XP – Final Warning!

April 11, 2013

Alarm Bells 

Almost a year ago I wrote about the need to move off Windows XP because Microsoft is terminating support for it. I set out some reasons why Windows 7 rather than 8 should be the operating system to move to. I thought that a 24-month alert was sufficient but recent reports that have come to my attention suggest otherwise. 

These reports reveal that there has been little change in the market shares of the different desktop operating systems from what they were 12 months ago. So little in fact, that initially I thought that pie charts illustrating market shares in March 2013 were in fact the charts of last March which had been mistakenly reused. Actually there are subtle differences between last year and this year but what is worrying is the fact that, while use of Windows 7 is now definitely above that of XP, XP remains almost as strong as it was a year ago, with well over a third of the market. Windows 8, Microsoft’s latest desktop operating system, has made very little impact and is in fact still trailing behind the much maligned Vista. Here are the figures of one firm that claims to measure operating system market share, presenting the situation at March 2013: Windows 7 – 44.73%, Windows XP – 38.73%, Windows Vista – 4.99%, Windows 8 – 3.17%. 

Now it may be that businesses and firms everywhere have been planning their migrations from XP up until now and, having fully prepared and rehearsed in test environments, they are poised to start the actual transition over the summer. That would seem a fair approach; although, depending on the number of machines you have, 12 months might be cutting it a little fine. On the other hand, if that is not the case, and the same operating system inertia is reflected in the market share statistics in March next year then there are going to be some rather busy IT bods over the Easter 2014 holiday weekend! 

The glacial pace at which XP is being given up is concerning enough, but it is perhaps at least partially explained by an equally alarming finding from one survey. That is that 15% of businesses running Windows XP are still unaware that 8 April 2014 is the date on which Microsoft finally turns off support for it

What should replace Windows XP? 

XP must go, but what do you replace it with? I still believe that Windows 7 rather than 8 is the best platform for firms/businesses, for following reasons. 

  • The 7 interface is closer to that of XP than the 8 interface. 
  • It is more likely that your XP applications programs have been, or will be, rewritten for Windows 7 than for 8. 
  • Windows 7 offers the possibility of continuing to use your XP applications on a virtualised version of XP hosted by Windows 7. Windows 8 does not offer this possibility. 

However, as regards this last feature, ie Virtual XP, it must be emphasised that this should be used only as a temporary measure to make the migration process easier. Why is this? Because, although the underlying Windows 7 operating system will of course be supported after 8 April 2014, any virtual XP environment that it hosts will be as vulnerable to security threats/compromises as any of your native XP machines after that date. 

Is Windows 7 still available pre-installed? 

Given the fact that my advice is to go to Windows 7, but the reality is that Windows 8 has been out since October 2012 (with Microsoft consequently pushing adoption of 8 rather than 7), some of you may be wondering how easy it will be to buy new PCs with Windows 7 rather than 8 pre-installed. Will it be necessary to buy desktop machines with 8 on them, purchase 7 licences, and then incorporate an additional element of complexity and slice of time into your migration strategy in order to accommodate the task of installing Windows 7 on your new purchases? 

Probably not. Although nowadays you will not see a newspaper advertisement for PCs with Windows 7 as the default operating system those ads are targeting the consumer rather than business market. In the Business Section of the website of the largest PC vendor, HP, desktop models are still available pre-installed with Windows 7. Indeed such is the popularity of Windows 8 with business users that Lenovo (the second largest vendor) notes that the majority of its enterprise shipments have Windows 7 installed; the touch screen ‘friendly’ Windows 8 being discreetly bundled on its own separate disc. Lenovo has learned from the Windows Vista experience that the official Microsoft ‘downgrade’ path can be painful. So the machines are ‘downgraded’ to Windows 7 by default

Final Word 

If by now you have not even started thinking about, let alone planning for, your move away from XP, you really should begin to consider the options – even if you have only a few XP machines. Auditing what is on the machines is a good start. 

Decide what can be disposed of (every machine accumulates dross over time), and what is indispensable. Then decide whether the use of Cloud based services would allow you to avoid replicating all of your essential XP desktop functions on your new 7 desktops. 

For XP functions that are not going into the Cloud determine whether your XP programs will also run on 7 (and if they will, find the media for them). For those XP programs that will not run on 7 find out if there are, or will be, Windows 7 versions and if not then budget for Windows 7 alternatives. 

There is plenty of advice on the web to help you move away from XP; you may also like to read the article I wrote for Computers & Law last year

Good luck.


With his broad range of IT experience, including training, computer networking, Exchange and SharePoint, and Cloud-based services, Alastair Morrison is currently focusing on user advice.