April 8, 2014, marked the end of support to Windows XP. Microsoft says it will push some security updates until 2015, but it is time to be proactive and decide what to do to protect your system, if you still have Windows XP.
Option 1: Install an alternative operating system.
- “Upgrade” to Windows 8.1. Be forewarned that it looks utterly different from Windows XP and there will be a learning curve. If you find you simply cannot abide by that new format, there are options from Microsoft and others that can help (especially the start menu). Not all systems will be able to run Windows 8.1, so if you have a very old PC, you will want to look at options 2 or 3 below.
- Find and Install Windows 7! It can be hard to find, but it will be comfortably similar to Windows XP. The problem is it’s not sold as a stand-alone anymore, so you are really looking at option 2 below: Look for Windows 7 already loaded on computers and laptops listed for sale in the business section.
- Install a Linux operating system. If you are ready for this, here are a few systems that come highly recommended: Zorin OS (looks the most like Microsoft XP), Majaro, and Linux Lite.
Option 2: Buy a new computer.
- Become an Apple convert. You can use Windows XP on a Mac and you may find, as so many Apple-happy people tell me, that it works for you. If you want something with a less steep learning curve, Mac OS X might be the way to go.
- Get a Chromebook. They are sleek and affordable. Be aware that everything will be “in the cloud,” so you need to do your analysis about protecting client confidences and secrets, and take appropriate steps. Make sure it does everything you need it to before you buy.
Option 3: Find ways to protect Windows XP.
This is risky. It will surely take the most work, but if this is the way you decide to go, here are six things you should consider doing if you want to keep running Windows XP.
- Ensure you have it set up correctly (with a Limited User and an Administrative User setup).
- Protect your machine yourself with antivirus, firewall, and malware programs that are top of the line and kept current.
- Install a browser that is not Internet Explorer. Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome have pledged to continue to support Microsoft XP.
- Review your third-party software on your computer and uninstall anything that is not absolutely necessary.
- For the third-party software you do keep, consider disabling plug-ins such as Flash and Java or set up your browser to always ask whether to open downloads like PDFs.
- Be wary of plugging into open or public networks. Keep your Windows XP computer on a secured home network or use a Virtual Private Network whenever you boot up away from home.
And finally, the disclaimer: You have (now, again) been forewarned that Windows XP is not supported any longer by Microsoft. When you see “not supported,” read “not protected,” and think seriously about what that really means. Make technical decisions with the full awareness that you or your support staff will need to live with the consequences of this decision for a long time. Talk to an information technology specialist about your particular situation to make an informed decision. If you need a referral, the Law Office Management Assistance Program can help. Give us a call at 206-733-5914 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.