Windows XP Support Ends – Why You Need to Know

April 8 2014 is the last day that Microsoft will support it’s Windows XP operating system.   This is important for anyone with a computer running XP  because that is the date Microsoft will stop issuing patches, or fixes, to the software leaving users vulnerable to attack when new exploits are found but not fixed.  Windows XP was first released in October of 2001 – over 12 years ago.  One might think that 12 years would be enough time to find and fix all the bugs in the software that allowed attackers to take over your computer but then one would be wrong.  There have been 9 “critical” or “important” patches released for XP during the first few months of 2014.  

Microsoft recommends that users of XP upgrade to the latest greatest version of Windows – version 8.1.  While Windows 8.1 has had 8 critical or important security patches so far in 2014, Microsoft will continue to issue security patches.  Most XP computers however do not have the hardware to run Windows 8.1 so XP users will in most cases need to purchase new PCs with Windows 8.1 already  installed.  
The upgrade cost may not be limited to the new computer as many older software titles that run just fine on XP will need to be upgraded to new versions that will work with Windows 8.1.  For Microsoft software such as Microsoft Office you can check compatibility at the Windows Compatibility Center website If you have Office 2007 or later you’re set, anything earlier – take out your wallet.  
QuickBooks is another commonly used program on older XP machines.  Only QB 2013 and 2014 will work on Windows 8 according to Intuit.

If you have an XP computer you need to do something.  Continuing to use the software exposes you and your data to the risk of loss and theft.  Before you rush out and buy a new Windows 8 PC I suggest you consider if an Apple Mac would work for you.  Let me make clear that I am not a Mac zealot.  Macs are great but they aren’t perfect and certainly don’t meet the requirements of every situation.  Like most things there are advantages and disadvantages in switching from Windows to OS/X – the name of the MacIntosh operating system software.

  • Learning Curve – OS/X is different than Windows and it takes some getting used to.  
  • Not all software runs on OS/X – if you absolutely must use a specific software title that is only available on Windows then stop reading now and go by a new PC.
  • Apple hardware, in general, costs more than PCs that run Windows.  
  • There are far fewer viruses for Macs than PCs.  While this may not always stay true, the vast majority (over 99%) of viruses target Windows PCs.  Mac users spend a lot less time on ant-virus software updates and cleaning out infections that get through.
  • Apple has always been something of a control freak when it comes to their products.  An upside of this is that most software that runs on Macs follows a consistent user interface.  In general, the way you do things is pretty consistent between programs and inter-program communication tends to be excellent.
  • Ease of Use – I know that this is subjective however having used both systems for years I come down solidly on the side of Macs.
  • Files created on one can not be used on the other – FALSE
  • It is hard to get technical support for Macs – FALSE on two levels, there are plenty of Mac gurus out there and Mac users need a lot less support.
  • I need to use Microsoft Office so I can’t use a Mac.  FALSE – Microsoft Office for Mac is, with very few exceptions is compatible with the PC versions.  There are some Macro language and VBA differences that should only be an issue in a large corporate environment with dozens of connected spreadsheets tied together.
The above list is certainly not exhaustive and I will try to add to it over time.  
Addressing some of the issues, I would allow a couple weeks to get up to speed on a Mac if you were a Windows user.  I have found that the learning curve from Windows XP or Windows 7 to Windows 8 is about the same as from XP or 7 to OS/X.
Inexpensive PCs don’t hold up well.  The very low cost ones don’t have enough computing power and mid-priced PCs with decent power tend to suffer from being heavy, have poor battery life for laptops, and have unreliable keyboards and touchpads.  If you really compare a well made and decently powered PC to a Mac, the price is not that much more for the Mac. 
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