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Windows XP support ends April 8: What are your options?


March 18, 2014

Microsoft is ceasing support for Windows XP on April 8th so it's time to consider your options

Microsoft is ceasing support for Windows XP on April 8th so it's time to consider your options

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On April 8, Microsoft will cease all support to consumers who are still running Windows XP. On the same day, the company will also end support for Office 2003. If you're a procrastinator still plugging away on an XP machine or working away in Microsoft's aging productivity suite, it's high time you considered your options. Gizmag provides a few suggestions.

What does end of support mean?

XP is a 12 year old operating system and three new versions of Windows have passed by since it was released in 2001. In the tech world, 12 years is an eternity and Microsoft wants to focus its Windows teams on the future and not waste time and resources on the past. To that end, the company is going to discontinue updates, bug fixes, support, and security patches for XP. As a result, in a few weeks any system running XP will be a lot more vulnerable to malware attacks and hackers.

Upgrade to Windows 7 or 8.1

If you want to keep your existing computer and upgrade the OS, you'll need to make sure your system's hardware is up to the task. You can view the minimum system requirements for Windows 7 here and for Windows 8 and 8.1 here. Microsoft's upgrade path does allow you to jump directly to Windows 8.1 from XP, but it doesn't bring your desktop programs or hardware drivers with it. So if you decide to make the leap, you'll need to re-install all of your applications and possibly find new hardware drivers.

A word of caution with this: if you haven't used Windows 8 before, the move from XP to Windows 8.1 will be a shock to say the least. It has been completely redesigned and has two interface types in one. There's a new touch-based Modern interface that isn't easy to use on traditional computers with a mouse and keyboard. It still includes the desktop interface, but the Start menu in the bottom left corner that you're used to has gone away. I personally suggest moving to Windows 7 from XP as the experience won't be as jarring. You won't need to fight between two completely different interfaces while trying to get things done.

If you get a new computer (which is easiest if you have the financial means), it will most likely have Windows 8.1 already installed, although you can still find some on the market with Windows 7. To make the switch between computers easier, Microsoft is making PCMover Express from LapLink available for free. To use it, the source computer will need to be running XP and the destination computer needs to be Windows 7 or 8.1. It will migrate over your data to the new computer but, like upgrading from XP directly to 8.1, it doesn't transfer your applications. If you want your programs to come along, you'll need to purchase the Professional version for US$23.95.

Consider a Chromebook or Surface

If you're a power user and want to get some work done, while still enjoying movies, music, and games on the go, check out a Microsoft Surface 2 or Surface Pro 2. When combined with a Type Cover ($129), these devices blur the line between a laptop and a tablet. They are thin and light and provide a touchscreen for using the new Modern interface. Powerful enough to allow users to tackle some real productive work, they are also good for enjoying movies, music, and games. The Surface Pro 2 comes with a full version of Windows 8.1, which lets you install desktop programs and starts at $899. The Surface 2 runs the RT version of Windows, which doesn't allow you to install desktop programs. However it does include a full desktop version of Office 2013 and starts at $449.

If you're a casual PC user and your computing mainly consists of surfing the Web, social media, email, music, YouTube, casual games, and some light word processing, a Chromebook can do all of that. Chromebooks are internet-centric laptops that run on Google's Chrome OS. You will need an internet connection and a Google account to access services like Google Drive, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Music, and others. Although you won't be able to install your own software on it like a Windows XP system, you can install Google apps and Google Chrome extensions.

Essentially, anything you currently do online with your XP computer you can do with a Chromebook. They have a limited amount of storage, so your data is mainly going to be stored in the cloud, which makes always having a connection to the Web essential. Chromebooks are light, portable, have a full keyboard and are available from various manufacturers, including Acer, HP, Toshiba, Samsung, Lenovo, and Google. And the best part is they're very affordable, starting around $250.

Use a Tablet

If you need to do basic things on the Web like email, browsing, music, videos, and little to no typing then a tablet could be a good choice. An iPad or Android tablet isn't just for Angry Birds or Candy Crush, with plenty of power to run the plethora of productivity apps available for either flavor of tablet. Devices like Amazon's Kindle Fire line are also well suited for media consumption, reading eBooks, and composing the occasional email.

You can't install your favorite Windows programs on an iPad or Android tablet, so you may have to search for some tablet equivalents to Windows programs you're used to. Apple's App Store, Google Play and the Windows Store have plenty of apps available and you should be able to find ones that suit your needs. It won't take long to realize that onscreen keyboards aren't great for lengthy typing sessions so you'll need to take this into account if that's something you're likely do be doing a lot of.

Switch to Linux

If you don't want to buy a new computer, or want to re-purpose your existing XP machine, you can install Linux on it. Linux is a free operating system that works similarly to Windows or OS X, but gives you a lot more control over the OS if you want it. When Linux first started coming to the desktop, it was suited more for geeky users familiar with command line work in the terminal and compiling software code. However, it's evolved into a desktop OS that's much more user friendly. Even novices should be able to start using it right away and get basic computing tasks done.

There are plenty of different flavors of Linux available. Ubuntu Desktop is the most popular, and has a slick and easy to use interface. It comes with its own LibreOffice apps, which are completely compatible with Microsoft Office file types. Another advantage of Ubuntu is it has an enormous community that will be able to help you out if you happen to get stuck.

Since you're already used to XP and if you don't want to invest a lot of time in learning a new interface, check out my personal favorite, Zorin Linux. It's about as close to a Windows-like environment as you can get. In fact, it's creators tout it as "the gateway to Linux for Windows users." Like Ubuntu, it comes with LibreOffice apps that are compatible with Microsoft Office documents.

What about Office?

Microsoft is also ending support for Office 2003, which isn't as big of a deal as the OS, but you'll still want to consider moving on as security vulnerabilities exist in Microsoft's office suite too. If you're a heavy Office user, you might want want to use Microsoft's new Office 365. For this, Microsoft has adopted a subscription model, with plans starting at $9.99/month or $99/year for home users. This will let you to install Office on up to five PCs or Macs and have it installed on up to five smartphones.

With the subscription you'll have access to all of your documents from virtually anywhere on any device – provided you've got an active internet connection. The mobile version can be installed on iPhone and iPad and on Android phones or tablets, Windows Phone comes with the mobile version and doesn't count against the five mobile devices. And because it's a subscription model, you will receive the latest updates regularly. You can still upgrade your version of Office to 2010 or 2013, but that will set you back a few hundred bucks for one computer.

If you only use Word or Excel occasionally, you might want to consider free online options like Google Docs or Microsoft's new Office.com (formerly Office Web Apps). If you prefer to to have an office suite installed on your computer, you should also check out OpenOffice, which is designed similarly to Office 2003. It's also completely free to use. Each of these options also support Microsoft Office file types. That means you can save your documents in OpenOffice as .doc or .docx and they'll open in Microsoft Office. Also, if you get a Microsoft Office document, you'll be able to open and edit them.

Summing Up

No one likes change, especially in their computing habits, but nothing is forever. However, If you have legacy software that will only work on XP or you're dead set on staying with your XP machine (which I strongly discourage) I'd recommend following a few simple guidelines.

  • Make sure it's running XP with Service Pack 3 and install all the latest available updates.
  • Run a quality anti-virus program that provides real-time protection.
  • Stop using Internet Explorer as IE will no longer get security patches – Google Chrome or Firefox are good alternatives.
  • Ideally, unplug it from the internet altogether and use it as a stand alone machine, making sure to scan any USB drives you plug into it or any files you're transferring to it using aforementioned anti-virus software.
About the Author
Brian Burgess Brian Burgess resides in Minnesota. A technology enthusiast his entire life, he worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. In addition to contributing to Gizmag, he’s the Editor in Chief at groovyPost.com and has written for other notable tech sites Byte, InformationWeek, and How-To Geek. Away from the keyboard, you're likely to find him listening to heavy metal, playing guitar, or watching Star Trek. All articles by Brian Burgess

Curiously and unfortunately our reviewer omitted an easy solution: BUY A MAC!


If they still have to provide bug fixes and security patches for a 12 years product why I should be more confident in their more recent products? At this moment it should have been the most clean product on the market. And I see no reason to use a gargantuan 20+ GB Win 7,8 for web surfing, small office jobs and infrequently playing. It's like using a SUV to go to the next corner grocery shop. I'll stick with XP as far as device drivers will be available.


A last-ditch sell-out by Microsoft. Too bad customers prefer the 'Old and infirm XP needing constant updates'. Welcome a new and experimental wonder extraction of money from the remaining loyal fans.

The diminishing loyal fan base is the problem. Extraction does not encourage new loyal fans.


Quick! How many people do you know that have ever actually had to Microsoft for support? How many have had virus/malware issues that would not have happened if they had been actually doing their OS updates?

I've been involved in PC Tech for 27 years, and for me the answer to both questions is zero. My standard response to those concerned is; keep your anti-virus software updated, don't click on links inside e-mail or on website ads, and get a router if your modem doesn't provide NAT (even if you only have one computer).

The only reason to upgrade your OS is if you really want some new piece of hardware/software that won't run on your old one.


I ran XP all through the VISTA debacle. but when win 7 came out I switched. it is a great OS. however I do use office 03. which still works beautifully and I dont have hunt for hidden icons. I havent needed support for office for years, and win 7 is almost perfect. its a good combination. Who needs further support?

Artisteroi Rlsh Gadgeteer

What a silly article. Change the last point to simply don't worry about it because nothing important is changing and make that the first point and you've got something more sensible.

Consider that there's every likelihood that any computer still running Windows XP is barely going to meet the minimum system requirements to run Windows 7 or 8. In the case of my laptop, a switch to either operating system would use up all the available system RAM. As to the Linux option, I have better things to do than replace a decade of software which is working perfectly fine.

I've never counted on Microsoft to keep me safe (and I respectfully suggest anyone who does so is naive) so I don't see as their dropping support is any kind of incentive to make changes.

In order to stick with Windows (the option I presume Microsoft favours) it would require (in my case) buying an entirely new computer, but considering that laptop manufacturers have abandoned the requirements of those of us who prefer the more productive matte 4x3 display, my choice to do ignore the end of support deadline is an easy one.


You could install linux in addition to your XP and have a dual boot. Using linux for the net. Or you could install linux on a USB stick and boot to that I'm still happily using Word 2000....

Je Remy

I got fed up with endless anti-virus updates that ate up 25 minutes every second or third day; the fact that most of my peripherals and apps would not work with 8.1; endless, buggering about to get new software to work properly; useful help suggestions like re-installing my OS; no win blamefests between hardware vendors; software vendors, and Microsoft "support"; I gave up and switched to Mac. Please considering adding this to your suite of alternatives.

Terence Hawkes

The next major malware outbreak for XP is going to be a huge PR nightmare for Microsoft. The hackers now know that all of the flaws THEY know about won't be patched and can begin using more of them. Estimates vary, of course, but upwards to 30% of computers across the planet are running Windows XP. That is a very, very large number of computers, unpatched, accessing the internet and just ready to become the world largest botnet.

And Microsoft will be the Bad Guys (tm), justly or not.

Chad Wilson

Microsoft chose to change the UI on Win 8 to usher in touchscreen tech which few are interested in (ie. nobody but Kiosk makers).

And they changed the UI in MS Office for no discernible reason whatever, generating a vast number of support/training requirements for NO reason and offering no value.

As such, Microsoft is just stroking their megalomaniac view that they are the arbiter of "what-is" on PCs.

I am now taking my 20 PCs and Laptops and converting them all to Linux/LibreOffice.


My disdain for the windows operating system transcends beyond the boundaries of time and space. Their 'support' for all of their systems only applies to those who purchased windows directly, not through Dell, HP Asus, etc, 90% of the machines out there. As far as I am concerned, office is overpriced and overly complicated for a spreadsheet and a typewriter emulator. Of all the software that has crashed on my system, office, a native of Windows and an integral part of Microsoft's cash cow, seems to be the least robust.

I have been using XP for years, and would have stuck with 98 if I had a choice. Not that they are perfect systems, its just after all these years they are somewhat stable. Office 2003 is fine for 100% of what I need to do, there is no reason to upgrade and plenty of reasons not to. The basic faults of the operating system have not been addressed with Win 7 or 8 such as : excruciatingly long start up times, Bloatware, Winrot, viruses, malware, changes in program controls for no reason, poorly designed interfaces with unintuitive controls, really annoying EULA's that attach software to a specific computer. Ughhhh.


If you want to do basic internet things, and also keep XP, you could install Virtualbox, and keep XP in a virtual computer that has no internet connection. I think that the KDE version of OpenSuse would be a good host OS, since the user experience (with perhaps the exception of setting up software repositories) is so similar to XP. Of course if the software you want XP to run needs internet access, then you need to set up a very good firewall, so that only this software gets to communicate.

Also, running XP in a virtual environment generally means a virtual graphics card, which brings performance limitations to graphics processor intensive applications. Both AMD and Nvidia support hardware GPU passthrough (AMD Firepro Remote Graphics and Nvidia Grid vGPU) for some graphics cards they make for the server market, but none that they make for mobile hardware, and even workstation type all-in-one desktops use mobile type graphics cards, so you really need a tower or rack mount server for this. Also, only VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft (RemoteFX in Windows Server 2012) make virtualization software that supports GPU passthrough (VirtualBox xVM and Parallels Workstation have both been killed), and the price and hardware requirements are such that you may as well buy Windows 7.

John Banister

so why isn;t one alternative " do nothing, just keep slogging with XP"? wle

Larry English

I recommend the leap to 8 we are successfully rolling out windows 8 from xp machines with no problem..., oh I forgot to mention how to beat the learning curve go out and download yourself a copy of classic shell from classicshell.com and you can set it up like a windows xp machine and bypass the metro screen to go straight to the desktop with a useable start button. We have also found that most of the things that microsoft says are not suppose to work actually do work, so I encourage you to buy a copy and test it out for yourself.

Aaron Elmitt

I wonder what they're going to do with all the ATMs of the world still running Windows XP?

It's still a better OS then then Windows 8 with metro. I have an XP box that I plan to keep using to play older games. I unplugged it from the Internet and just run it as a stand-alone box. It works fine.

Ken Dawson

In the days of yore it was possible to buy a rudimentary outboard motor (British Seagull) that simply and reliably started first or second pull and only stopped when it ran out of fuel or the owner made it do so.

What a pity it is not possible to purchase the computing equivalent of a British Seagull. Imagine having a fully supported operating system that ran your fully supported Office package and any other software that you rely on, such as Cardfile (a Windows 3.1 application that Microsoft simply cannot be bothered to upgrade) so that you just knew that you were going to be able to get a full day's work done whenever you wanted. It goes without saying that such a system should be available as an option when purchasing any new computer.

We could have such a system if we could only find a way of charging Microsoft for all the man-hours lost to the economy by the necessary retraining they impose on us all so that they can make a profit.

And in passing, wouldn't it be nice if Microsoft were to treat us like adults and not adopt the 'mummy knows best' stance they usually do so that we had more options to make the OS look and feel like we want it to? I for one want to organise MY files MY way, I don't want them in a ****ing library, thank you very much, especially in a library that is the primary target of Windows Explorer (there might be a way of changing this, but I just haven't got the heart to try) a library that is several clicks away from where I would like it to be. And do not want to be forced to subject my back to repetitive strain injury by being forced to keep leaning forward to touch my screen, especially when I have a mouse that can save me the effort, and NO, mummy does not know best!

Mel Tisdale

Oh no... not again. Windows 8/8.1 is super easy to use, learn and it looks great. I've read a lot about how hard it is to operate with Mouse and Keyboard and stuff... well that's a total bullshit. I needed like 2 days to get used to it and i loved it. The New Start is awesome i checked out some apps just to find out what it's like. I like but i dont need it so i dont use it and the desktop experience is... well the same except that you can go to the corners and do something usefull with them. :P /every time i read about how hard it is to use i'm like "oh c'mon... get lost"/

Kostadin Iliev

I have a netbook with Win XP and it ran great. I only stopped using it when it broke. I bought a netbook with Win7 starter but it is slow and freezes up. A year later, I bought a full laptop with Win8. After a year, I still find it confusing and slow. I found out later that the full laptop was not made to run Win8; then did they have it installed? I think Win 7 would have worked better on it.

I think one alternative is eComStation. http://www.ecomstation.com It is a much updated version of IBM's OS/2 Warp. eCS works on newer hardware. I will be installing eCS on both my netbook and my full laptop.

There is an alternative worth watching. It is ReactOS. http://www.reactos.org It is still in alpha but I think they are making progress. One can download and give it a try on a computer that one is not currently using. It does not require a lot of resources - opposite of Windows.


Puppy Linux was developed by a brilliant West Aussie programmer and is simple to install, easy to learn and has complete support. It comes with a powerful toolkit for resurrecting tired old PCs WINE runs all your old XP stuff. Perfect for the job! http://puppylinux.org/


simple just change to Linux and all your problems are over, it is not perfect but it is fast and done not come under attack. Windows has never supported any program over five years old, it is just a way to force up sales


I already migrated to Windows 8 to 8.1. I like Windows XP interface but after April 8, I can no longer get any security updates which means, my computer will be vulnerable to malicious threats. And I don't want to add any trouble to my machine.


For now I will just pull the internet plug on my old desktop and keep using it until someone comes out with an easier way to upgrade my old programs which work fine. I will just use my netbook or cell phone for e-mail or browsing the web.


I think this article by Brian Burgess is the best written on the issue of end of support for Windows XP. There are a plethora of articles out there on the subject but most appear to have little imagination and simply preach the Microsoft gospel.

There are strong opinions on both sides, both for and against XP: some argue a coherent, logical case; others are hell-bent with ranting ill-informed crap.

Whatever your feelings are about Windows XP one thing is fact... it does exactly what it says on the tin and in a non-bloated way. Another fact already pointed out is that it shares the same undelying common architecture with all the latest reincarnations from Microsoft.

Do you remember the fabulous "head in the clouds" announcement from Microsoft away back shortly before Vista made it's debut ?, that Vista was going to be revolutionary and be rebuilt from the ground with a brand new architecture ?! !!

farting sound of a balloon having been let go and flying through room out of control

Until Microsoft do fullfill (extremely unlikely) that promise to redesign their operating systems, logic would dictate that they continue to support Windows XP alongside Windows 7 & 8. It's not just cash machines on the high street that are vulnerable but also thousands of small business, major banks and hospitals.

Personally, I love the blue colour and that it will run on my ancient IBM laptop with 256MB ram. :)

Ross Burnside

Hi Brian, just wanted to make you aware of a Kickstarter campaign offering extended support to XP users like me.


Les Thomas

I switched to Linux about 6 years ago because Windows was a nightmare for some really basic text editing that I was doing. Linux gave me more control over the file encoding and had better language support and language input. The first few months were tough - I dual booted so I could use some apps that I relied on in Windows. As time went by I booted to Windows less and less and found alternatives on Linux. I haven't used Windows at home for more than 5 years and I couldn't be happier. I've not had to run anti-virus software, I've had very few issues and crashes, I can customize it. I started a new job about 6 months ago and was forced to use Windows 7 at work. It feels old and slow. I have anti-virus running. It takes over 10 minutes to boot some days which is a problem if a client walks in while it's still booting up, so I have to get to work earlier just for that. Sometimes it won't even boot and I have to restart it and wait a further 10 minutes. I wish the company would let me change the OS!!! Linux is free and MUCH better. Why pay for Windows these days? I just can't see how people are loyal to Windows when it's worse than alternatives. You may struggle at first to make the change, but guaranteed you'll be better off for it just a few months later!

Also, Ubuntu was mentioned as an alternative, but it has become a little heavy in terms of resource usage these days - they're trying to make it flashier and attract more users. If you're installing Linux on an old XP machine you may want to install something lighter like Bodhi Linux, Xubuntu or Lubuntu depending on your hardware.

Karl Wortmann

The most obvious answer for this one is to just continue using Windows XP. Frankly, that's just not a path I recommend, though. If you have software that runs in Windows XP, your best bet is going to be another version of Windows. Windows 7 and Windows 8 both have features designed to enable legacy software to run in a compatibility mode or virtual machine (VM) that emulates a Windows XP environment. If that doesn’t work for some reason, my first stop would be to talk with the software developer about modernizing the program to work with an operating system from this decade. Another option would be to use a newer version of Windows, and set up a Windows XP VM that you use specifically for the applications that you can’t make work in a different version of Windows. Windows XP could be set up as a VM in a different version of Windows, or in Mac OS X, or Linux. So, if you choose that route, you actually have a number of options. Keep in mind, though, that you need to have a legally licensed copy of the OS to run it in a VM, and you'll probably need the OS on a disc in order to install it. Finally, remember that an OS in a VM is still an OS — it's still vulnerable to attack and will expose you to all of the same issues you’d have if you just kept running Windows XP.

Dennis Parker

I am still running windows XP and it is working at its best as always and I really love to work on XP, it's the best OS produced by Microsoft ever. I worked on windows 7 for some time and I didn't like it well I've never used windows 8, do any one will suggest that should I try t work on it, will I like it?

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