Windows XP is a ticking time-bomb with only 500 days to go

Windows XP is a ticking time-bomb with only 500 days to go

Summary: Although businesses have been upgrading from Windows XP for more than three years, the deadline is approaching, and there are still around 500 million users to move with only 500 days to go

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TOPICS: Windows
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Windows XP countdown clock

The countdown clock has been ticking on Windows XP for a couple of years now, but the end is coming into view. There are only 500 days to go before Microsoft ends its extended support, and that means no more patches and no more security fixes. Given that XP is not exactly famous for its security, this represents a significant risk.

However, a security breach might not be the worst of it. Journalists will be only too keen to write up the first few stories about companies whose defences are penetrated because they are still using an obsolete operating system, so the damage to their brand and reputation could be unusually large. And rather than the polite sadness that sometimes colours such stories (unlucky; could happen to anyone), victims can expect a well-deserved splattering of glee (told you so!).

Some companies could end up being sued. I would expect lawyers (I'm not one) who work in the technology scene to see the potential to profit from companies that have done the security equivalent of "driving without due care and attention" when looking after their data.

In the UK, it is a mandatory requirement to secure data under the seventh principle of the Data Protection Act, and this necessitates some kind of risk assessment. Good luck telling a judge that your security was based on using an insecure and unsupported operating system.

Still, there is no pain without gain. As well as profits for law firms, the end of XP could mean big bonuses for suppliers of cyber-liability insurance. With security breaches typically costing companies thousands of dollars/pounds a time, hefty insurance premiums would increase the already-high cost of sticking with Windows XP.

The end of XP should also mean extra profits for all the software companies that offer migration software and services. And as the deadline approaches, these firms should be able to increase their prices along with increases in demand. The longer companies leave the transition to Windows 7, the costlier it is likely to get.

One UK-based supplier says:

With 500 days to go to this point, Camwood, the application rationalisation and migration specialists, now starts its official ‘Countdown to the End of XP’ campaign: Camwood intends to mark-off significant milestones over the next year-and-a-bit, issuing information to help businesses through the final days of XP.

If you're not sure how long you have left, Camwood has provided a Countdown Clock for XP. I hope you don't need it.

However, Netmarketshare's browser-based statistics (below) suggest only 50.5 percent of PC users are on Windows 7 or Vista, while 40.7 percent are still on XP. That's around 500 million users, so to make the deadline, we'll need to upgrade a million users a day, including weekends.

This could be the biggest IT bonanza since the Year 2000 "millennium bug" campaign. Struggling American PC suppliers such as HP and Dell could certainly do with the boost.

Windows 7 vs XP graph of Netmarketshare numbers
Users have been moving from Windows XP to Windows 7 over the past two years, but not quickly enough. Source: Netmarketshare

 

 

Topic: Windows

Jack Schofield

About Jack Schofield

Jack Schofield spent the 1970s editing photography magazines before becoming editor of an early UK computer magazine, Practical Computing. In 1983, he started writing a weekly computer column for the Guardian, and joined the staff to launch the newspaper's weekly computer supplement in 1985. This section launched the Guardian’s first website and, in 2001, its first real blog. When the printed section was dropped after 25 years and a couple of reincarnations, he felt it was a time for a change....

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60 comments
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  • Why are people holding onto a dead OS anyway?

    In the history of computing, this has never been a prevalent issue. You don't see it on Mac or Linux, so why is Windows XP, an 11 going on 12 year old OS with no prospects STILL being managed and used. Microsoft should kill it now and get it over with. People will complain and whine but they will also complain and whine in 2014. I hate supporting XP, I hate supporting ie6, I hate supporting old sql and old java. Anyone still clinging to XP like its some life support model, should have their heads examined. XP is so painful to setup, use, and support. Driver support and what have you...
    Christopher.wortman
    • Please do some research

      Who says Mac users are upgrading the to latest releases immediately? A large portion of OS X users are still on Snow Leopard (which is considered the XP of the OS X world), 20% are still on Lion (which is considered as the Vista of the OS X) world wide ML has only managed to gain 20%, a large portion are still running even older versions such as Leopard and Tiger.

      Part of the reason why Windows XP is still around, a lot of modern software and older apps still work on it just fine. Also, some of these old machines just can't be upgraded and run modern versions of Window efficiently such as Windows 7 and Vista. We have some HP DXs in General Accounting, they are running Windows XP Pro SP3 with QuickBooks, it gets the job done in regards to payroll and inventory. The machine specs just can't handle Windows 7 and upgrading it just to do the same thing does not make sense.
      adacosta38
      • The Apple Injection

        From my experience, Tiger is the more likely XP of the Mac world, in that anyone still using a PowerPC system who did not update to Leopard is stuck, arguably abandoned, which is worse as compared to the extensive support XP has received from Microsoft and developers. Tiger users carry the burden of an iTunes that will not work with the new iOS devices properly. Discuss among yourselves which is worse, that or IE6.

        As to Lion as Vista, honestly that is the first time I heard that. Having used both, and having no real problems with Vista, I'd have to say that the Snow Leopard to Lion upgrade was nicer than the XP to Vista, but both were positive. Based on my experiences, I'd argue contrary to your equation. My Mac using goes back to 1984, but I like Launchpad, especially in Mountain Lion, and I think Mission Control works better than Spaces, so my opinions run contrary to the pundits one hears who have my engagement with Apple's device and my length of experience. Maybe someone of good repute said Lion = Vista, but I ignored it because it doesn't matter to me if it's accurate or not.
        DannyO_0x98
        • OS X Tiger

          Don't forget that Snow Leopard was the last to support Rosetta. Lot's more OS X users have stayed with Snow Leopard than with Tiger.
          Rabid Howler Monkey
      • The Apple Injection

        From my experience, Tiger is the more likely XP of the Mac world, in that anyone still using a PowerPC system who did not update to Leopard is stuck, arguably abandoned, which is worse as compared to the extensive support XP has received from Microsoft and developers. Tiger users carry the burden of an iTunes that will not work with the new iOS devices properly. Discuss among yourselves which is worse, that or IE6.

        As to Lion as Vista, honestly that is the first time I heard that. Having used both, and having no real problems with Vista, I'd have to say that the Snow Leopard to Lion upgrade was nicer than the XP to Vista, but both were positive. Based on my experiences, I'd argue contrary to your equation. My Mac using goes back to 1984, but I like Launchpad, especially in Mountain Lion, and I think Mission Control works better than Spaces, so my opinions run contrary to the pundits one hears who have my engagement with Apple's device and my length of experience. Maybe someone of good repute said Lion = Vista, but I ignored it because it doesn't matter to me if it's accurate or not.
        DannyO_0x98
      • The alternative for older machines is to look at Linux...

        With that many flavours of Linux around the alternative option for older machines that can't be upgraded to Windows 7 is to look at Linux.

        Many Linux boxes can run Windows applications fine using WINE, and due to the variety of Linux Distro's you can quite easily find one that matches the spec of your machine and is still supported, even Puppy Linux is a fine alternative to Windows XP and it fits on a 256mb pen drive - so much for Windows 20Gb free space requirement.
        TheKLF99
    • A real problem

      MS pushed XP hard onto netbooks to keep Linux out until fairly recently. MS therefore has an obligation to keep supporting it imho. If they wanted to kill it, they should not have sold it, unless they offer XP netbook owners a very good deal on an OS upgrade. Even that may be complicated however, since drivers may not be readily available for many some of the HW in many netbook makes/models.

      I blame MS for this conundrum. It was entirely self inflicted by a company with monopolistic powers, in order to retain those powers.
      D.T.Long
      • netbooks

        they have stopped selling XP on those a long time ago, and netbooks are dead any way. if you still got one then don't be so tight fisted and upgrade to Windows 8 for $45, runs like a dream. But I think you are a Linux troll so you probably are not running XP anyway, trololol
        Xenon8
        • Netbooks are not at all dead

          Like me, many others prefer netbooks to either laptops or tablets. You should try reading the reviews in Amazon and Walmart. They are much better than tablets, will do anything my desktop will do (I learned that the hard way, when my desktop died in May and I had to live on my Acer Aspire One XP netbook for three weeks).

          So happy was that experience, that I just bought another XP netbook used, at Amazon. I was THRILLED to find it at only $120, and that from a private seller. The usual going rate for used Aspire A0A 150 netbooks was $350, which is what I paid for my first one, back in 2008. So they retain value.

          If you go to Amazon now, you can still find them. Different Acer and other brands. XP Prof. OS itself is still selling on average for the same price or higher, as I paid back in 2005, when I migrated to XP. I had another XP machine MADE for me, and bought four more of the XP Pro OS in both full retail and System Builder, all factory sealed (new). So I now have five XP machines (2 are netbooks), with the ability to deploy four more on new or old equipment, as I might choose. Or, I could resell those four OS factory sealed (Pro, 32-bit) for TWICE what I paid.

          So that tells you XP is nowhere near dead. Nor are netbooks dead; the little ones (8.9", my preference) only weigh 2 pounds and fit in any small purse or briefcase. They are easier to use than any other form factor. They are faster and more capable than any tablet, less cumbersome than any laptop or ultra or chromebook, and more capable than the latter two. They have more connectivity and can easily be attached without needing any docking, to a keyboard and monitor (I use wireless Dell keyboard which needs no software, just press green buttons). Of course, the ones selling at Walmart now are under $300 -- well, those are now sold out -- and have far more RAM, HDD space, faster processors, connections (including HDMI and card readers) and better hard drives, with Win7 (not 8). Acer might not support the NX attribute, depends on the model. (Mine don't support it, thank God.)

          So my netbook can replace my desktop. I can tool around any airport and comfortably type at a table, on the floor, in a seat. My favorite use of it, is to lie on my stomach on the floor, with the thing out in front of me, and eat dinner while reading Shakespeare or crusing my stuff online at Amazon Kindle (Kindle for PC app is free). Or, just working and using my software. For anything which runs on my Xeon Quad desktop, runs on my little Acer. Maybe a tad slower, but when webbing or doing most things, the processor speed differential isn't noticeable.

          See? Very useful thing, a netbook. My business depends on it.
          brainout
      • Microsoft are offering a good deal on upgrading...

        Microsoft are doing their best to remove the problem by offering a very good deal for upgrading to Windows 8. Ok they're removal of the start menu to try and entice people to switch probably wasn't the brightest idea, but you can get StarDock software to fix that problem. But at only £24.99 for the latest OS and £4.99 for the StarDock Start8 software, any cheaper and they'd be giving it away.
        TheKLF99
  • Really?

    Quick everybody run!!!! Its a ticking time bomb with 500 days to go!!! Lol... Seriously, you writes these headlines anyway?!?!
    IamTiger
  • Windows 7

    Easy solution: stay on XP a bit longer, or upgrade to Windows 7 or 8.

    Windows 7 will be officially supported for a long time yet.
    Tim Acheson
    • And you can still use Windows XP virtualized in XP Mode

      which is a free download from Microsoft.
      John Zern
  • why not ugrade to something better?

    now would be a good time to try something else I have used Ubuntu for years and it does everything windows does and more, and you wont be left buying an update. http://ubuntutheotheros.webs.com/
    safe easy to use and its a free to use operating system.
    CrushKittykitty
    • I didn't find it as compatible as you

      I dual-booted starting with Hardy Heron until Karmic Koala, but I could just never get Wine to run everything that I normally used. I'm sure it was probably my fault but over time I just started booting up Windows more and more frequently. I know it is largely based on more experience, but most things were just more difficult for me to do (such as finding drivers for my video card, etc). Of course, I cannot figure out how to do anything in a quick fashion on my girlfriend's Mac Book Pro.
      Dodgson1832
  • I'll be running at least one Windows XP Pro system well beyond it's EOL

    Of course, outgoing/incoming packets will not be permitted to/from the Internet.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Time to join the 21st Century

    Time for those XP users to upgrade. We are three generations away now! At least upgrade to 7. We still use XP Pro at work. It is really time for these businesses to upgrade their software and hardware.
    mstrsfty
    • If you came to me....

      with that kind of justification for spending money on upgrades and all the associated costs, ......

      I WOULD FIRE YOU ON THE SPOT.
      D.T.Long
      • RE: "I WOULD FIRE YOU ON THE SPOT.

        Is this assuming that you are the CIO or organization's IT lead?

        What if the request came from an employee in the Finance department responsible for payroll and online banking?
        Rabid Howler Monkey
        • They would have to make the case why

          the payroll software they are using now will suddenly become impossible for them to use tomorrow.

          Here's the dirty little secret: 90% of a company's workforce needs Windows XP, Office XP and that's it. The ONLY reason people upgrade is to get those security patches.
          baggins_z