Windows XP and Internet Explorer: What to do?
Fact: The 13 year old Windows XP operating system has reached its end of life. Microsoft no longer supports the product which means any security flaws discovered will not be fixed. This means the approximately 300 million users still on XP are vulnerable.
Sort of Good News: Current major antivirus providers are continuing to support XP…for now. How much longer we don’t know.
Fact: A recent major flaw was discovered in IE that impacts XP users and makes them subject to cyberattacks.
Sort of Good News: Microsoft has issued a patch to XP for the particular flaw. Go to Windows Update and download it.
Here are a couple of links to articles that explain the problem:
There are basically 3 options regarding XP:
- Stay put
- Upgrade your current computer to Win 7 or Win 8
- Buy a new computer with a later OS
In considering the options there are several factors to consider:
- Can I afford it?
- Does my current software work with Win 7/8?
- Does my current hardware work with Win 7/8?
- Do I want to use a touchscreen? (Win 7 vs Win 8)
If you decide not to upgrade, at the very least get one of the commercially available antivirus programs:
The free antivirus programs are ‘free’ for a reason. The commercial programs jockey back and forth for number one status so it probably doesn’t matter which one you get because the Number 1 program will be the Number 3 program next year. Check out reviews at ConsumerReports.org, cnet.com, or other review sites. BitDefender is this year’s winner.
I should note that those teenage hackers out there are getting smarter every year so you have to be super vigilant about sites and email.
You should also consider switching to a different browser like Firefox or Chrome. XP does not support the latest IE so you are stuck. There is another reason for switching… I am finding more and more sites that just don’t’ work with IE…including Microsoft sites. I use Firefox as my alternate primarily because Chrome has an annoying behavior that cannot be fixed. When you switch to a new Tab the focus does not automatically switch to the tab. You have to click on the tab. IE and Firefox have settings that allow you to automatically switch. I’m a ‘fewer mouse clicks’ kind of guy.
Upgrade your current computer to Win 7 or Win 8
Before upgrading your computer to either Win 7 or Win 8 you need to confirm that it supports the new OS. Here are links to the Windows Upgrade Advisor for each:
You’ll find out if your hardware can handle the new OS and what software incompatibilities exist.
Some checklist items:
- Make a list of all your programs and verify with the manufacturers that they run on the new OS
- Verify that all of your hardware peripherals have upgraded software drivers that run with the OS. [I have an HP 960 printer that is great but there are no Win 7/8 drivers for it]
- Make sure you have the original installation disks for reinstalling your programs. If you downloaded the installer and don’t have media, copy the installation program to a USB thumb drive. If you installed directly from a website, make sure you still have access rights to download and install again. [NOTE: If you have software that uses a keycode, find out from the publisher how to insure you can reinstall the software under the new OS. In some cases, you may have to uninstall the program first and then install it under the new OS.]
- Backup your data. 2TB USB external drives are available for about $80. Plus they usually come with backup software.
- Acquire your new OS installation media. OEM prices for Win 7/8 run around $100 to $150 depending on the version.
- FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS. [If in doubt, find a 14-year old that can do it for you.] Here are 2 links from Microsoft on upgrading from Windows XP:
- Reinstall your programs and restore your data from the USB drive backup.
- Voila! All done…piece of cake…maybe.
Buy a New System with the Latest OS
This may seem to be the simplest approach but you still have to install your programs and copy your data across. You still have to handle the keycode issue above. If you buy the new system from a major computer retailer they may have a service you can buy where they will load your ‘stuff’ for you. Check around for pricing before you plunk down the money for a new computer. YMMV…Your Mileage May Vary.