Today’s the day. After months of notices and warnings, Microsoft today officially ceases Windows XP support. While some governments and large businesses will continue to receive specialized (and costly) support for their existing Windows XP installations, virtually all consumer versions of the operating system will go unpatched in the face of new security threats starting tomorrow.
Windows XP-based computers will continue to function, of course, but attacks on its core system, including hidden malware, will no longer be patched by Microsoft, leaving hundreds of millions of PCs vulnerable to new threats. As a result, Microsoft has increased the urgency of its messaging to users as today’s end-of-life date has drawn near, including recent offers of discounts for those purchasing new Windows PCs and tablets to replacing aging XP hardware.
PCs running Windows XP that aren’t connected to local networks or the Internet are likely safe to use (assuming they’re not already infected), but all others are urged to upgrade to a supported version of Windows, which currently includes Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8. Those who insist on continuing to run XP should switch their browser to Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, both of which will continue to receive security updates, and obtain and maintain quality anti-malware software.
Also scheduled for the chopping block today is Office 2003. While users have several newer versions of the suite to which they can upgrade, Microsoft is unsurprisingly pushing its Office 365 subscription program, which grants access to the most current version of the software on Windows or OS X for between $20 and $100 per year, depending on the plan.
Those unwilling to shell out any money to Microsoft should also consider migrating their XP hardware to free alternatives, such as Ubuntu Linux and OpenOffice. Either way, be sure to migrate away from Windows XP; many of the warnings about the operating system’s demise may have been exaggerated, but it’s simply not worth the risk now that Microsoft has abandoned the software.