WindowsXP-RIP-End_of-supportDespite the date this change has nothing to do with the start of a new Financial Year, rather it affects the old workhorse PCs that many companies still rely on.

I’ll keep this brief and to the point. If you are still using Windows XP at home or in your business you have an important deadline to add to your diary: April 8th, 2014 – the day that Microsoft stops fixing Windows XP.   After that date monthly updates for Microsoft’s 13-year operating system will finally cease.

This means that Windows XP will simply become more and more vulnerable – having it connected to a network or using it online is taking a terrible risk. The risk of getting infected with malware like the disconcertingly successful cryptolocker will increase every day.

Why it’s worse than you think

Each Windows update after April 8th will be like a user manual for how to attack Windows XP. Let me explain why.

The bad guys that make malware to exploit Operating System (OS) vulnerabilities are smart. They will look carefully at the updates that Microsoft continue to release for Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, and then reverse engineer those fixes, which will act as signposts pointing to unfixed problems in Windows XP. Those four operating systems share a codebase dating back to 1993, so it is common for the same problem to be found on all versions of their OS.

Why the updates to the Malicious Software Removal Tool won’t really help

Microsoft have announced that they will continue to update their Malicious Software Removal Tool for Windows XP until July 14, 2015. Whilst this is somewhat helpful, it is by no means a replacement for proper OS fixes. It also comes with a ‘gotcha’: to receive those updates, you’ll have to go online – and that simply isn’t recommended in the first place, not even by Microsoft themselves.

What can I do if I need XP?

If you have old software that requires Windows XP, be prepared to unplug your XP machine from both the Internet and your local network (and wireless), then leave it unconnected. Never use it online again. Use a USB drive to take information to or from it, but scan that USB drive for viruses on an up-to-date computer before you do so.

Alternatively, upgrade to a later version of Windows and use the free Virtual PC to run a virtual copy of Windows XP on your more up-to-date computer. But, again, I wouldn’t recommend using it online – just because it’s virtual, doesn’t make it significantly safer to do so.

What should I do now?

Upgrade all of your computers to Windows 7 or Windows 8.  Alternatively, throw your Windows XP PCs away and stick to tablets, smartphones or Apple Macs.  You could potentially still give them to charity but you should wipe them completely clean first using a tool like Darik’s Boot And Nuke (always good practice anyway) and then remove the Windows XP license sticker – so the recipient can make their own unbiased decision about which OS to install.

Whilst somewhat costly and time-consuming to upgrade, it has to be done at some point in time, and that clock really starts ticking on April 8th.

If you disagree, or intend to keep on using Windows XP regardless, please let me know why in the comments below.

Note: the author has no vested interest in promoting this problem or scaremongering. mtstudios do not support, provide or upgrade PCs and just hope this information will prompt some of our clients and readership to action.