Hell no, we won't go: 10 reasons some XP users refuse to upgrade

Windows XP support may be ending soon, but there are a whole lot of folks who refuse to abandon the soon-to-be sunk ship. These are their stories.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

XP support may be ending soon, but there are a whole lot of folks who refuse to abandon the soon-to-be sunk ship. These are some of their stories and their reasons for not upgrading.

Last month, I wrote an article entitled The land of forgotten XP installs: Have you looked everywhere? The article talked about all the Windows XP installs still living on embedded systems and virtual machines, and the need to dig them out and upgrade them before the April XP support cut-off date. It was a short article, but it inspired a lot of comments from ZDNet readers out there. Much to my surprise, many of you have no intention of leaving XP.

For example, @JERRY KOLLINS tells us he has four XP Pro machines and one Windows 7. "All are working fine as intended. All are on MY network. All have dedicated uses...the programs are old but do the job perfectly, except WIN-7 (which is a disaster). All go to internet occasionally for a search. Browsers work fine (all three)...IF IT AIN'T BROKE....DON'T FIX IT."

@Mac_PC_FenceSitter says "I will not be doing this." He continues, "I have two XP machines that I plan to keep in service. However, I am taking them off the network." As long has he never, ever plugs in a USB drive or drops in a disk, he's probably reasonably safe, but there's always that one second and … oops.

Virtual machines will keep you safe

For some, though, it's the cost that's keeping them from upgrading. @global-george posts, "Since my office has 26 Windows XP machines I cannot afford to upgrade all of them to Windows 7 and no one here can tolerate using Windows 8, so I hired an IT Consultant who recommended a very polished Linux operating system called Robolinux which runs XP or 7, inside it, making our XP machines completely immune to all viruses and malware, requiring absolutely no updates or anti virus or anti malware software purchases. The Robolinux OS was a 7 minute install per PC. Also extremely easy for our users to operate it. It saved our company thousands of dollars. At first I was skeptical but my local IT Guru explained to me how the advanced Robolinux VM technology operates and it made perfect sense to me. So far after 6 months not one of our 26 Windows XP boxes have been infected by any viruses or malware. I hope this helps others who just can't afford to upgrade."

Another fan of the VM solution is @pianoman1962, who sings out, "What's all the fuss about? I run xp on my MBP through VMWare Fusion, so it's not my main OS but still, I've not installed any updates except SP3 and it still works fine. And I'm sure it will continue to do so after April 8th - just cuz MS no longer support it (as far as I'm concerned they haven't 'supported' my installation for as long as I can remember). It will just be more important to keep the AV up to date."

Sadly, I have to disagree with @george and the Piano Man. Robolinux runs VirtualBox, and its "protected form of XP" is just an XP install running in a VM. That's what I was talking about in my original article. The same is true of XP running in VMware. While the surrounding OS may be safe, if a virus (say one of the viruses that travel over SMB networks) gets onto the machine, VirtualBox, VMware, or any other VM or not, the practice of continuing to run XP is likely to result in some very bad days.

Comparing XP to Y2K

Another ZDNet reader who thinks XP will be fine on XP workhorse machines once it is no longer connected to the network is @mpaint, who writes, "With the demise of MS support, to me, that only means that machines that are internet facing, are used as workstations by humans etc. are at risk. I have several clients that use proprietary systems to run measuring and CNC machines that are NOT internet facing, and in fact have no gateway to the internet. I don't see these machines as being at risk, and the clients will likely continue to use these at least for a while, until their proprietary software is rewritten to be compatible with later OS."

@mpaint wants to know if I'm a Microsoft fan. He clearly hasn't read a whole bunch of my articles. He goes on to say that the XP fuss could be a lot like Y2K: "Mr. David Gewirtz, are you a MS fanboy? Do you believe everything that you read? The sky is NOT falling, but XP is an aging OS, and unlike used cars, that can be used forever, with proper maintenance and repair, I DO believe that XP machines should be phased out or upgraded, IF they are used to connect to the Internet, I mean, the underlying unspoken threat is that a previously unfound flaw in Windows XP code will be found and exploited, thus making that OS unsecure to be on the Internet. But this is much like Y2k, a lot of todo about not much. Companies spent megabucks in some cases to remediate flaws that didn't matter. I am realistic, but I don't think the sky is falling."

Next up: more doom and gloom tactics...

By the way, I'm doing more updates on Twitter and Facebook than ever before. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz and on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz.

The Y2K theme is continued by @gavin.bollard, who states, "Microsoft would LOVE for WinXP's demise to be like the Y2K bug. For everyone to scramble to upgrade their systems. Of course, it's not just about updating XP. You probably should update your hardware (or at least memory), you should probably look at a new office version of office too. Plenty of financial opportunities for Microsoft. Of course, Y2K was about something REAL. There were a few systems, which if not updated would have caused problems. Most systems however would have continued to function normally."

He, too, believes that XP is safe behind a firewall, but an update might someday be necessary: "Windows XP, behind a solid (and well configured) firewall and with a solid Anti-Virus product and no new hardware will continue to function. Get rid of some of the riskier products (Outlook, Acrobat and Flash for example) and things will be fairly safe. I'm not suggesting that businesses should stay on XP (We didn't, we moved to 7) but I am saying that there's no need for a stampede. Deploying an untested configuration could do much more damage to your business than staying on an older OS for a little while longer."

Another Y2Ker is @jpar who says "Y2K = YXP." He continues, "This is 'Year XP' -- everyone is overreacting to the XP EOL event in April, just like they overreacted to Y2K. Y2K came and went, and nothing happened -- same deal with XP. Vendors will continue to support virus protection for XP for at least a couple more years (as they did with Win2k and other older OSs). The lack of updates for XP is actually a GOOD thing, and will help stabilize the platform -- no more leaky Internet Exploder or Dot Blam updates that rip giant holes in the attack surface of the OS. If Microsoft really wants a win, they should start an open-source fork of XP, and allow it to be community-maintained."

I do have to say, I like the idea of an open-sourced XP. Not sure it's a good thing, but it would be fascinating to watch. Otherwise, Y2K and XP are very different beasts. Use reasonable caution out there, okay?

Doom and gloom tactics

Reader @winddrift03 blames those he calls "Microsoft shills." He says, "Why? because of all the scare tactics and doom spread by Microsoft shills. As a test, I had an XP based machine that never had an update after service pack 3 until taken out of service in 2012. It was connected to the internet, used on a daily basis, surfed the web, sometimes deliberately to sites that may have been potential trouble. NOT ONCE was it was it taken down by malware, and only once was an infection found that escaped the active scan. The key was using a good firewall, and and antivirus/anti spyware software that was keep up to date at all times. Part of the reason as I said was as a test, but also because of Windows 'updates' that caused more harm than good, leading to days and days of hunting to find what went wrong."

@winddrift03 continues, "My point is, anyone who is still satisfied with there XP machine should run it till their sick of it or it dies, as long as they take sensible precautions. And after having used Win 8 for a while, it will be a cold day in hell before it goes on any of my machines. I'm a retired computer professional, so don't even think I'm just some 'user' spouting off. MS doesn't get their act together soon, I'll shift completely to Linux!"

I gotta say, that's not a tactic I'd recommend. Kids, don't try this at home!

Reader @chrome_slinky also blames Microsoft for a fear, uncertainty, and doubt campaign. He says, "This is simply more of the FUD that was started by Microsoft as I have machines running XP which are fully up-to-date, and have an antivirus and firewall which are kept current, the firewall having HIPS activated, and I have had no problems thus far. I don't anticipate any problems after April 9, but I also am not stupid - the data is all backed up.Prudent practices should keep Windows XP machines in good shape, no matter what the Internet trash talk says."

I'm not convinced running XP, whether locked down or not, is prudent anymore.

Reader @databaseben is also distrustful of Microsoft's intentions. He says, "LOL, seriously? Upgrade XP machines w/Win8? I seriously doubt you bought a number of w8 licenses with the intent on upgrading your ol' XP machines. you would be lucky to be able to update those machines to Vista. In regards to XP stalling out the others on a network, this is expected because Microsoft will be sending out so called critical updates that will sabotage the functionality of XP in one way or another. So 'my recommendation' is to disable the update service for XP on those old but functional XP machines, because you will find one day (probably on the second wednesday) that XP's performance has suddenly degraded and unstable."

Next up: the challenge of upgrading... 

By the way, I'm doing more updates on Twitter and Facebook than ever before. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz and on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz.

In some ways, @ben is right. There are hardware restrictions that can get in the way of upgrading an XP machine (more on that below). But I have been quite successful in upgrading a bunch of my rather old machines, and while it has certainly not been a smooth process, the machines are actually much nicer and more responsive now that they run Windows 8 desktop.

Another reader, the wonderfully-handled @mad-man, says that XP is already broken, so why the fuss? It's an interesting perspective: "Windows XP won't die that easy. All this talk about MS stopping updates for Windows XP. What XP is safe now? Why then all the updates all the time? Usually when MS repairs a hole its been out there for a long time already. 66% of vulnerabilities is Adobe Reader, Java and Adobe Flash. Seriously when you have a firewall and malware protection and you update all the stuff that runs on top of Windows it's not gonna be less secure than it is now. There's still a lot of software and devices that only works on Windows XP. So in many companies it will still be running for some time to come."

The challenge of upgrading

@mad-man makes a good point. There are a lot of old systems out there, and we do have some reader questions about how to deal with those challenges. Let's start with a very valid concern by @cmwade1977: "Our software won't run on anything newer than XP, has no updates or upgrades available to make it run on anything new that we have to keep running for legal reasons. Oh, and the software requires an internet connection and a connection to our network. No one has answered how to keep everything safe under these conditions."

This is actually the perfect storm scenario and there really isn't a good answer for @wade. My strong recommendation to Microsoft was to keep supporting and updating XP. I believe it's a necessity born from its success and widespread distribution. My colleague Ed Bott, though, would prefer Windows XP was allowed to die with dignity.

By the way, I know some of the commenters may well be women, but with handles like @chrome_slinky it's impossible to tell. I just went with the masculine pronoun because it's a lot less cumbersome than repeating "he or she" a couple of dozen times in the article.

So now you know how I and my fellow bloggers feel, along with a bunch of die-hard ZDNet readers. How about you? Are you moving off of XP to Windows 7, Windows 8, Linux, Android, Mac or something else? Or are you saying "Hell no, we won't go" and sticking with XP until your last dying breath? Comment below.

By the way, I'm doing more updates on Twitter and Facebook than ever before. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz and on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz.

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