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Still Using XP?

posted Jul 27, 2014, 5:15 PM by Patrick Walters   [ updated Jul 31, 2014, 3:18 PM ]
Quick question - are you still using Windows XP? Not sure? Click the Start button, and right click "My Computer" and choose Properties. If you are still using Windows XP, read on my friends. If you have Windows Vista, this may apply to you as well.

Microsoft ended support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014 (link). This means that any vulnerability discovered since then will not be patched. If you have an antivirus program installed, that will not be enough to protect you as many vulnerabilities can only be addressed with a patch from Microsoft. "But aren't hackers only focusing on Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1?" Traditionally what Windows hackers and virus writers do is wait for a patch for a vulnerability to be released and reverse-engineer the patch to figure out what the vulnerability was in the first place. They then look to see if this also exists in prior versions of Windows and start their dastardly deeds.

Ok - so you've identified you have a computer running Windows XP (or 98, 2000 or Me) - what to do next? Unless you bought this computer toward the end of XP's life and the introduction of Windows Vista, you're going to find that your computer is several years old. This doesn't automatically qualify it for a ride to the recycle bin but more than likely it's about to that point. I've helped a few people upgrade their Windows XP machines to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, but with the expectation that these are computers that are slower than what they're used to at their job, and they may not like their experience.

Typically you may be better off purchasing a new computer rather than upgrade, but if you do decide to upgrade, I'll walk you down that path. Upgrading your computer to a version of Linux, such as Ubuntu, is also an option, however it's a radical departure from using Windows and I'll cover it in another article.

There have been some studies which have said that Windows 8.1 may work slightly better than Windows 7 with older computers, but from my point of view, either operating system will work for you. You'll need to purchase a Windows 7 or 8 installation disc, which will run from $99 to $140. You'll also need some type of backup medium (external USB drive, DVDs or CDs) as all of your data will be wiped out as part of the upgrade. Finally, you'll need installation software and license keys for any software you want to re-install after the upgrade, provided they are compatible (link). After you back up items you'll want after the upgrade (My Documents, Music, Pictures, items from the Desktop, Favorites, Quicken database, saved game files, stored passwords, etc.), you'll be ready to begin.

Microsoft has a decent tutorial to follow (link) to guide you through the upgrade. After you're done with the upgrade, you'll have a fresh start with your computer, will need to re-install any programs you'd like, and bring back all your favorites and such.

As with any major endeavor, if you are hesitant to do this on your own, consult an IT professional to help you with this transition - keeping in mind they too may recommend it best to purchase a new computer instead.
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