After twelve and a half years, most of them as the most popular operating system in the world, Microsoft will be pulling the plug on Windows XP on 8 April 2014. There will be no more security updates, leaving those users who choose to connect to the Internet vulnerable. Though anti-virus programs will continue to work, they will not protect users from any security holes that cybercriminals discover and which Microsoft will no longer close through their monthly security updates.
It is estimated (The Register: 1 October 2013) that at least 500 million computers worldwide are still using Windows XP while, in the UK, it is thought that eighty-five per cent of NHS PCs still run Windows XP. Whatever the figure, any that are still in use after 8 April 2014 will be vulnerable whenever they connect to the Internet and will be a natural target for cybercriminals who will know that any security holes they discover and exploit are not going to be closed.
Ignore the situation and hope that you can go on using Windows XP on the Internet — you won’t be alone.
Put enough money in next year’s budget to be able to move to Windows 8; that may mean a new computer as many Windows XP computers aren’t powerful enough to run Windows 8.
Reorganise how you use computers so that any Windows XP computers never connect to the Internet by physically disconnecting them from the Internet configuring your network so that any Windows XP computers can communicate with computers on the network but not with the Internet.
Upgrade to Linux; this is only an option if the computer can take 1GB of RAM but most Windows XP computers up to ten years old can do this.
The problem for many small voluntary organisations that are still using Windows XP is that they will lack the money or the expertise to manage any of the last three options.
Moving from Windows XP to Windows 8 is not for the faint-hearted; they are very different systems and you will need new versions of many programs to run them on Windows 8. So staff and volunteers unfamiliar with Windows 8 will need to learn how to use a completely different operating system and possibly some quite different software.
Configuring a network to prevent some computers from having Internet access is certainly feasible but such a network probably cannot be left unsupervised as it will not be difficult for someone to find a way round — a security risk for the whole network.
An upgrade to Linux is comparatively easy but staff and volunteers will almost certainly need support to get their heads round the very different way in which Linux handles security on the Internet. On the other hand, while some Linux systems look similar to Windows 8 RT, others, while being bang up to date underneath, outwardly look very similar to Windows XP which some staff may be more comfortable with than Windows 8. So you are not tied to a particular look and feel; you can choose the one with which you are most comfortable.
Do not be deceived about the costs; buying a new Windows 8 computer and installing all the new software you need will take up no more than 40% of the total costs of moving to Windows 8; Munich City Council and the French police, both of whom have moved to Linux where the operating system and the software are free, reckon that moving to Linux has cost them 60–67% of the cost of moving to Windows because they still had the costs in staff time and support to make the change, whether to Windows 8 or Linux.
So, XP users cannot avoid additional costs in 2014; if all their staff and volunteers are already familiar with Windows 8 and they decide to take the Windows 8 route, they will still have the costs of new hardware and software. If their staff and volunteers are not familiar with Windows 8, they can save the cost of the software and of most, if not all, hardware by moving to Linux but, whatever choice they make, the real costs of staff receiving the training or having the time to familiarise themselves with the software that runs on the new system, whether that is Windows 8 or Linux, are going to be more than the costs of any new hardware and software to run Windows 8.
Munich City Council is so concerned about the number of Windows XP computers that may end up in landfill that they are distributing Linux CDs to people to encourage them to recycle rather than throw away their Windows XP computers. Those who choose the Windows 8 route in this country can do the same and offer their old Windows XP computers to other voluntary organisations who might not otherwise be able to afford a new computer and who might welcome a Linux powered computer rather than nothing at all.
If you want impartial advice on options for your Windows XP computers or on recycling your unwanted XP computers to other voluntary organisations, you can contact BradLUG below. There are also some notes on installations to date.