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations etc.

For email, although there are email systems that you can implement on Linux, the very simplest route is to use webmail – either Gmail or Outlook.com give significant free space and you can configure custom email addresses such as me@mycompany.com (I’m sure that one will have been taken already!). Both systems have spreadsheets, word processing and presentations software available online.

Because the web browser allows access to websites, you can also access custom solutions. For example cleartarn has a number of custom database applications which customers access through their browsers – these remain unchanged and as Chrome, Firefox etc. continue to be upgraded on Linux it remains a relatively future-proof route.

There is one final benefit of this route! If your Windows XP machine was starting to run slowly – all the ones I have been in contact with were, then you will see a refreshing speed improvement, particularly on booting. If you want the machine to run like lightning on boot then you can consider installing a small solid state drive.  You can install Linux onto that and keep the original drive and all of its files as a second drive. Again another solution we have used and very simple to implement.

cleartarn does not sell or install hardware, but we do develop excellent websites and on line database systems for our customers. Please feel free to contact us if you would like any further help. If you follow us on Google+, Twitter or Facebook then you will see we post periodic things of interest to businesses, but we won’t inundate you with email.

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