For many Mac users, their Windows version of choice is likely to be Windows XP. And with the conjunction of Microsoft this month orphaning XP (the XPocalypse), and the vulnerability announced by Redmond over the weekend, Mac users must decide whether to keep running the old, stale Windows, or upgrade.
Microsoft said the exploit was still being investigated and the company hasn't worked out a fix.
All versions of Internet Explorer from 6 through 11 are listed as vulnerable as well as all supported versions of Windows other than Server Core. Windows Server versions on which IE is run in the default Enhanced Security Configuration are not vulnerable unless an affected site is placed in the Internet Explorer Trusted sites zone.
But is this such a problem for Macs running Windows? Not so much.
The latest version of Boot Camp, Version 5.1, supports Windows 8.1 and also comes with drivers for 64-bit versions of Windows 7 and Windows 8. The previous Boot Camp 4 supported only Windows 7, including Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium, Microsoft Windows 7 Professional and Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate. Windows XP and Windows Vista are not supported with Boot Camp 4, however, older Macs running Mac OS X versions before Lion can run Windows XP and Vista.
The latest security issue announced this weekend concerns running Internet Explorer on any version of Windows. So, Boot Camp users should move to a more modern browser, such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.
At the same time, there are fewer security problems running XP in a virtual machine. And especially on a Mac. I was interested to find that one of the new features of Parallels 9 is its Security Center, which helps customers manage installations of security subscriptions for their Windows virtual machine and for the Mac itself.
Still, like the rest of the PC users in the world, Mac users face this choice about XP. The Mac preference for XP doesn't stem from a great love for old-fashioned software. But just as some 29 percent of current PC users still find, XP is inexpensive and readily available. So, their choices are the same.
The best way to avoid XP's Windows insecurity is to run Mac applications. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it's the best solution. Mac users want to run Mac software in OS X. Often, switchers from Windows believe they must run a specific Windows application and don't bother checking for Mac alternatives. If possible, seek a Mac alternative to a Windows solution. Often, one is available.
Another option is to avoid running Windows altogether and run individual Windows applications in CodeWeaver's CrossOver Mac environment. Interestingly, a number of PC developers are taking advantage of CrossOver Porting to provide support for Mac customers. I own one of these applications, DavkaWriter 7 Mac Edition. The result is ugly and unappealing to Mac customers, but it works — just like it does on the PC. I may not be happy with the Windows user experience, but I'm very happy to run this application outside of a virtualized Windows installation, which I had to do a couple of years ago.