Operating systems

Does security matter to you? Ditch Windows XP for one of these upgrade options

Microsoft officially ends support for Windows XP in April 2014, but there are plenty of upgrade options available. Andy Wolber takes a look at some conventional and alternative OS options.

 

Windows XP upgrade
 

If you use Windows XP or Office 2003, after April 2014, you’re living dangerously. XP will run, and you can still work with Office 2003 apps, but Microsoft’s support for these systems ends that month. As a result, systems running XP and Office 2003 will be increasingly vulnerable to attack.

Microsoft will update anti-malware signatures for Windows XP through mid-July 2015. But anti-malware updates may not address system or software level flaws. Google will update and secure Chrome on Windows XP through April 2015. Yet using a secure browser on a potentially insecure operating system seems unwise. People using Windows XP and Office 2003 should upgrade.

Fortunately, upgraders have options. You can choose from at least seven operating systems and five office suites. The path that makes the most sense for you -- or your organization -- depends on many factors, including the number of systems and the reason the systems still run XP (e.g., Custom apps? Or you just haven’t bothered to upgrade yet?).

Apps, costs, and knowledge limit your upgrade options, though. The apps you need (or want) to use must be available for the platform you choose. Some upgrade options require new hardware, some don’t. Alternative apps often do similar tasks on different platforms but may require may require people to adapt (i.e., learn new things).

This week, we'll look at operating system alternatives to Windows XP. Next week, we'll examine office suite alternatives to Office 2003.

Three conventional operating system options

Windows 7: Keep your hardware

For large enterprises and many individuals, Windows 7 may be the most obvious upgrade option, since it retains a similar look and feel to Windows XP. In most cases, Windows 7 will run on the same hardware as systems currently running XP. Download Microsoft’s Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to assess your system.

Windows 8.1: Works best with a touch screen

Microsoft’s newest operating system provides a touch-friendly, tile-based interface while also offering the ability to run older Windows software. Windows 8 does run on non-touch systems, but I find it best suited for systems with touch screens. So, an upgrade from XP to Windows 8 most likely means buying a new touch-screen device.

Upgrade tip: If you’re upgrading individual systems, I’ve found Laplink’s PCmover to be worth the cost. PCmover saves your apps and data to a file before you upgrade. Then, you do a custom install of Windows 7 to a new folder on your system. After that completes, run PCmover again to unbundle your apps and data. It isn’t perfect, but it saves a lot of time otherwise spent reinstalling apps and copying files.

OS X Mavericks: Change platform, with access to apps

Individuals or small businesses may choose to move to the Mac. Many major software vendors make applications that run on both platforms. Emulators, such as Apple’s Boot Camp and Parallels, make it possible to install and run Windows and Windows apps on the Mac. However, not all peripherals, such as printers and scanners, work with both platforms.

Four alternative operating systems

iOS or Android devices: Robust portable computing

A smartphone or tablet may be all many people need, especially when occasionally paired with an external keyboard. Both platforms offer a rich ecosystem of apps, and both are widely used. For many users, a smartphone or tablet provides “just enough” computing power. Mobility and connectivity offer the opportunity to rethink how work gets done.

Linux: Keep your hardware (but know what you’re doing)

For organizations with sufficient technical expertise (or support), the open source Linux operating system may be a viable alternative. For example, I know of a legal aid society that moved entirely to open source software because the tools both did the job and aligned with the organization’s philosophy. Open source software provides a level of transparency not available with other systems. Security-conscious organizations may find that essential.

Chromebooks / Chrome OS: When the web is enough

If your organization already uses Google Apps, you might replace some of your XP machines with Chromebooks. Unless people need to run non-web apps, Chrome OS and web apps are certainly enough for many users. Chromebooks offer fast boot times and no-hassle access to the web. The low price of most Chromebooks also makes the devices an appealing option for organizations with large numbers of obsolete Windows XP machines.

A unique benefit that Chrome OS offers is that people using Chrome OS can login to the Chrome browser on Windows or Mac systems. Most apps, extensions, passwords, and the browser history can be synced across platforms. Once you move 100% to the web with Chrome OS, you can work effectively in Chrome on any Chrome, Windows, or Mac system.

Check out these additional resources:

Think before you upgrade

The end of life of XP and Office 2003 offers a chance to rethink the tools you use. The simplest upgrade path is to move to a newer version of Windows and Office and call your task complete. But by doing so, you may miss the opportunity to leverage smartphones, tablets, and web apps -- all of which didn’t previously exist as they do today. Finally, I’ll suggest that people who adapt quickly will be more productive than people for whom change is a chore.

Next week, we’ll look at upgrade alternatives for Office 2003.

What do you and your organization plan to do when support for Windows XP finally ends? Share your game plan in the discussion thread below.


 

About

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

25 comments
wayne1962
wayne1962

I'm not switching,any gaming I do is still X.P related, any work I do is still X.P  handled,and web browsing is protected by my personal and private build firewalls and antivirus,when I have my new system  built and windows 8 is ready to go for home pc's then AND ONLY then will I make the move to have a fresh new machine to run this operating system...Micro$ft go to H.E Double hockey stix


blargerd0
blargerd0

Ha ha this is bullshit. With the right antivirus software and smart browsing, you are fine on XP. I rarely if ever even update my XP and the only time I get a virus is when I do something stupid.

asu.pavuluri
asu.pavuluri

Hi All,


My Company wants to upgrade XP to windows 7 without refreshing and updating its desktop fleet using virtulization.What type of Virtulization is best solution.



mawcoffey
mawcoffey

I ran the advisor for an upgrade to windows 7 and it said I had a couple of incompatabilities: Intel Active Management Technology-SOL and Intel Management Engine Interface. Can I still switch to 7 and replace these with something? I don't know what they are or if I use or need them. Please help!


djlemas
djlemas

OK by far the best solution for old XP systems is to jump to win 7. it will cost more then the Linux OS but the down time and learning curve are much less, don't let the free OS fool you the time and cost to train up your work force will be crippling some of your older systems will not work with the newest Linux distros I tried some on older boxes and they chocked on it  but win 7 32 bit worked well on any pentime 4 cpu and 512 of ram and the work force can just jump in with little or not down time

luckyg
luckyg

To think that XP will no longer be a secure OS is ludicrous. It is as secure as any MS OS has ever been and it should not be a burden on MS to continue to support it as most of the updates cover XP, 7, & 8 anyway. They are all built on the same programming model and sub-routines. I have over 400 updates on my XP PC and see no reason for MS to stop trying to fix the mess they put out in the first place.

patwjscott
patwjscott

I use Windows 8.1 without the touch screen very happily. I also find that most people with a touch screen and keyboard rarely use the touchscreen with Windows 8.1 for more then getting to menus and switching the current application.


If your looking to switch to Linux I would recommend reading linux-and-open-source/linux the clear choice for security. Showing Ubuntu 12.04LTS to be one of the more secure options currently available.

captainanalog
captainanalog

So, when I buy a new PC I must cough up another $80 for software to migrate my users, preferences and apps to the new system? And, I don't have the option of using Firewire to do this?

Score two for Apple.

james.vandamme
james.vandamme

My ex-XP machine has run Linux Mint for 3 years, surrounded by (and collaborating with) Windows machines. Stop wearing the Microsoft ball and chain. Munich learned that lesson, among a growing list of others.

Bob G Beechey
Bob G Beechey

"...  I find it best suited for systems with touch screens."

I am always baffled by this comment. I needed to replace both my laptop (XP) and desktop (Win7) because of hardware issues (age mainly). I now have desktop and laptop both with touch screens and Win 8.1 installed. From habit, I use mouse/keyboard 95% of the time because Win 8.1 works really well and seamlessly with mouse and keyboard. The use of touch (which I do mostly when training others) is not "better suited" merely different.

pgc
pgc

Security. Its always security. Get rid of your old Windows because of inadequate security. The new Windows will always have superior security. 

Now.....where & when have i heard that before?  Hmmm.  Aaah yes, Windows 95: get rid of Windows 3.1 for better security as well and a 32 bit OS. Then........get rid of Windows 95 for Windows  98 for better security. Then, get rid of etc etc etc for better security and so on it goes. So whats changed since 1995? As far as security goes, nothing.

monsuco
monsuco

@RobertMoore12  Your point about the Linux CLI is quite valid... if you're somehow teleported back to 2004. Linux has come a long way, a VERY long way. Ubuntu and Mint can pretty much be used with zero CLI knowledge. Their learning curves are gentler than Windows 8.


Yeah, Slackware and Gentoo are still tedious but they aren't aimed at conventional desktop use. Heck, even Debian's gotten to be pretty easy to set up, aside from their insistence on excluding non-free drivers.

RobertMoore12
RobertMoore12

Another note missed. Linux is very difficult to use for the common employee. While it may be great for tech people that know how to configure and use it from the command prompt It isn't good for the standard user.

chris.leeworthy
chris.leeworthy

Just a minor point but Apple's Boot Camp is not an emulator or virtualisation, it allows dual boot on Apple machines so they can be booted up as native Windows machines. 


This avoids a lot of the compatibility issues you get with virtualisation options like Parallels, Virtual Box or VMware Fusion

jelabarre
jelabarre

@djlemas  You can't ****GET**** Win7 anymore; at least not legitimate or affordable copies (I would trust *none* of the copies on eBay, and only some on Amazon).  Since Win8.x will not run on a lot of perfectly servicable machines (PAE/NX requirements being the major issue), then Linux is the best option.  Then again, Linux would be the best option on *ANY* system, but likely the *only* option on many machines.

djlemas
djlemas

@james.vandamme I have two I found the machines in thrift stores for $5 and $15 ,they had 2.8 gig cpus and 512 of ram they are good systems and running a $5 copy of Ubuntu 13.10 32 bit but to give this at a forty year old cube rat is unthinkable the down time and retaining, not an option and dumping a windows 8 machine on them is just as bad

Gisabun
Gisabun

@RobertMoore12 I would agree. In the GUI mode is fine but as soon as you need to go into command line mode, that would scare some. I still remember that the only easy way to install Flash Player [way back when] was to go to the command line and type a nice long command including where the web browser could be found.

RobinHahn
RobinHahn

@RobertMoore12 Haven't tried Mint, then, have you? You'd use Terminal about as much as you'd use The Command Prompt in WinXP or Win7... for most people, never.

AmraLeo
AmraLeo

@RobertMoore12 I'm not a "tech person" by a long shot, but I've used Mepis Linux for almost 10 years. It's not that hard...

Gisabun
Gisabun

@chris.leeworthy But you need to have a retail or volume licensed copy of Windows [whatever version you do install]. OEM copies won't make it legal.

ManoaHI
ManoaHI

@chris.leeworthy It sounds like you've never used neither Parallels nor VMware Fusion. I've used both from very early on. As a system administrator for both *NIX (Linux, Solaris) and Windows servers and my experience with VMware virtualization, for both Linux, Solaris and Windows but multiples in their own OS (Linux VMs running under Linux, Windows VMs running under Windows), I sort of trusted Fusion. I tried both (Fusion and Parallels and was much happier with Fusion). At that time, only Fusion allowed control over the number of cores to be used and Parallels did not support VIsta's Aero, however, Fusion (but according to VMware, Aero would not work - but it did and later the support rep said, only if you have a high enough speced Mac) did support Vista's Aero. I've used Vista RTM at first on a Windows PC, it was a horrible mess, none of my peripherals worked and I couldn't find drivers. However, under Fusion, everything worked perfectly; as long as I could use those peripherals (printer, scanner, video camera) worked under Mac OS X, I could use them from Windows Vista. I had no problems with Vista as long it was under Fusion. Thus, while people were bitching about Vista, I was able to use it just fine. As far as software was concerned, I had no problems with any of my programs (Office, Virtual Studio, other bespoke legacy apps). Only when SP1 came out did Vista work on my Windows PC, but I was already happy with it under Fusion. (all the Mac users were running Vista just fine, while everyone had to stay in XP. I turned the Windows PC into a Linux server. When the first beta of Windows 7 came out, I immediately downloaded and was running Windows 7 Pro 64bit under Fusion and I never looked back.


Now with a newer Mac, I was mulling over Fusion or Parallels, I decided to give Parallels another try. Now I run Windows 8.1 Pro 6bit under Parallels under Mavericks (I actually started running Windows 8.0 under Mountain Lion). I upgraded to Mavericks and then upgrade 8.0 to 8.1. I never had to manually download drivers for Windows 8/8.1. Again I was an early adopter of Windows 8 starting MS' RTM.


Somewhere in the middle I tried Virtual Box, but that was a complete mess, with loads of compatibility issues. Only Linux worked fine. I haven't tried it lately. Still no issues, with Fusion or Parallels. The author's statement that not all peripherals work is correct if said peripheral doesn't work on a Mac. However, I haven't come across any peripherals that we or I use, that work on Mac, have no issues under Parallels nor Fusion. I've loaded several different virtual OSes as well such as: Windows XP, Mint Linux, Solaris). For our Windows 8.1 workstations, we Use VMware Player to run Windows XP for those stubborn legacy apps. So, from very early on, under Windows XP under VMware's Fusion, I could use IE  whenever a site that required IE showed up. Never had an issue with peripherals including direct connected printers and scanners and networked printers. Actually at home, I have a HP all-in-one so under Windows in a Parallels under Mavericks, it is a little more controllable, using the Windows printer utilities download from HP site.


I have no idea where you or the author got that there are compatibility issues using Fusion or Parallels. I've never found that issue from 2007.

bobc4012
bobc4012

@Gisabun @RobertMoore12  Surely you jest! Maybe a sophisticated user or in the IT shop (but you pay them for that knowledge, just like you do for Windows certified people).  The average user would never need to see Linux Command Line in many distros anymore than the average Windows users knows how to use the Command prompt! 


The average user who owns an Android or iOS device would have no problem with a Linux Desktop running Linux Mint with a Mate desktop for example. Just like they go to the app store on an Android or iOS device, they can go to the Software Center (or the Synaptic Package Manager) and get the package and then click on install! 


I'd suggest you Window fan bois install a VM such as VirttualBox on your Windows machine and install Mint or Ubuntu or one of the similar Debian based distros as a VM and play with it. You will find it as easy to use as Windows XP from an average user's standpoint! 

Gisabun
Gisabun

@ManoaHI @chris.leeworthy I didn't use Vista until just prior to Windows 7 came out for 9 months and had no problems. By then [2+ years after its release], all drivers as well as software were updated to work with Windows Vista correctly. Most of those who dislike Vista was because they jumped too fast and installed it right away instead of waiting a bit to make sure their hardware [and software] was Vista compatible. This is one reason why few companies jump at installing a new OS right after its release.