On the 8th April 2014 Microsoft will release its last security updates for Windows XP, whose extended support period will come to a hard stop. That end date is now less than six months away!
Exactly how many PCs will still be out there running Windows XP next April? Several sources suggest that more than 100 million PCs will still be running Windows XP when security updates stop next April.
If your budget is so tight that the cost of an OS upgrade is too much to bear, now might be the time to consider switching to a free alternative like Linux, along with open-source apps and free or low-cost services to complement them.
However, for most older desktops a replacement PC is usually a smarter investment. New hardware is also generally easier and cheaper to manage, maintain, and secure than older PCs, which are more likely to fail and where replacement parts can be hard to find and expensive to buy.
But what if you don’t have the luxury of switching? Here are two strategies to adopt if you can’t cut your XP ties right away.
Disconnect it from the Internet
Disconnect its Internet connection so you (and others) cannot use it for email or web browsing and thus cannot expose yourself to potentially malicious software or network intrusion attempts. You can use removable media (carefully) to copy files between this isolated XP PC and any other Windows machines (Windows 7 and 8) you might own, that have full Internet access. So if you really want to keep that XP PC around just for one purpose, let it be dedicated to that purpose alone.
If the OS version is the only roadblock, you should be able to solve the compatibility conundrum by running the problem application(s) in a well-sandboxed virtual machine (VM).
Windows 8.x Pro and Enterprise have Hyper-V virtualization built in. Windows 7 Pro includes Windows XP Mode and Virtual PC, which has the advantage of eliminating the cost of an XP license for your VM. You can also use VMware or Virtual Box on Windows 7 or, for that matter, on a PC running Linux.
If you decide to set up a VM running Windows XP, lock it down firmly so it can’t be used for web browsing or email, and then install your XP-only application. You can then use the physical machine, running Windows 7 or Windows 8, with its modern, fully patched operating system, for everyday tasks and then use the Virtual Machine for your XP-only application.