What to do about Windows XP BEFORE April 2014

What to do about Windows XP BEFORE April 2014

November 15, 2013

Microsoft is halting support for Windows XP April 2014. This includes security patches to fix vulnerabilities. If your office has PCs still running the 12-year-old operating system, you need to mitigate your risk before patches cease to be released. Continuing to run XP after April will expose you to new and unpatched vulnerabilities found not only in XP, but also in newer versions of Windows, as the insecure code is often shared among versions.

So what can you do about Windows XP? Here are several options:

Replace Windows XP with Linux wherever you can. Linux is Free software and runs on pretty much any hardware, including performing well on older machines. There are thousands of applications for Linux, and many offices have successfully made the switch to running their operations, or at least part of them, on Linux. Research the equivalent apps that are available, and test them as replacements for your business apps. You may find, as I have, that you can run your entire office on Free software.

Replace Windows XP on recent systems with Windows 7 or 8. If your PC is less than three years old, it will likely run Windows 7 or 8 well enough. Microsoft will support these newer operating systems with security updates for years to come.

Firewall off systems that don't require Internet access for their job function. Some old PCs may just be providing support for a printer or other equally old hardware, or running software for one aspect of your operation. If you have a firewall at the edge of your network (and you should!) you can block all Internet access to and from that one PC at the firewall, and keep using it for your internal function.

Finally, for systems that are too old to upgrade, do require Internet access, and don't have an equivalent Linux solution, I recommend you replace them with new computers running Windows 7 or 8.

There is one more option, of course. You can keep running Windows XP and hope for the best. If you take this course, it is especially important that you 1. take regular, automatic, multiple, off-site backups, 2. test your backups by restoring from them, and 3. be sure you have an install CD from which to reinstall the system. Such steps are good practice for everyone, but imperative for XP users after April 2014.