The land of forgotten XP installs: Have you looked everywhere?

Summary:Do you have forgotten (but still running) XP machines hidden throughout your home, office, or data center? If so, now is the time to hunt them down, turn them off, take them out of service, or upgrade them immediately.

As one of my side projects, I run a series of Web servers that do some automatic content analysis and generation. These sites have been running for well over a decade, although various subsystems have been updated over the years.

 Yesterday, my server monitor informed me that one of the servers wasn't updating properly. This machine has been running smoothly for well over a year, and, quite frankly, I haven't given it much share of mind for almost that whole time. It's not a current project, it generally works, and I'm very busy working on other things.

Apparently, the automatic file transfer scripts had stalled. That's not why I'm writing this article. Instead, I'm writing because I realized, when I went to check out the VM that runs this particular subsystem — that it runs Windows XP.

Oops. Red flag.

How many other background systems and forgotten VMs do I actually have running, both here at Camp David and on the various co-location sites I employ?

As it turns out, quite a few. Over the last decade-plus, whenever I've needed some sort of utility system to do some task or another, I've generally spun up a spare XP machine or VM to accomplish it. Yes, I know I could have used Linux for some of these tasks, but I had a large pile of spare XP licenses, and XP — especially for low impact tasks — has been rock solid, efficient, and easy.

None of these machines are user machines. None of these browse the Web, open email, or do anything similar (although one acts as a mail transfer agent for some very old email accounts for some family and friends). 

I took stock and realized I could easily account for seven working, running systems (physical and VM) that are currently running XP. That doesn't count the closet and garage of powered-off, out-of-service machines that could still boot into XP if I fired them up.

Those seven machines need to be either taken out of service or upgraded pretty much immediately. With XP support ending in April, and more and more vulnerabilities becoming apparent, any forgotten XP machines need to be rediscovered and updated.

Fortunately, I bought a bunch of Windows 8 licenses during the $40 deal, so it's time for me to get to work installing and upgrading. Remember, make sure you upgrade your XP machines to Service Pack 3 first.

Here are some more tips: 8 lessons learned from upgrading a dog-slow XP machine to Windows 8

Do you have forgotten (but still running) XP machines hidden throughout your home, office, or data center? If so, now is the time to hunt them down, turn them off, take them out of service, or upgrade them immediately.

Topics: Microsoft, Security, Windows 8

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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