Panda Security’s UK marketing manager Neil Martin argues that upgrading from Windows XP needn’t be complicated…

BLOG: Are you ready for XP’s switch-off?

With around one month to go until support for Windows XP expires, Panda Security’s UK marketing manager Neil Martin argues that upgrading needn’t be complicated…

On April 8th Microsoft will end mainstream support for Windows XP.

Usually the end of life for an operating system is not that much of a big deal, but with over 20 per cent of Windows PCs still running XP, this is a significant event.

At this time, Microsoft will no longer release updates, hotfixes, support options and online technical content updates for XP. Windows XP machines will continue to work as normal and there will not be any kind of immediate limitation imposed on the OS crippling its usage.

However, just like an anti-virus with an expired subscription, the PC will gradually become more susceptible to attacks as vulnerabilities go unpatched. No doubt hackers and other nefarious malware writers will take advantage of all remaining XP users after this date, continuing to look for security holes and reverse engineering patches for Windows 7 and 8 to locate unpatched XP vulnerabilities.

As is the case for Windows 98 and 2000 now, future software releases will cease to be compatible with XP, and hardware drivers will not be developed.

The ramifications for businesses are major.

Compliance, privacy and security issues are just the tip of the iceberg. Numerous businesses have legacy issues locking them into Windows XP. Their IT teams should look to mitigate the risks by virtualising the system or restricting internet and email access for XP machines.

This led me to consider what to do with the ‘Living Room Computer’ (LRC), a four-year-old Acer Aspire Netbook with its 1.6Ghz CPU and 1GB RAM running Windows XP sufficiently well for browsing, light office tasks and Cbeebies for ‘the hobbits’ (so they keep their sticky hands off my main computer).

It took a few evenings to update the machine, but overall, the process was about as technical as printing out some photos from a memory card on the machines in Boots – Microsoft has really improved the installation experience in its modern operating systems.

While it’s never going to win any speed tests, the LRC with upgrades is now happily running Windows 7 and fulfilling all the day-to-day tasks at least as fast as it did under XP.

It appears that upgrading is an option on all but the oldest of computers. But is it the best option, and who can help you?

If you are in the situation where you’re still using XP, there are plenty of IT support companies and vendors who would be happy to advise you. Anybody continuing to use XP does so at their own risk.

Neil Martin is Marketing Manager at Panda Security UK.

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