Where can you go next after Windows XP?

Where can you go next after Windows XP?

Summary: You need to get ready now for the post-Windows XP world. Drew Turney looks at the options.


On the surface, it seems that Windows 7 or 8 are the obvious choices to replace XP systems simply because of the technologies, behaviour, and application compatibility you'll carry forward, but there's more to consider about other systems and your own needs.

Staying with Windows XP

First of all, if you use Windows, you'll always be a target of malware — one day Windows 7 and 8, along with Android and Mac OS X, will be similarly targeted because malware creators are looking for the best return on their investment, just like you are.

Second of all, the end of Windows XP support doesn't mean your computer will explode. But if any new bugs for XP come out after April 2014, you're on your own. According to a report by the Information Systems Security Associations, 38 percent of computers still use Windows XP.

Association chapter president Stan Stahl claims cybercriminals are saving up Windows XP holes to exploit after it knows Windows won't fix them, leaving you more vulnerable.

"Lots of computers are going to get hit with viruses in those months after," said Jeff Bolden, managing partner of data conversation and system integration provider Blue Lotus SIDC.

Fujitsu North America's senior director of end-user services Nicholas Lee agrees, saying that eventually, Windows XP will be "infected or otherwise impacted, and the cost to [fix] issues will be far more costly and detrimental".

Threats communications manger at Trend Micro Christopher Budd went further. "It really is best for people to be off of Windows XP by April 2014," he said. "Even if it means you turn off your computer and don't use another until you get a new one."

Still, some users might have old peripherals or software they can't upgrade and can't do without because of a discontinued product line or a long-gone developer. The best approach is to use your XP system as a stand-alone base of operations for that process and nothing else. Unplug it from the internet and lock it down so it stays that way. Move data on or off it using an external disk or CD, and start looking seriously for another workflow to replace the tool you think you can't do without.

The systems gulf

Getting used to a new system is a cost just as much as buying it, according to technical director of IT provider Akita Adrian Case.

"If you're going to migrate to Windows 7, there'll be a shallow learning curve, but if you adopt Windows 8, that curve is steeper while you grapple with the new user interface," he said.

Application compatibility is another big deal. You'll have fewer issues moving from XP to Windows 7 than if you went from XP to Windows 8. Windows XP applications worked in Windows 7 thanks to compatibility technology, but moving to Windows 8 will mean more time testing.

It's not as big a problem as it seems — the days where UNIX ran databases, Macs did graphics software, and Windows ran office productivity tools are far behind us. Speaking of which, the users of Mac, Linux, and other systems will talk up their relative benefits all day long, but, as Budd explained, the real weak link won't be computer based.

"The biggest downside, especially for non-technical people, is that real security is directly related to how familiar you are with what you're using," he said.

Plus, other systems come with different costs. Despite being an OSX user himself, Bolden said Apple's faster upgrade cycle and more expensive hardware can be prohibitive. "The kind of person on XP at the end of 2013 will find Apple's much more rapid forced upgrades vastly less pleasant," he said.

And while Linux is of course free, the time taken to learn a whole new system and new applications, very few of which are found in the commercial software world, certainly won't be.

Windows 7

If you're committed to staying in the Windows world because of software requirements or just sticking with what you know, Windows 7 looks and behaves like Windows XP and it's also cheaper.

Again, Microsoft's advice is to go to Windows 8, pointing out that Windows 7 is already four-year-old technology. If your hardware's also that old, you can't take advantage of the latest that computing can offer, and Windows 8 is more closely stitched to the hardware it runs on when it comes to security and performance.

But Fujitsu North America's senior director of end-user services, Nicholas Lee, said you shouldn't overlook Windows 7 just yet.

"Windows 8 is good, but it's not for everyone," he said. "Enterprises are more stable today and will find more interoperability on Windows 7."

Depending on your level of tech expertise, sticking with Windows will reduce the compatibility and re-skilling burden. You certainly won't be left behind moving to Windows 7 rather than Windows 8, so here's our advice.

Dip your toe in the water of Windows 8 and use it on non-essential systems for non-essential tasks. Get a feel for it at your own pace, and when Microsoft stops Windows 7 support or you find you really need a Windows 8-only application, you'll be ready.

Topics: Windows XP and the Future of the Desktop, Microsoft, Security, Windows, Windows 8

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  • Wait, what?!

    "First of all, if you use Windows, you'll always be a target of malware — one day Windows 7 and 8"

    I remove the exact same pieces of malware from XP, 7 & 8. Keep up the good work, Microsoft. And my bet is 9 won't be any better... however the marketing machine will disagree with me.
    • Depends on your usage patterns

      Depending on how you use your computer that very well may be true.
      Some people are better prepared than others in this world of Phishing attacks and no OS is going to protect them from some of the choices they make.
  • Now is the time to take the effort

    to be rid on Microsoft once and for all! If you are on XP, it's gonna hurt and hurt bad if you choose another Windows, so why not get away from viruses once and for all!
    Tony Burzio
    • Please elaborate.

      "...it's gonna hurt and hurt bad if you choose another Windows..."
      • gonna hurt

        I think he means it is gonna hurt iOS and Linux. The retirement of XP is the best shot either of these "competitors" has had to gain market share in years, and "it's gonna hurt and hurt bad" if substantial numbers of people choose to stay with Windows, but it won't be Windows users who are hurting.
        • That's not the way I read it.

          He's advocating moving away from Windows.
          • I do suspect

            john-whorfin was providing a sarcastic response to Tony, and meant to do no more than critique the clear anti-Windows bias. It is a form of rhetoric, as was Tony's largely meaningless and entirely alarmist post.
    • ...and go WHERE?

      OS X has exploits that a user can be coaxed into ignoring through social engineering. Linux has bad PPA's and repos out there for the naive to add to their lists. Windows has administrative accounts installed by default, so users just answer yes to everything instead of reading UAC boxes.

      YOU CAN'T have an exploit free system; It doesn't exist. Windows has it's faults, and so does everything else.
      • Misleading

        Agreed, Linux is not completely safe but it's a lot safer than Windows and better in many aspects like speed, stability, much smaller on your hard drive (2 Gig to 7 Gig), lean on ram (128 Mb to 250 Mb after bootup and I have never gone over 800 Mb), up and running after a 30-minute install (Internet browsing, word processing, spreadsheet work), bootup time does not get slower with time (about 50 seconds even with a single-core PC).

        I have yet to come across a bad PPA or repository. The beauty of PPA's and repositories, your software and operating system can be updated automatically and you can choose which to update before giving the ok by entering your password.

        There are hundreds, even thousands, of posts by users who have helped elderly relatives, or even siblings, to install Linux on their PCs or notebooks and the calls for help become almost non-existent, whereas previously, with Windows, the calls are frequent on a regular basis.

        "Where can you go after Windows XP?" Even South Korean corporations are considering moving to Linux. The city of Munich has and so have the French gendarmerie (police).

        If one's needs are commercial, professional software for Windows, then sticking with Windows (or XP) is the way to go, but for users where their needs are the Internet (e-mail, Facebook, online shopping, banking, etc.) with personal and even small business use of word processing, spreadsheets, databases, and light to pretty sophisticated mulitmedia processing (e.g. the Gimp for photos and Lightworks for video), then Linux is the better choice of OS.

        Having said this, I have seen there is lots of inertia to switching or change and it takes time. For example, the parents of a teenager I know refused at first to even try Linux but gradually as they could do all the things they wanted browsing the Internet, the resistance totally disappeared. So, it will take time.

        As a Linux user, I do not envision supplanting Windows, but I do see wider adoption of Linux. To what extent? It does not really matter because Linux on the desktop is getting better with time and this is good news for Linux users - present and future.
        • Misleading

          You know what? I run XP through win7. XP I know (because it has hurt me so much), Vista is a mess and Win7 is okay, but still has stupidities. Then there is the fact that Microsoft actually "breaks" versions under the "Pro" type level of software. That is just plain dishonest if you ask me.

          So, I installed Linux Fedora. Now at release 20, I started at 16 again. Everything is easier on a Linux platform, everything. No cripple-ware or feature lockouts. Honestly, you can do more, more easily on a Linux platform. Even Wine (virtual XP machine) is fairly easy to deal with. As orionds pointed out, less resource hungry on top of everything else. Hey, if you look around under the hood, you know what you will find? OS/2 and Journalled file systems (ext3 & ext4). That is IBM tech from the mid-90's folks.

          If you want one take away here, its this. Linux is by far the easiest to maintain by far. I'll add that installing a new program is silly easy as well. Real tech support also. Now for you commercial software only people. Red Hat. Enterprise ready and completely supported. Real support, not reload the system type advice.
    • not really

      Use a virtual box with Linux and keep XP. Problems solved.
      • enveloping XP

        I am a novice at all of this OS stuff but I know that I have to do something quick to get off of the XP pro that I have used to for the last few years. Really, how feasible is it to "virtual box" the OS?
  • Poor article

    The title is "Where can you go next after Windows XP?" yet half the articale is dedicated to staying on Windows XP.

    Your main argument seems to be that people dont want to get used to a new system, well there are plenty of Linux clones out there that aim to solve just that problem. How about firing up a Virtual Machine and trying them out then have a go at rewritting the articale as its clear you have never used Linux before.
  • Just migrate already.

    7 is the best option for users coming from XP.
    8 is somewhat shocking at first, but I've grown accustomed to it.

    You can't hold on to an OS that's been out there for 11 years, old, burnt-out and poor architecture. You might as well stick with 98, in comparison plus the stability.

    Stop clinging and migrate already. Or stick with XP, I couldn't care less.
    Just don't come crying to MS when someone uses reverse-engineering for a bulletin posted a certain Tuesday on a certain April month.
    2nd Paradox
    • XP Is Still Great

      If you don't care about people using XP, then why write about it. And Windows 7 is not the best option. It's bloated and too slow and dainty.
    • No W7

      > 7 is the best option for users coming from XP.

      Except, as everyone manages to CONTINUE to forget, Win7 is NO LONGER AVAILABLE as a retail product. And whatever copies are floating around on feeBay and (to a lesser extent) Amazon are illegal or hacked copies, or are media-only with no license keys (completely useless, when you could download the ISO for free if you already had a key).
  • Few of which are found in the commercial software world

    Is this article for the home user or corporations? Because if it is for the home user then Ubuntu does have commercial software. For example Firefox, LibreOffice, Chrome, Eclipse, Steam, Spotify, VLC, Oracle VM virtuebox. Even the Ubuntu Software centre has loads of software that you have to pay for if by commercial you mean you have to pay for it.

    On top of that Ubuntu has software that windows does not. For example I have a pvr / pc running MythBuntu which streams live TV to every computer in the house. It is a very powerful system which has no counterpart on windows unless you want to count $20,000+ SnapStream.
  • XP Is Famous

    Boy, another article about doomsday XP. I'll just keep XP and dual boot with Zorin. I hate Windows 7. Hope Zorin is easy like XP.
  • When I move away from XP...

    ...it will likely be to Linux. But I wont be moving from XP any time in the foreseeable future.

    Windows 7 has pros and cons, just not enough pros and too many cons for me to move to it. And windows 8 is nothing but cons, worst OS ever, poorly thought out, poorly executed, just awful.

    I've developed with Unix before and some of the current flavors of Linux are very appealing. So Linux looks like the best alternative for me when I eventually leave XP.
    • What are the cons for Windows 7?

      "Windows 7 has pros and cons, just not enough pros and too many cons for me to move to it."