Microsoft's XP Support Ended
Microsoft's support for XP ended April 8, 2014. XP is unsafe to use and will become increasingly so.
An unsupported version of Windows will no longer receive software updates from Windows Update. These include security updates that can help protect your PC from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software, which can steal your personal information. Windows Update also installs the latest software updates to improve the reliability of Windows—new drivers for your hardware and more. — Microsoft
You Need to Find an Alternative NOW
You can't continue to run Windows XP with it connected to the Internet. You need to:
- buy a new computer; or
- install a currently-supported alternative operating system; or
- take your computer offline forever.
Given the age of Windows XP the only realistic option for continuing with the same hardware is to install Linux. A better option is to purchase a new computer with a currently-supported operating system.
The various options are discussed in Replacing Windows: Upgrading when support ends.
Going Permanently Offline
If you continue to use XP, you'll need to take it permanently offline. You can continue to use XP for word processing, home theatre, music, etc. as long as you're depending upon CDs and DVDs or existing stored content. Be sure to unplug network cables and disable wireless connectivity.
However, being offline has some disadvantages.
- You may be unable to install devices because you're not connected. Drivers for current hardware seldom comes on CDs or DVDs and XP drivers of any type are quickly vanishing.
- You can't access news, email, Netflix, YouTube or other online content.
- Entertainment and video selection is restricted to CDs, DVDs and previously-stored content.
About Windows XP
Windows XP was very successful — and for good reason. It proved very reliable and had resolved many of the problems that people experienced with earlier versions of Windows. It came in two editions, the primary differences being negligible for most users.
Released December 31, 2001, XP enjoyed a longer period of support from Microsoft (12 years) than any previous Windows consumer version (see Windows Life-cycle). This is likely a combination of the poor perceived value in upgrading to Windows Vista and the widespread adoption of the Home edition by business.
Although Windows XP sales terminated on June 30, 2008 computers preinstalled with XP were available until October 22, 2010 (when Vista was released).
Vista Home Basic was a sell-out to hardware vendors with computers designed for XP but lacking the capacity to run Vista (Microsoft was determined to kill XP off). If your computer came with Vista Home Basic, you'll have to look at alternatives to Windows for satisfaction. Linux is recommended although current versions can run slowly on Home Basic hardware.
This experience left a bad taste in many people's mouths.
Windows XP Editions
Microsoft's Windows XP came initially only in the first two editions:
- Home Edition (aimed at home users)
- Professional Edition (aimed at corporate and business users)
but others were added later:
- Media Center Edition
- Tablet PC Edition
- Professional x64 Edition
Previously, there had always been separate Windows operating systems for business and home users instead of variations of the same operating system. This confusion (and the relatively few differences with the more-expensive Pro Edition) created the widespread use of the Home Edition that likely contributed to the longer-than-usual support period for XP.
Special POS XP Still Supported
Many retail stores continue to use XP for their POS systems (virtual cash registers) and there is other customized corporate software that won't run on newer versions of Windows.
A special version of XP was released for POS systems in 2009 that will continue to be supported by Microsoft for several more years. Computers running this version don't experience all the vulnerabilities that a standard computer would in everyday use. Therefore security requirements are less vigorous.
Legacy hardware and software is the main reason some companies and governments are paying Microsoft for critical security updates following the end of support — to give them time to develop alternatives.
Many Reasons for Corporate Delays
Corporations don't move quickly to adopt new operating systems for a number of reasons:
- Moving to a new operating system is expensive and it requires time to upgrade equipment then train employees to use it.
- The last major change was from Windows NT to XP. Budgets are tight and many have proprietary software that won't run on anything but Windows XP.
- Most corporate IT departments won't move to a new operating system for at least 18 months after it is released. We just reached that mark for Windows 8 when XP expired, but then Windows 8.1 was released and that affected decisions and created the potential of forcing companies to support two operating systems instead of one.
- Microsoft had hoped that businesses would switch to Windows 8 but many have waited and now most making a change are moving to Windows 7 unless they have a reason to move to mobile devices.
Small Business Delays
Some small businesses or medical practices also have highly specialized software that is available to them, but has been priced so that the business considers it a poor investment. Rather than letting the business purchase the software outright, there is a fixed perpetual per-month fee per computer.
While the developer may have waited a long time for new purchases, there is little incentive to make improvements to a product if businesses are already paying a fixed monthly fee.
Installing Windows XP
XP Support & Documentation Mostly Gone
Microsoft's documentation on Windows XP is mostly gone and many of the support pages on the Web are no longer maintained.
- Windows for Business end of support options from Microsoft recommends upgrading to Windows 10.
Recovering Windows XP may provide some help for installing or reinstalling Windows XP.
Tweaking & Customizing Windows XP
The quickest way to speed up Windows is to add more RAM and to control the number of unnecessary functions starting with Windows, particularly those showing in the taskbar to the right near the clock.
Stop Unnecessary Startups
Almost every program now is configured to start with Windows but this can be altered in the options for each program or you can use utilities like CCleaner to manage the startup programs list. Click on Tools and select Startup.
Be Sure Enough RAM is Installed
Windows XP with Service Pack 3 requires at least 2 GB of RAM to run efficiently with today's programs.
Most Windows XP installations are 32-bit versions, and unless you are one of the few running the 64-bit edition, you will not be able to effectively install more than 3.5 GB of RAM (Windows XP will only “see” maximum of 3.5 GB if 4 GB is installed).
For an explanation of the difference between 32- and 64-bit hardware, please see 32- or 64-bit? on the Windows Resources page.
Tweaking Windows XP
Tweaking involves changing the way Windows does certain tasks, such as not placing the "shortcut to" in the name of new shortcuts (you can tell a shortcut by the little arrow placed on the icon — although you can remove that as well, if you like).
- SpeedGuide's Windows XP Tweaks.
- Windows 2000/XP Registry Tweaks.
- Host Resolution Priority Tweak helps your web pages load faster without degrading your downloads.
Take care when working with the Registry.