Windows XP is no longer supported. What does it mean to me? And what should I do?

Microsoft has ended support for it’s aging operating system Windows XP.  This has sparked many questions from people with XP systems.  Prime Insight is here to help answer the common questions you may have.


What is Windows XP, and do I have it?

Windows XP is an operating system installed on desktops and laptops.  It was released in 2001.  The next version of Windows was called Windows Vista and was released in 2007.  Because of problems with Windows Vista, many people stayed with XP.  Since then, two more major releases of Windows have launched.  Windows 7 was released in 2009 and Windows 8 was released in 2012.

The easiest way to check to see what version of Windows you have is to click on the start button in the lower left corner and type:  winver  then press enter.  WinVer is short for Windows Version and will tell you what version of Windows you are running.


Ok, I’m running Windows XP.  What’s wrong, it still works?

Nothing has changed to make Windows XP stop working.  However, no more fixes will be released for XP.  Operating systems are very complex computer programs, written by hundreds of different people.  As a result, there are security vulnerabilities within them.  Every operating system has these issues, but finding them is difficult.  Once identified (often by a malicious hacker) Microsoft works to fix the vulnerability and release it as security patch.  These patches are released every month, and most computers are setup to install them automatically.  However, Microsoft will no longer be writing or releasing patches for Windows XP.  So the next time a vulnerability is found, anyone with XP could be attacked.


How much risk am I in with WIndows XP?

At the time of this writing (May 2014) there is not much of a risk.  However, that is likely to change quickly.  The known vulnerabilities in Windows XP have been patched.  However, if a new vulnerability is found tomorrow, or next week, or next month the risk increases.

The worst case scenario is that machines running XP could be infected with a virus that would use the computer’s processing power to send unwanted marketing email to others (referred to as SPAM mail.)  Personal information stored on the computer could be stolen.  Things like passwords to bank accounts, credit cards or investment accounts.


What should I do?

At a minimum you should upgrade your system with a new operating system.  If you have an older computer, it may not be able to run Windows 8.  In which case, you will need to buy a new computer.


But I don’t want a new operating system!

I’m sorry, but there is just no way around this.  Things change, and 13 years is a LONG time for a computer program to exist.  It’s true that you will have to learn new ways to do things, but on the other side there are new features to make many things easier too.  I am working on some articles on Windows 8 and how to use it, so watch for more information.


Do I have to go to Windows 8?

No.  There are alternatives to Windows 8.  You could go to Windows Vista or Windows 7, but that doesn’t really make much sense to do.  If you are going through the effort and expense to upgrade, then you should go to the latest version available.

You could also take this opportunity to switch to an Apple computer.  More on switching to Apple in future articles.


What if I have Windows Vista? or Windows 7?  Do I have to upgrade too?

No, you don’t.  Eventually, you will.  Windows Vista is scheduled to go out of support in April 2017, and Windows 7 is scheduled to be supported until January 2020.