One Year Left for XP Life Support

April 8, 2013

I’ve written here a couple of times about the impending end of support for Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system.   As a brief article at Ars Technica reminds us, the last day of extended support for XP is one year from today; as of April 9, 2014, there will be no more updates or security fixes for the nearly 12-year-old operating system.  (As the article mentions, the same timetable also applies to Internet Explorer 6 and Office 2003.)  Windows XP was introduced in September 2001, and has received a steady stream of monthly bug fixes and security updates ever since; for example, tomorrow Microsoft, in its regular monthly cycle, is expected to release six security bulletins for Windows XP, two of them rated as of Critical severity.  As I wrote, back in July, 2012, about the end of support:

Given the historical record of PC operating systems with respect to security issues, only a cockeyed optimist would regard continuing to use XP much beyond that point as prudent, even ignoring that fact that Microsoft, historically, has not really been a poster child for PC security, at least in a positive sense.

As I’ve noted, Microsoft’s next version after XP, Windows Vista, was neither a technical nor a commercial success.  Following on after Vista, Windows 7, released in October 2009, was a much better product, by all accounts; yet it was only in the second half of 2012 that its market share, as estimated by NetMarketShare, exceeded that of Windows XP.

The statistics from NetMarketShare suggest that, as the Ars article mentions, something like 38% of Internet users sampled are still using Windows XP.  This, in may ways, is not surprising — think of the “Y2K” panic in the late 1990s, and how many ancient COBOL applications were unearthed for the first time in years.  (Although the whole Y2K issue was something of a damp squib, getting someone to look at those old applications, or at least recognize their existence, was probably the most salutary aspect of the whole exercise.)  Existing systems and applications, if they are of any importance, always (correctly) have to be considered; this in itself is perfectly rational.  But sometimes, as in this situation, the time element of ones plan is constrained by external realities, and indefinite dithering is not really a sensible option.

If you are still using XP on your own machine, or if you are responsible for a group of machines, using XP, in your business or organization, I would encourage you, in the strongest possible terms, to start creating a migration plan now, if you do not already have one.  The spot you are in just now is not going to be tenable much longer.

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