. . . And the Digital Band Played On. . .
It happened! The day users had been hearing about for at least a year or more, finally arrived, bringing with it news that only far too many still secretly held out hope they'd never see. These were the stalwarts, the rebels, made up of low, fixed-income users and corporate white-collared workers alike. Directors of non-profit organizations, IT management boards, and development teams hiding away in little-known proprietary hide-outs rounded out the motley band. But together they stared at their screens, as the only update to reach them on March's Patch-Tuesday 2014, was the announcement that as of April 8th, their friend, their staunch, loyal, and reliable operating system, had been served notice of it's impending doom.
That Annoying Jolt From Sleep!
Sadly, this is not a fairy-tale. Nor is it a camp-fire ghost story. What many have considered as unthinkable, has indeed taken place and there are now very few places where Windows XP users can hide. Companies whose development teams refused to upgrade their code to new OS's now have no choice. Third-party suppliers of proprietary code will be either forced to upgrade or slowly lose customers.
Age Before Beauty
It's true that Windows XP, as old as it is having been around now for 12 years, does still run, and run very well. XP had it's bumps in the road in its first two years of life, but by and large, the wrinkles were ironed out and the operating system worked quite well for such a vast number of users, organizations and businesses, that many still use it to this day. As the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". But in the interest of having something new every few years, Microsoft has forged ahead, occasionally claiming they are honouring volume and software licensing agreements that promise upgrades every few years. In this bid for something new on such a regular basis, Microsoft has shot itself in the foot on several occasions. First with Windows ME, then with Windows VISTA, and many are still not happy with Windows 8 even though 8.1 has addressed the more obvious complaints people have, with varying degrees of success depending on who you talk to. Next to Windows XP, the only other OS's to gain such traction have been win98 and Windows 7.
How Would You Rate WinXP?
Needs Before Wants
Many have simply not felt the need to upgrade with everything they use everyday working just fine in XP. But now Microsoft is seeking to force the hand of those who have been comfortable with their OS for so many years. With the March announcement now popping up on everyone's screen, the squeeze is on. Unfortunately for Microsoft, the gentle squeeze they began applying over a year ago has been unwittingly encouraging the more adventuresome users to move to Mac or Linux, and discovering they actually like it there! With security uppermost in many techs' minds, and geeks alike, the allure of an OS that is both free, and capable of being kept current without a licensing issue or fear of going obsolete is what drives many toward Linux.
Dig the Trenches!
Regardless of a person's view of what has happened, reality must now be faced. WinXP users can start their post-support lives by first ensuring they have SP3 (service pack 3) installed on their computers. To do this, click on Start, right-click on My Computer, and click on Properties. The screen that comes up will tell you what OS you have, and which service pack you have as well. If it says SP1 or SP2, you need to head over to Microsoft.com/downloads, search for Service Pack 3, and get it installed pronto! After SP3 is installed successfully, you'll have a ton more updates to do, with several reboots in between. Get them done BEFORE April 8th! There is no guarantee they will be available after that time.
Subsequent installations of winXP may be able to still grab older updates for the OS, much as we've been able to do for win2k, but available updates will not have dates beyond April 8th 2014!
Which Operating System do you prefer?
Shore up Defenses!
Securing your soon-to-be unsupported OS will require, for the most part, safe surfing habits.
- Avoid downloading anything from warez sites or sites loaded in advertising.
- Avoid adult, gambling, and file-sharing websites.
- Forget Internet Explorer and move to Chrome, Firefox, or Opera. Less chance of drive-by threats attacking your system.
- Turn off the preview pane in your email client so that single-clicking doesn't automatically infect your system by opening infected emails. Double-click to open what you want to read and single-click to delete the rest.
- Scan compressed/zipped downloads before opening them, using your favourite antivirus program. You do have an updated AV on your system right??? If not, you better get one before April 8th! AVG still offers a free one, as does Avast and others.
- Change the default password on your router if you have one, and get a router if you don't have one for added NAT-based firewall protection. Businesses and organizations can invest in a hardware firewall such as Sonicwall to assist in keeping threats out of your network.
- Update all hardware drivers on your computer, this can still be done via the update website until April 8th. After April 8th, you'll have to visit each manufacturer's website, or make use of a driver-update program that you have to pay for most of the time. Cnet's software update alert tool can assist as well.
- Keep Flash and Java up to date now, and after April 8th! Many threats like to attack these two browser plugins, so always be sure they are current!
Doing these things will greatly reduce the chances of your machine catching a virus or attracting a trojan or worm. Another suggestion that can safeguard your system, is to create a second user on your computer just for average surfing, gaming, word processing, email etc. Save your admin user for installing software and such. Threats that get onto your computer can only use the maximum permissions level of the logged in user. So if you are logged in as a standard user without program installation privileges, the threat can't install itself very well either. This change doesn't block all malware, but it blocks the vast majority of them.
Facing the Future!
Eventually, third-party software and hardware companies will no longer support XP either, and slowly but surely, more and more desired functionality will no longer be possible in Windows XP. But until your hand is forced to upgrade, these suggestions can help you stay safe for as long as your OS remains useful. We aren't saying "Bon Voyage" to WinXP yet, but we are saying good bye to regular OS security updates.
Stay safe out there!
© 2014 Marilynn Dawson