Windows XP death watch: 365 days remaining

Filed Under: Featured, Malware, Microsoft, Vulnerability, Windows

Windows XP RIPOn April 8th, 2014 - exactly one year from today - Microsoft will terminate Extended Support for Windows XP.

That means no more security updates.

And that could mean very big problems for a significant percentage of PC users.

According to data from Net Applications, Windows XP still maintains a nearly 39% hold on the desktop operating system market, second only to Windows 7 which has just under 45%.

Every other individual desktop operating system (including Windows Vista, Windows 8, and Mac OS X v10.8 Mountain Lion) has 5% or less of the desktop operating system market.

Operating system marketshare

Imagine, if you will, what could happen should bad guys decide to hold onto exploits, plotting to use them only after Microsoft stops releasing patches for Windows XP.

There's certainly the potential for a lot of havoc, for instance new internet-propagating worms that target Windows XP systems, or even just an increase in Internet Explorer 8 browser exploits that could open the doors wide for all manner of malware infections.

(Lest anyone think we're giving the bad guys ideas, we're certainly not the first to suggest that such things may be on the horizon. And frankly, these statements are rather obvious, and exploit developers aren't stupid.)

Will Microsoft extend support for Windows XP security updates? Perhaps, but it seems rather unlikely given that Microsoft has already extended the support deadline more than once. Windows XP is now three generations old, having been succeeded by Vista, Windows 7, and now Windows 8.

Moreover, Windows XP was originally released in October 2001. That means that by this time next year, XP will be 12.5 years old.

Rarely does any operating system continue to receive security patches for so many years. Numerous security improvements have been introduced in every subsequent version of Windows.

If you're concerned about security and you're still using Windows XP, it's time to move on.

Of course, it's easy to say that, but not every individual or company can afford to upgrade or replace their computers regularly.

Windows 8If you missed the window to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for USD $39.99 (which ended January 31st), you'll now have to pay the significantly higher price of $199.99 (unless you're a qualifying student, in which case you can get it for $69.99) or $119.99 for the non-Pro edition.

If you don't think you can afford it, skip the Starbucks for a few months and set aside that money for a Windows upgrade.

Volume licensing for businesses can reduce the cost of Windows 8 Pro somewhat.

Even so, depending on the number of PCs a business wants to upgrade, plus the cost of RAM upgrades as may be needed for older systems, many companies will have to spend multiple thousands of dollars just to upgrade their Windows PCs from XP to 8, not to mention the time and other factors involved in undergoing a major organization-wide upgrade.

The alternative option of replacing all XP systems with brand new PCs would cost thousands of dollars more.

Regardless of the reasons you're still using Windows XP, if you haven't yet made plans to ditch it, you'll want to start making those plans now.

Windows XP isn't the only Microsoft product whose support ends a year from today.

Also on the chopping block are Microsoft Office 2003, Exchange Server 2003, Project Server 2003, Virtual PC 2004, and Content Management Server 2002. See Microsoft's full list of products whose support ends within the next 18 months.

Let's hope the end of Windows XP's Extended Support doesn't yield an all-out XPocalypse.

But just to be safe, it's probably wise for everyone to upgrade as many PCs as possible before April 8th arrives next year.

And while you're at it, make sure your friends, relatives, and local businesses know about the XP support deadline, too.


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42 Responses to Windows XP death watch: 365 days remaining

  1. Jeremy · 911 days ago

    Or save the $199 and get Linux instead if you don't mind a challenge.

    • Rad · 910 days ago

      Or they could get a newer iteration of Ubuntu with Unity which requires practically no skill to operate.

    • Spidersilk · 910 days ago

      I didn't find installing Ubuntu on my netbook to be much of a challenge at all - my grandmother could have done it! The only part that was at all challenging was getting the Windows XP installation it came from to create a bootable USB drive for me that I could put the Ubuntu installer on. Once I was able to start up from that, everything else was dead easy. And using it after that has also been a breeze.

      Really, while there are undoubtedly still some Linux distributions that are more technically challenging to install and use, Ubuntu has leapfrogged straight over Windows in the ease of use department, and is really second only to Mac OS X in that respect.

      I do still have a Windows XP partition on the above-mentioned netbook, and I don't know if it could handle any later version of Windows, as it's several years old and wasn't exactly top of the line even when it was purchased. But given that the only thing I ever use that partition for is testing web sites I've created in IE, it's probably not very risky to keep using, as there's unlikely to be any malware on a freshly-created web site that I developed myself.

    • Badrajith · 907 days ago

      Switching to Linux maybe not that easy as dual booting. Still Linux lack third party software optimized for Linux & so bad for beginners.

  2. Pete · 911 days ago

    I've never found linux installation a challenge, in fact it's always been significantly easier than installing windows.

    • machinshin · 911 days ago

      You apparently stuck with some of the more tame distros then. You should go give Slackware a try. Slackware is awesome but it does not baby you one bit, none of this GUI installer junk.

      • Ed B · 910 days ago

        If you really like to torture yourself try Gentoo.

      • Spidersilk · 910 days ago

        What is the advantage of going with one of the more difficult-to-install distros? Some of us like the easier ones because we have stuff to get done and don't want to spend all day fighting it out with our computers. Is there some kind of benefit to using something like Slackware over Ubuntu that would offset the extra time and effort it would take?

  3. Bob · 911 days ago

    "Skip the Starbucks"? Seriously? Not every XP user spends money at such places. I sure don't!

    • Joshua Long · 910 days ago

      For the record, you'll never find me (the author of this article) spending my money in a coffee shop, either. The point is that one can make small sacrifices to set aside a little money here and there.

  4. G. Hurlbut · 911 days ago

    Keep XP systems going after support ends?
    part of

  5. Peter · 911 days ago

    For a great many of us it's not that we couldn't be bothered or couldn't afford to 'upgrade' to a newer OS: it's that XP is the last Microsoft OS to have pretty much universal driver support. I know huge numbers of business that simply can't get essential software or (particularly) hardware to work on anything later than XP.

    • Joshua Long · 910 days ago

      You're absolutely right that hardware support and software compatibility are certainly issues that must be carefully researched before upgrading an operating system. I had these in mind when I mentioned "other factors involved in undergoing a major organization-wide upgrade." =)

  6. Bryan · 911 days ago

    Would have been nice to hear more about the $39 upgrade, BEFORE it expired!

    • Joshua Long · 910 days ago

      My apologies. Perhaps I should have omitted that detail. Other tech news sites covered the pricing, and I wrote about it elsewhere, but I'm not sure whether it was mentioned on Naked Security.

      Perhaps I chose not to omit the temporary price because I'm a little irritated that Microsoft jacked up the price so much afterward. I think $39.99 is actually a reasonable price for upgrading Windows. It's somewhat comparable to the $19.99 that Apple charges for its yearly Mac OS X upgrades. I believe Microsoft has several legitimate reasons for charging perhaps a few times more than Apple, but the days of charging $199.99 for an OS upgrade should be long gone.

      The fact that Microsoft didn't keep the $39.99 price point, at least for XP users until XP's end of life, gives the impression that Microsoft cares more about making gobs of money than about protecting customers and making the upgrade path as painless as possible. Obviously businesses have to focus on profitability and pleasing shareholders, but shouldn't protecting users be one of the highest priorities? To be fair, I feel Microsoft often does a better job of protecting its users than Apple does.

      Not everyone will see this the way I do, but it bothers me whenever I see Microsoft and Apple doing things that jeopardize users' safety in order to maximize profits (or at least when the companies do things that can be perceived that way).

    • Guest · 910 days ago

      It was only ALL over the Internet, how did you miss it?

  7. yuhong · 911 days ago

    And remember XP has no ASLR or Protected Mode, making exploit development much easier.

  8. Donna · 911 days ago

    I use Win 7 on my lap top but still have XP on a couple of desk tops and I'd rather take my chances than use the POS known as Win 8.

  9. Winnie Doves · 911 days ago

    Or maybe Microsoft should do the right thing and acknowledge us, the huge XP fan base, and continue to support XP for 12,5 years more?

  10. Joel · 910 days ago

    Not long ago I received a call from an older neighbor, still using Windows 95 (a) on dialup. ... was that IE 4, IDK... I found his lost icon, he wasn't / isn't going to get/need an upgrade. Eudora connects to his ISP's pop server, gets him his email. He was happy, I was happy with the $20. I'm sure he's still using it. I think I managed to make sure his AGP was still getting def updates, I couldn't do much more! ...

    Put XP into the public domain! ... (probably not, it's not DOS 6.22) ... which can still be networked too! ... LOL

  11. palealien · 910 days ago

    XP was and remains a fine OS. Once you learn the relatively self evident ins and outs, it is terrifically easy to use and support. And the fan base provides more support than for any other software I have ever seen.

    All of the new OS's are just for marketing, I ask anyone to point out any number of features that make 7 (and especially 8) significantly better than XP. Why do you think it has hung on longer than any OS commonly available?

    • Wouter · 868 days ago

      Speed and pinnable taskbar items are the two best things ever happend to Windows. Especially Windows 8 (win7 on steroids). I run it on my 5yr old 6710 like a charm. Vista never happend ;-)
      When I work on XP again I get highly frustrated that I can't move stuff around on the taskbar the way I want it.

  12. Anonymous · 910 days ago

    It's not people running XP who have to be worried. It's the rest of us, when we have 39% of the world's PCs compromised and attacking us!

  13. palealien · 910 days ago

    XP was and remains a fine OS. Once you learn the relatively self evident ins and outs, it is terrifically easy to use and support. And the fan base provides more support than for any other software I have ever seen.

  14. ArtBlogger · 910 days ago

    Windows XP is the best OS among others. It shouldn't be terminated. :(

  15. Ben · 910 days ago

    Or, install Ubuntu? Then, set aside $0 every 18 months for upgrades!

    • Al S · 910 days ago

      If I wanted Linux or Ubuntu I would have bought it, but even on my limited Retirement income I was able to buy two new Windows 7 PC's. W8 won't run 75% of my peripherals according to the upgrade advisor. The one WXP I have will be retired or just used off-line for storage.

  16. foo · 910 days ago

    The main danger from the termination of WinXP support is that security holes in Internet Explorer will no longer be patched. Anyone with a brain already switched to Firefox or Chrome, which will continue to be upgraded.

    If you're satisfied with the performance of WinXP and your current applications and your current hardware, then there is no reason to abandon your current configuration. Save your money -- and your sanity.

    Don't fall for the "OMG -- no more WinXP support" panic.

  17. MikeP_UK · 910 days ago

    I have used XP Pro since inception and apart from the poor software planning leaving gaping security holes, it has worked well ever since. (I started with DOS2 and graduated via Win286, Win3.1 and NT4, and have used Apple OSs and various flavours of UNIX)

    We never heard of the $39.99 upgrade path here and what would they have charged us? Probably a rip-off £39.99 taking no account of exchange rates.

    If I am forced to upgrade it will NOT be to W8, but I'd have to look at W7 as that is more intended for serious users whereas W8 is aimed at toys, sorry mobile devices, and is completely unsuited to large screen desktop use.

    I also use Ubuntu and Solaris on other computers so I'm not bound only to Windows but some software works best directly in XP Pro. And all the drivers needed for my ancillaries are available in XP but I'd have to research if they are around for W7.

  18. Bob · 910 days ago

    Not forgetting the free XP virtual machine in W7 Pro (and W8?). I have 3, enabling me to VPN into several different customers' servers. It means I can run different VPN software on each and I don't block my regular internet access.

  19. Mr. X · 910 days ago

    I will be moving from Windows XP on my ancient Frankenstein computer to a computer that I am going to build myself and I will be installing Ubuntu/linux on it.

  20. CTsOpinion · 909 days ago

    I believe there is no "upgrade" from Win XP to anything, one may replace Win XP with another OS, but there is no upgrade per say. Although I understand the Win 8 OS is lighter on the machine requiring less resources than Win 7 I would not consider Win 8 on an older machine that could not take advantage of the touch technology. I will be moving to Microsoft's best OS to date Win 7 (Pro 32bit for my older machine). ____If I am wrong about this I hope some one will post a correction here.

  21. roy jones jr · 905 days ago

    Windows 7 is the go to choice for businesses (and home users). Its unfortunate that if you install the 64bit version, the XP mode is cumbersome (If you want to install a 32bit program, not all of them will work and the ones that do work will require homework on your own part). If you have a business that has a ton of 32bit web applications or a lot of printers, stick to Windows 7 32bit.

    • himom · 859 days ago

      you know that 64 bit is back words compatable with 32 bit

  22. Beuford Kidd · 821 days ago

    I am reading this website for the first time and thank you all of the input I am not looking forward to saying good by to windows XP I learned on the system. and to see it go is a drag. however, everything must move out the way for something better so lets move on we have before and we will again!!!

  23. Chris · 599 days ago

    I personally like XP because of it's simplicity and practicality in general.Stop this nonsence and keep windows XP alive..and BTW I think that all windows,all of them ..from the very first to the very last one should be supported.Period.Everyone likes there own windows as it is and does not matter which one person likes to use the most.Shame on you Microsoft for this capitalistic action to gain more money & not carrying what people thoughts are on your obviously capitalistic-socialistic action.People are not blind to the truth.At least not good portion of them.I call this Microsoft act a disgrace.Nothing more and nothing less.Period.

  24. Joel O'Brien · 577 days ago

    Heck. I don't need a new phone just because a new one is invented and I don't need a new Windows when what I have works for me.

    • Paul Ducklin · 577 days ago

      Sadly, your XP works rather well for the criminal fraternity, too.

  25. Thorsten Wanoth · 564 days ago

    Currently busy upgrading my old XP laptops to day 0 standards. It's like a new installation with all the latest drivers and Microsoft hotfixes / service packs etc. while they are still available. Feels like I'm rediscovering my made in 2008 Acer Travelmate and feels be doing it. Thinking there's going to be a big fanbase behind keeping this OS alive. Looking forward to it.......

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About the author

Joshua Long has a master's degree in IT concentrating in Internet Security and has taken doctorate-level coursework in Computer and Information Security. Josh's research has been featured by many fine publications such as CNET, CBS News, ZDNet UK, Lifehacker, CIO, Macworld, The Register, and MacTech Magazine. Look for more of Josh's articles featuring his research and musings on malware and security on his blog, and follow him on Twitter and Google+.