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Computerized Investing > May 17, 2014

Windows XP: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

PRINT | | | | COMMENTS (14) | A A   Reset

by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

As you may know, Microsoft stopped supporting its venerable Windows XP operating system on April 8. Back in March I had written that, by some estimates, almost 30% of the world’s computers were running XP, which adds up to some 300 million machines. Here we are, nearly six weeks after XP’s end-of-life, and I discover that over 9% of the visitors to the AAII website between April 8 and May 9 were still running Windows XP! As the old Neil Sedaka song goes, “breaking up is hard to do,” but for your own cyber safety, it’s time to leave XP behind.

Windows XP was released to manufacturers on August 24, 2001, and was available to the general public on October 25 of the same year. Over the years, it grew to be the most stable and secure Windows operating system ever. After the PR nightmare that followed the release of Windows Vista in January 2007, most Windows users still stuck with XP. Eventually, however, Microsoft got things right (in my opinion) with Windows 7 in 2009.

If you are still running Windows XP, chances are you have a system that is several years old. Realistically, a desktop system can last four to five years before new technology has advanced enough to make an upgrade worthwhile. While buying a new PC isn’t an insignificant cost, both in terms of dollars and time, the general improvements in performance and security are worth it.

If this isn’t enough to get you to upgrade from Windows XP, consider the fact that you are leaving yourself open to attacks from malware and hackers. In late April it was reported that that a security hole had been discovered in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) Web browser. The coding flaw allowed hackers to have the same level of access on a network computer as the official user.

Microsoft took an unprecedented step by releasing a security patch for IE versions running on Windows XP that closed the security hole. But don’t expect the generosity to continue. End-of-life, generally, means that Microsoft no longer issues security patches for the operating system or its browser. Consider this a reprieve, albeit a short one.

If you are scared by the flood of negative press swirling around Windows 8, don’t be. The tweaks Microsoft made with its 8.1 update have resulted in a much more user-friendly operating system for those without touch screens. But if you aren’t ready to take the Windows 8 plunge, you still may be able to find new PCs with Windows 7 installed. You should be able to buy a new Windows PC that will last you for more than a few years for well under $1,000.

The bottom line is that your Windows XP system has served you well. Now it’s time to put it out to pasture and slam the door on would-be cyber-attacks exploiting holes in XP.

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Richard Guilfoyle from NJ posted 2 months ago:

I will have to replace 3 machines. So the costs start to add up. IMO, the additional bells and whistles of the newer OSs have little impact on basic computational necessities. Reminds me of planned obsolescence. I don't replace my car every other year even though a new one would have a heated steering wheel.

D Selander from CT posted 2 months ago:

I agree with Richard. For me, XP is pretty much the perfect system. Don't laugh, but I still use a lot of macro-driven graphing spreadsheets that only work on Dos 123. I made the mistake of trying Vista a few years ago - and ran back to XP as fast as I could. However, I'm very worried about security. I'm hoping that someone (Norton, or ?) will start selling security for XP.

AT Pittman from SC posted 2 months ago:

Make a $1000 smart move. Go with an Apple MAC and never have to deal with windows again. Sorry but I don't Agee that any windows has been a success since XP.

Kim Dixon from NC posted 2 months ago:

A simple suggestion: purchase a new desktop (or laptop or tablet) with Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 OS and only use it for access to the internet. Keep your old computer(s) - use them to run your old programs, but do not connect to the internet with them. You can keep the cost for the new machine to less than $400 so long as your RAM and HD needs are reasonable. I have 2 computers w/Win7 and 3 with Win8.1. Both OS's run just fine and all the hype over Windows 8 being a "problem" is just way overblown. I like both OS's very well.

Roger Grossel from FL posted 2 months ago:

You might also want to look at Ubuntu (a version of Linux). It's free & claims are that it is not susceptible to viruses. It is different tho.
A cheap alternative is to find a refurbed PC with Win 7. I just bought one for under $200 (look up Microcenter). It's fast (3 GHz), has 2MB & has great performance. And you can get MSE, MS Security Essentials for a very low price (free).

Wayne Thorp from IL posted 2 months ago:

I have used every OS since Windows 3.1 and Windows 7 is head and shoulders above XP. I agree with Kim that the Windows 8 backlash is a product of the media. Both are more stable and much more secure than XP. The functionality improved as well, but it's the behind-the-scenes security improvements that make later Windows versions vastly superior to XP.

If you are a "true" computerized investor, the MAC is a money pit. You will still need your Windows OS to run any meaningful investment software via an emulation utility. Then you are paying the Apple premium, which, in my opinion, isn't worth it.

J Zimmerman from PA posted 2 months ago:

I have had a Windows 7 machine for a few years, but with a twist. Built into it is something called a "virtual machine." Click it up and it accesses my old XP disk; so I can use all my old Lotus programs that won't run on 7 and can't be converted to WinWord or Exel. [I'm told this feature isn't available on Windows 8.] This might be a solution for those who want to upgrade but not lose XP programs. Note: I had my machine custom-made by an individual professional(at a total cost less than store-bought I might add), so I don't know if this feature is available commercially.

Richard Sovish from CA posted 2 months ago:

You people can praise Windows 8, but now after buying a new computer with 8 on it, I am looking for something with Win 7. You minimize the cost, time and aggravation of buying and installing new programs. Even restoring the data that I have moved to external disks from XP is not easy in many cases. Hoping to sever ties with Microsoft, I am starting to look at Linux type operating systems! The bells and whistles in Win 8 are worthless to me and many others I have talked to.

Nelson Burkholder from VA posted 2 months ago:

I don't really understand the urgency to switch away from XP. Surely the holes and bugs have been fixed after all these years. Now that Microsoft has stopped updating my machine, it is more stable than it has ever been. Their Security Essentials is still being updated and except for their notices suggesting that I need to run out and buy another Microsoft operating system immediately, I'm quite happy with my XP machine.

Wayne Thorp from IL posted 2 months ago:

@Nelson Burkholder, that is very dangerous approach, in my opinion. The security updates are issued to address vulnerabilities created by hackers, who will double their efforts against XP now that it is no longer supported by Windows.

Roger Grossel from FL posted 2 months ago:

IF you have Win 7 (Pro etc.) AND your hardware supports Hardware Assisted Virtualization plus memory & disc drive capability (see below) you can install Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP mode from MS. This allow you to install XP programs & run them. It works! I love Win 7.

Per MS:
Supported Operating Systems:
Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, or Windows 7 Enterprise.
•Hard disk requirement: 2GB for installing Windows XP Mode. Additional 15GB of hard disk space for the virtual Windows environment.

Nelson Burkholder from VA posted 2 months ago:

It's my understanding that the vulnerabilities are "created" by Microsoft during the program creation, and are simply exploited by hackers until Microsoft fixes the vulnerability. If that is true, Windows 8 should be more vulnerable than XP, which should have been well fixed by now. I would be happy to be corrected by someone who can point out faults in my reasoning.

Wayne Thorp from IL posted 2 months ago:


Windows 7 and 8 are pretty much universally accepted as being more secure and stable than XP.

Bill Aldrich from Massachusetts posted 2 months ago:

The move to Windows 7 and 8 is not necessary. You do not have to buy a new machine. I discovered that you can move, write, and read files between XP and Windows 7.
What I resent is the fear-mongering. I wonder why that bug appeared a few weeks before the end of XP support. I wonder why MSFT has to release newer versions of Office just to make money. Sadly, I have to relearn each damn version of Office. MSFT is discontinuing support for Office 2003. Office 2010 plus has "the cloud". Whoopee doo. I can create my own cloud with any disk drive that connects directly to the net (Western Digital for one).
An added bonus exists to keep the XP machine. You can create another type of cloud with that box. Several software firms have jumped into the niche to support it. I use System Mechanic and regular utility tools that came with XP.
MSFT has used "junky" software to encourage users to get paid support for their applications. Someone told me that that "support" not only masquerades as outside bench testing but also as a source of a lot of revenue (one person said about $1 billion annually but I've not checked that number).

These changes are no different from the annual changes that auto companies did from 1920 to 1990. Garbage. The only benefit came with safety enhancements (Thanks, Ralph Nader) and weak and rarely enforced fuel economy standards. WE have become suckers!

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