“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” A statement which is typically true, but not when it’s put up against Windows XP. As some of you may be aware, Microsoft’s support for Windows XP ends on April 8, 2014. On this date, Microsoft will be releasing it’s last ever patch for XP. The consequences of continuing to run an unsupported operating system may be more alarming than you think.

gear, preferences, tools, windows iconWith XP’s deadline looming around the corner, many people are confused at what will happen to their system once support ends. The truth be told that your system will continue to function, but can no longer be considered secure. A common misconception held by many is that their anti-virus will continue to protect them from any threats that they may encounter. This can not be any more wrong, as your anti-virus software is just that, a program that prevents mal-ware and viruses from infecting your system. This is not the same as what Microsoft releases in patches to your system. With Microsoft ending support, any loophole found that allows access into an XP system, will remain open forever. This means that once one hacker finds a loophole, and shares it online, every hacker on the internet will know a back-door entrance to any system running Windows XP. There is no Anti-Virus out there that can prevent something like this from happening. To give an analogy, let’s compare Windows XP and Anti-Virus software to a household with an alarm system; the alarm will only go off and offer protection if it is wired up properly to every window and door. If a door or window is left unwired, that means any burglar can open this said entrance, and get in unnoticed. XP being your home, your anti-virus being the alarm, and the windows/doors being the loopholes into your system. So once Microsoft stops “wiring” these doors shut, as soon as someone realizes one of them isn’t protected, it will be that way forever, always allowing unnoticed entry into your computer.

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Hackers are already preparing for this day to come. There are reports online of various hackers announcing they have already found holes in Windows XP’s security, but aren’t exploiting them until after support ends. They are doing this in anticipation that Microsoft doesn’t patch them, making hackers’ jobs much easier come the end of support. But even if Microsoft does patch these holes, it won’t be hard for hackers to find their way back in again. Microsoft often releases patches that apply to all of their currently supported operating systems. So when Microsoft releases a patch after April 8, 2014, hackers will begin reverse-engineering these updates. They do this in hopes that the hole their fixing for say Windows 7, is a hole that is also shared by Windows XP, except the hole will still be open. As a home user, you will be vulnerable to attacks of hackers, who can be gaining entry in hopes of obtaining credit card or bank information, or even personal information which could be of use to them. Businesses still running XP will likely be more targeted, especially those that process any type of credit card payments. This is a gold mine for hackers, as they can obtain a large amount of information in one system.

Now that we know what the consequences of continuing to run XP after support ends are, we can begin to discuss what to do now. You are left with two options to fix this upcoming issue.

  • Upgrade to a newer Operating System, whether it be Windows 7 or 8. I advise upgrading to Windows 8, as its support will continue longer than 7, but either OS will work just fine. I advise against Vista, as it’s support is the next to end, and is a slightly problematic operating system in itself. This is the cheaper of the two options, assuming your computer supports one of the newer operating systems. If you need more hard drive room, or a RAM/Memory upgrade, this would still prove to be cheaper than buying a new system. But if your processor isn’t supported, it would be more economical to just purchase a new system.
  • Purchase a new system, running any of the newer operating systems. Most newer Windows computer will come running Windows 8.1, though some stores do keep Windows 7 systems in stock. Windows 8 admittedly had a bad reputation at first, but with the recent update to Windows 8.1, many of the issues were resolved.

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If you’re unsure of what path to take, or still confused as what is going to happen as of April 8, 2014, head into your local computer store and ask the technician some questions. This is something that most computer professionals have been aware of for more than a year, so they will be able to help guide you in the right direction. Some computers that currently run XP do have the capability to be upgraded to a newer operating system with no issues, while some may be just too outdated. These are all things your favorite computer tech will be able to help you with no problem!