Science and Tech


Microsoft To Drop Windows XP Support Tuesday

Microsoft will stop providing service updates for Windows XP on April 8, leaving XP machines vulnerable to hackers.
Posted at 12:11 AM, Apr 07, 2014

The deadline is finally upon us. Two days from now, Microsoft will pull the plug on Windows XP support and let the 12-year-old operating system fade into obscurity.

On April 8, Microsoft will stop providing security updates to XP platforms. The tech company is marking the occasion with this ominous green countdown clock, which warns XP users to "migrate to a current supported operating system."

And it's an important warning to heed — although the OS won't suddenly stop working on April 8, Gizmodo notes a lack of security updates will make XP machines "a giant, pulsating bullseye for hackers." 

And there are a lot of targets out there: several estimates say almost 30 percent of Windows computers worldwide are still using XP. So if you're one of the holdouts, you might want to think about switching operating systems in the near future, or even buying a new computer. Here are some of your options:

First, there's the choice Microsoft would like you to make: upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 8.1. Microsoft has been pulling out all the stops to bring XP users into the present, even going so far as to offer XP users $100 off select Windows 8.1 PCs or Surface tablets.

But if you'd rather go your own way, PCWorld has a host of articles detailing other options, like switching to a Mac or a Chromebook, or finding a computer that still runs Windows 7. There are even some simple Linux alternatives to XP if you're feeling adventurous.

And if you really, really, really can't afford to part ways with XP just yet, Digital Trends has a list of survival tips for living in a post-XP-support world. These include stockpiling drivers and anti-virus software, hanging out on fan sites with other XP users, and double-checking that your recovery disc is still around.

All that's well and good for the individual consumer. But there's another side to the XP shutdown as well — most XP machines are owned by businesses.

Businessweek notes the tech infrastructure of many industries — including healthcare and finance — runs on XP. And one expert told the outlet, those companies don't want to change. "Companies spend substantially to customize products ... for their enterprise. ... When these firms evaluate the cost of repeating this exercise on a new platform, it scares them away—regardless of the security (or other benefits) promised."

Now that XP is on its way out, those machines could quickly become vulnerable to hackers, with potentially catastrophic results. Specifically, the revelation that 95 percent of ATMs still run XP generated some pretty frantic headlines. (Via Time)

But don't panic just yet: most businesses have third-party security protections to back up Microsoft's XP support.

And Ars Technica notes several big Microsoft customers — including both the British and Dutch governments — have paid Microsoft for custom XP support after the April 8 deadline.

By an astonishing coincedence, the day Microsoft turns out the lights on Windows XP is also the day they're planning to release a major upgrade to Windows 8.1. Just, you know, something else to consider.