Need to Leave Windows XP?

Recently, I have had to change 5 computers at work from Windows XP to Windows 8.1. The reason for the change is that Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP starting April 8, 2014. Due to a tight non-profit budget, I updated most of the computers to Windows 8.1 and I bought a new computer to replace a system I could not update.

How does this relate to you the reader of this article? Why do I the need to change to Windows 8.1 and why did I need to buy a new computer? You might be asking yourself, “Does this lack of support mean any computer running XP will stop working?”

Fortunately, the answer to the last question is no. If your computer is running XP, it will not stop working at 12:00 am on April 8.  However (to answer the first to questions), there may be a need for you to stop using your computer until you replace XP or get a new computer. Why to do I say “may” instead of “you need”?

For those who do not have their computer connected to another computer or the internet, they can keep running your computer with little risk of having a security issue. In most cases, this applies to people who bought the computer for word processing and playing solitaire. My mother-in-law uses her computer strictly for “typing letters to her friends”, and there really is no need to update or buy a replacement computer at this time.

If you fall in the above category, I need stress that just because all you do is play solitaire or write letters means your computer is safe. You need to check your computer to make sure you do not have the computer connected to the internet or another computer. While you do not use the internet, your computer is still vulnerable if it can connect to the internet.

Therefore, after April 8, 2014 make sure your computer does not have a phone cord or a patch cord (look like a thick phone cord) attached to it. This cable means you are connected to the internet or have the potential to be connected to the internet. In addition, if your computer has Wi-Fi, make sure you turn off or disable it.

However, if check your email or go out on the internet to do your banking, visit Facebook, or read the local paper, you will need to replace the operating system or get a new computer. The reason being is the Microsoft will no longer patch security holes in XP and your computer becomes more and more vulnerable to attack each day.

Does this mean you need to rush out and get a new computer before April 8? Do you need to replace the operating system by April 8th? In my humble opinion, the answer is no. April 8th is the day the last patches will be coming out. Therefore, if you need to wait a couple of weeks after that date, you should be relatively safe if you have a good anti-virus program and stay away from unsafe emails and internet sites.

So should you buy a new computer or upgrade the OS from XP to Windows 8.1? In most cases, I suggest buying a new computer instead of updating your OS. While Windows 8.1 does run on a lot of computers that are currently XP, the process is not straight forward.

First, you need to have a DVD drive on your computer to use the Windows 8.1 install disk and some older computers do not have DVD drives. Second, you need to make sure your processor and video card are compatible with the new OS. Third, you need to check to see if you have enough memory and a large enough hard drive to run the new OS. Finally, you need to backup all your data because installing the new OS will erase your hard drive; if you miss something, it is gone and you will be unable to retrieve it. (I made that mistake on one of the computers I updated.)

Another reason I suggest getting a new computer is your computer is probably around 10-12 years old. Why spend $100 or more getting your old computer to work and risk it breaking down in the year or two.

If you go with a new computer, get a faster computer that meets all the hardware requirements for Windows 8.1. You then can more leisurely transfer data from the old computer to the new computer using a flash drive or an easy transfer cable. (Or you can pay a technician to move the data for you.) If you notice something missing, you can go back into the old computer and get the missing data.

Whatever option you choose, there is a short time before April 8.

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