How Will Windows XP’s End of Support Affect You (And What You Can Do About It)

Windows XP has been an operating system that for many has proven to be highly reliable and much more useful than other versions. But the operating system has grown old and Microsoft is pulling the plug on its support as of April 8, 2014. This means you won’t be getting security updates and patches from Windows Update anymore and instead will have to upgrade to a newer version of Windows if you still want that privilege. So, what are you supposed to do to survive lights out? This is what we’re here to discuss – what you can do after Windows XP’s end of support by Microsoft.

How the Loss Will Affect You

If you’re using a newer version of Windows, you can just brush this off as an uneventful evening and click on another of our wonderful articles. This isn’t going to affect you one bit. However, if you’re using XP, you’re in for a bit of a wobbly future in terms of security. Many of the patches distributed through Windows Update were covering holes in Windows’ security. Any further holes discovered in Windows XP, which still runs on one-third of all computers in the world, will remain uncovered.

Granted, this is no reason to move your computer to the equivalent of a secure bunker with armed guards, but it is time to consider upgrading to Windows 7 or 8. If you’re so enchanted by Windows XP that you can’t let go of it, then it’s time to take a few extra measures to protect yourself. This still isn’t going to replace never getting updates anymore, but it’s better than doing nothing.

Disable Remote Desktop Capabilities

windows xp end of support - RDP

Remote Desktop, particularly on Windows XP, is not exactly the most secure piece of software. No further updates for XP means you won’t get any updates on the RDP application that comes with it. Just disable it entirely. If you’d like to learn how, read this tutorial by Microsoft. Doing so will close the port that RDP opens and render you virtually immune to any RDP attacks.

Get a Good Firewall And Security Suite. Now.

windows xp end of support - Firewall

Speaking of ports, it’s time to start putting a little bit of your weekend pizza budget on a firewall. Doing this is going to provide some added protection against common exploits in Windows XP. While Microsoft won’t update your system anymore, your firewall’s maker will still be hard at work covering up the loose ends left behind by them. The same goes for your antivirus software and any other added protection you can find (legitimately, not through some pop-up ad that shows a fake virus scan in progress).

Understand You’re Fighting A Losing Battle

You’re never going to win this. Eventually, developers will stop supporting Windows XP in their hardware. Consider the fact that Windows XP is only 3 years younger than Windows 98. The only thing encouraging developers to stick to supporting XP is the fact that so many people still use it (30 percent of the world, as mentioned above).

It may not be time to upgrade yet, but the moment will come.

Scrutinize Everything You Execute And Install

If you’re going to install a shiny new program, make sure it’s from a trustworthy vendor. Also, any EXE files you download should have a pass through VirusTotal, even if you already have antivirus installed. You can never be too safe with the software you’re using, especially considering that a virus will now be more likely to just waltz right into your system without you knowing any better.

Put Limits On Your Account

windows xp end of support - accounts

If you have been using XP with the administrator account or giving yourself administrative privileges, it’s time to correct that. Limit the amount of access you can have with the account you sign into your computer through. Putting strict limits on an account will consequently limit the amount of damage a virus can do if it manages to infect you. Having a limited account in XP means you’ll have to log in as the administrator to install software. This is a pain in the neck, but it keeps your system in check.

Use Your XP Computer As An Offline Box

If you don’t absolutely need the Internet on your XP PC, don’t use it. This puts an iron lock on your system and doesn’t allow new infections to get in. Chances are this isn’t a choice you can make. If you can, do it as soon as you can.

Just Upgrade (Or Something)

windows xp end of support - change OS

I try to steer clear of writing opinionated content, but I feel I must give my personal opinion here: Windows XP was a great operating system that has served us for so many years. It’s quite tragic that its developer wants to remove support when the OS is still alive and well within the computing community. However, we cannot change reality. It’s time to move on and wave goodbye to the version of Windows we all know and love. Upgrading to Windows 7 (if you really can’t live without a proper “Start” menu) is perhaps the best way to pull off the band-aid. It’ll grow on you.

If you don’t like my suggestion, maybe it’s time to consider a distribution of Linux, which provides much more functionality than it did back when Windows XP first came out in 2001. I highly recommend Ubuntu, a Linux distribution that provides many of the features you’ve been accustomed to in XP. Alternatively, try Zorin OS if you are so used to the Windows user interface.

It’s Your Turn To Talk

What are your feelings about this? We want to know! Submit a comment below if you’d like to participate in a discussion.

Miguel Leiva-Gomez Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.


  1. This is the second time Microsoft is trying to drive a stake through XP’s heart. In April, 2009 they postponed the execution for 5 years because of the blowback from corporate customers. The irony is that M$ is killing its best, most successful O/S.

    Lack of security updates from M$ will be no great loss. These updates were of questionable value. While they cured one set of vulnerabilities, they opened up another set. There is a word for those using only Microsoft security products – “infected.” The best security was provided by third party software.

    I agree that Zorin provides the least culture shock for Windows users switching to Linux. All Ubuntu-based distros will give Windows users that warm, fuzzy feeling of being dictated to by the software developer because THEY know better what’s good for you than you do.

    If XP users do switch to Linux, they might as well take full advantage of its capabilities and go with Slackware, Debian, openSUSE, Fedora, Sabayon, etc. Those distros and their derivatives will allow the users to control their systems, not the developers.

    1. Could it be possible to sue Microsoft for the rights to the XP operating system since they no longer support it?

      If they aren’t going to support it, they should at least allow other companies to take ownership. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right?

      There must be something in the patent and trademark laws that would allow this.

      I am under the distinct, if not paranoid, impression that Microsoft deliberately makes their software vulnerable and even hires hackers to attack it in order to force people to keep buying “upgraded” stuff all the time.

      But, I guess, when you have the politicians in your pocket you can do whatever you want…

  2. I’d have upgraded to Windows 7 already were it not for the fact that there is no upgrade path for installed apps. Everything must be reloaded from the get-go and I have a LOT of apps, many of which I’d have to dig through years of e-mails to find the installation keys for. So if I can find a software package that ports my installations directly from XP to 7 without intervention, the support and security issues will become moot. Until then, I’ll continue to subscribe to my antivirus and firewall providers and hope for the best.

    1. I agree with thom too……………………plus I heard upgrading to w7 is a pain and you could lose everything…Iam so full of pics and will not attempt anything that could lose them along with all my genealogy files……………….I also have a laptop with vista and am used to it but do not like it…… if it was as simple as pushing everything over to the next file I can do that……………but seems too techie to this ole 70 year old…….

      1. Thom and Mary,
        As of now, there is no easy way of transferring your programs from XP to 7 (or 8 for that matter) without going through the usual install method you used when you purchased your software.
        However, there is a very neat program you can use that is part of Windows 7 (or Windows 8) called Windows Easy Transfer that will allow you to bring over all of your important documents, pictures, music, video, emails and other files that you have created over the years.
        It’s an easy program to work with, just follow the step by step directions it gives you when you run it for a flawless transfer of your data files from XP to 7 (or 8).
        Hope this helps out…

        1. Windows Easy Transfer only fails 20% of the time. Data, pictures and documents, that are not safely backed up and verified, is your considering them unimportant and expendable.

    2. I recommend that before moving from XP to 7 or 8 you create a clone or image of your XP system. At least then if it all goes wrong you can get back to where you were, and either try again or give up. Also always back up your files and settings as well.

      Windows Easy Transfer is a great tool, and you should use it, but I like to make sure I have all my files backed up myself. Doing all that adds time to the upgrade project. But if you want to be sure everything is safe, it is worth it. There are many really good imaging solutions out there, many free, like CloneZilla.

      Of course before you even contemplate moving your existing system to 7 or 8, you should run the compatibility checker to make sure your system can run it. If your computer is running XP is likely to be 10 year or so old.

      The exceptions to this I’ve seen to this are for businesses that bought W7 systems but downgraded to XP so they could run legacy programs. Those systems will of course run 7. But does the legacy program run on 7 or 8 now? If not and it is essential to your business and can’t be replaced, you are really up the creek.

  3. I really can’t see that any of the changes and “improvements” done with Windows 7 speed up users work in any way. Most of the “improvements” are just fluff.

    Besides the fact that it is a resource hog which slows down your hardware, the interface is LESS intuitive. Windows 7 also has a bunch of annoying bugs that still haven’t been corrected. Things like icons disappearing from the desktop, never to be found unless you create a new user profile. And they stopped debugging Windows 7 after Windows 8 came out. INSANE! Windows 7 is also incompatible with a host of applications, drivers and hardware. And I understand Windows 8 is even worse. Linux may be an option for some users, but I run 3D CAD applications which are very expensive, and still not available under Linux.

    Microsoft ought to wise up and offer extended security updates for XP. At a cost, if necessary. I know that would probably hurt their sales of Windows 7 and 8. But they are just alienating and upsetting customers with these forced upgrades. Instead, they should adopt a new business model. They should sell new features which can be paid for and added to the old system. Those that want to buy the new feature, can buy it and install it.

    1. Older Applications run better on Linux with Wine (windows emulation) than in Win7. Reason XP works is added support for Win95/Win16 software (not found in Win2000 either). KB articles about XP errors “to be fixed in 6.0” (NT 6.0 is Vista; NT 6.2 is Win8) are still broken and won’t be fixed until NT 7.0 codebase due in 2016.
      M$ is still offering security updates (until 2019) for Windows Embedded 2009 (a version of XP Embedded).

      1. I’ve got two Ubuntu machines at home, and although I have installed Wine on both, I’ve never gotten it to work. I can’t find any good app notes on using it either.

        And it’s not an option at work. Our IT manager tells me that other than in uses such as email servers, Linux doesn’t make a good domain server for a business network.

        I use Windows 7 at work, but I still think it is very buggy.

        1. Instead of using Wine, why not use native Linux apps? Unless, of course, you use high-end professional software. Here is a list of Windows/Linux equivalents:

          ” Our IT manager tells me that other than in uses such as email servers, Linux doesn’t make a good domain server for a business network.”
          He is full of bovine excrement. Even M$ uses Linux servers.

  4. I agree with Jimbo. I too have CAD software and some other expensive items that won’t port. I would be willing to purchase XP for a nominal fee. I have a WIN7 machine at the office and do not like it. I don’t understand M$oft, why do they take away functions of XP and provide WIN7/8 operaing systems that don’t add value except to their corporate bottom line while making it buggy bloatware.

  5. Good suggestion about Zorin but in most cases if the machine still has Windows XP it is an older unit that will probably not be able to run Zorin because the newer versions of Zorin require a “PAE” kernel in the machine.

    One Linux distro that has the look and feel of Zorin that can run on older machines is “LXLE”, based on Lubuntu and has several themes (they call them “packages”) that can emulate Ubuntu/Gnone, Windows XP, Windows 7 and Mac OS X.

  6. There is also the fact that a lot of the computers comfortably running XP cannot install or run Vista, Win7, or Win8 due to hardware limitations. So your upgrade may include a new/used system with Vista, Win7/8 installed…. at any rate, you will probably have to migrate some things onto the new system if its compatible with whichever OS you decide on. Win7 does have a “compatibility mode” for running older software that may help with this.

    I invested in a second system with Win7 about a year ago, and during that time have managed to replace most of the software on the XP machine with Win7 versions. It’s not something I’d recommend to anyone unless they’re comfortable digging into things a bit. It can be done, but patience, along with a good bit of research ( I highly recommend Windows Secrets ) so as to learn from the mistakes of others rather than your own.

    I am still using the old XP machine, and will probably continue to do so, but pretty much only to surf the internet. Plus I have, and will continue to keep up to date with anti-virus, firewall, anti-malware, and secure browsers. I’ve always stayed away from any suspicious websites, but that is more important that ever now. I have considered running a virtual machine with XP on this system, but haven’t found the software for it yet.

    1. Win7 XP Mode also expires 4/8/14. Compatibility in Vista, Vista+(Win7), and Vista++(Win8) is incomplete: M$ bastardized XP by adding Win95/Win16 compatibility not found in Win2000 or Vista and newer. Re security, M$ is supporting Windows Embedded 2009 (an XP Embedded version) until 2019, used in cash registers etc.

    2. “I am still using the old XP machine, and will probably continue to do so, but pretty much only to surf the internet. ”

      That is the one thing you SHOULD NOT be using XP for. Any and all malware comes from the Internet unless you install software from CD/DVDs that a friend made for you.

      Application programs, once installed, will continue to work flawlessly in XP unless something happens to the hardware.

    1. “Best” is a relative term. What may be “best” for you, may not work at all for someone else, as evidenced by the two posters who have CAD applications that run only under Win XP.

      And, yes, I do use Linux. Have been for at least 10 years.

  7. Yet 50% of our 200+ SMB customers’ 2000+ desktops are XP; 3% Win8, 20% Win7, 6% Vista , (that’s NT 6.2, 6.1, 6.0); 4% Windows 2000, 3% Win9x, rest non-Windows. 100% of Malware in the last 3 years was on Win7/8. Older Windows has been stable since MS stopped making updates, in fact most Windows Updates are to fix problems with previous updates. Looking forward to no patch Tuesday on XP. Note Microsoft says 50% of Servers are Windows 2003, also soon expiring.

  8. What hasn’t been discussed here is that the main objection to upgrading to Vista was incompatibility. Win 2000 wasn’t selling so Microsoft included Win95 and Win16 compatibility into XP. Solution per Microsoft is to write new applications and buy new hardware. SMBs are still using their VB applications. Enterprise? We just upgraded a (top 12) bank branch using “green screen” (DOS) banking program. Have customers with $85,000 and $15,000 and … manufacturing equipment controlled by software incompatible with new codebase NT 6 versions (Win6/7/8). Oh, and these customers’ older application that won’t run on Win7 run fine on Linux with Wine.
    Silly thing is XP Embedded version POS Ready 2009 is supported by the lying Microsoft until 2019; security updates for this cash register etc. OS are compatible with standard XP.
    According to MS “roadmap” the next major codebase update, NT 7.0, should be released in 2016. Why buy now when in 2 years your investment is obsolete?

    1. “Why buy now when in 2 years your investment is obsolete?”
      Because in 2 years the M$ “roadmap” will show a major codebase update in 2 more years. :-)

      The problem with Windows O/S since Win 95 is that it has had planned obsolescence designed right into it. It has been the only way M$ has maintained its income stream. They cannot compete on quality of the O/S, so they leverage their quantity of Windows installs by releasing a downward-incompatible software every couple of years.

  9. I use both XP and Win7 in virtual machines within Linux Mint. About the only program that runs poorly in the virtual machine of my choice (VirtualBox) is one that requires optimal graphics hardware acceleration, such as PoserPro 2014 by Smith Micro. For this I keep an install of Windows 7 as dual-boot with Mint on my desktop, where I have a NVidia GTX 580 graphics card installed.
    Everything else I can run quite satisfactorily in WinXP in VBox. Without the encumbrance of security software running, XP is quite zippy and clean.
    I don’t get on the internet in XP, of course… no reason to. All that heavy-lifting dangerous stuff I do in an OS that was designed for it: Linux.

    So, I’ve got the best of both worlds. It’s not extremely hard to set up, either. I run Office 2000 for my VBA development stuff (hate the ribbon of MSO-2007+) only because I have to, for work: I’d much rather be coding in Python… much cleaner!

  10. Windows desktop operating systems benefit from a complete reinstall every once in a while. It can reduce errors and increase speed. After a reinstall the very first thing you need to do is download and install the hundreds of security updates available from Windows Update. But after April 8th you won’t be able to do that with XP. So reinstall XP now or use an offline updater now to download all available XP updates. I use WSUS Offline Update for XP, Vista and 7.

    1. And once you have a clean install with all the updates, create a backup image of the XP system and just keep reloading it every few months.

  11. Man!! This thread was no place for a RELATIVE newbie!

    My head is swimming with new words and systems and before I have to
    drink a carrot juice or something stronger to avoid blubbering and risking a visit
    from the White Coat crowd, all I can say is that this thread ended just in time.

    All I wanted to know is how to save my thousands of XP files and get them safely
    moved tp W7 (See how cool I am now? I typed W7 instead of Windows 7.)

    I was finally scared into making this move when I found out that the stinkin MS people , in dropping support for XP…..which I was prepared to live with, since I have more security built in to the point that my wife still bangs away on a 2002 Dell desktop with a huge 40 Gig hard drive and it has run………..I’m on the net constantly for 14 years helping people…….DAILY, and often 12 to 16 hours during some one’s health crisis, that computer has NEVER been down, or even had a new fan installed in all these years. In fact, I gambled on buying a Dell refurbished (by Dell) at the time.

    But I lost my point. I have thousands of files with the .eml “save as”. Imagine my rage and fear when XP no longer can open those vital files. Vital meaning that, as an internet marketer (OK, still learning) when I purchase software (about 90) they send an email receipt, etc with log in instructions, etc. I cannot open those since XP pulled off this damnable act of greed.

    NOTE: I am making that assumption since all at one I could not open those .eml files. You genius guys may be aware of another reason , in which case I will have to apologize
    to Microsoft. NOT.

    XP is more or less a fully tested system and one in which we have developed skills and confidence. MS must know that the files contained in here have cost us thousands upon thousands of dollars.

    That is why I found this thread (and stayed with it because of the lively discussion with genius type computer experts,) even though it made me feel like a guy looking in a window at others who were enjoying a Prime Rib dinner.


    Thanks, each of you for the stimulating discussion.. Now if only I knew what I was going to do to protect those files. I bought a Refurbished Dell Optiplex with W7 professional AND loaded with MS Office full bore, which takes me to a 3.4 speed from a 1.9 and with three times the memory. My plan is to become a master video producer to benefit all manner of businesses. Lot’s of software, lots of money. Maybe I will just load as much as I can into the new puter and keep this five year old Dell OFF of the internet with the files safely stored until I can get professional help to move them safely. I also have files stored on Carbonite AND a huge Western Digital external drive. I thought it kept up the files each day, but that was not so, but Carbonite did. I should have bought the Hundred Dollar version. Who knew?

    Meantime, my wife would then still be pecking away on her 12 year old Dell, kicking the crap out of Free Cell. LOL

    Thanks again. I think.


    1. Hello there! Welcome to MTE.

      There’s an enormous problem in migrating from XP to Windows 7, the problem being that the edition of XP you’re using may be incompatible with Windows 7.

      To better answer your question, I need to know what you’re planning to do. Are you planning to upgrade to Windows 7, or are you planning to completely erase your hard drive (after backing up your files, of course) and then install a fresh version of 7?

      Also, the inability to open EML files is related to your default file extension association list, not the version of operating system you are using. If I’m not mistaken, you can open them even on Windows 98. Lack of support for XP simply means that Windows XP will no longer have further updates. However, I can help you with your EML problem if you want! :)

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