What you need to know as support for Microsoft XP approaches

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Gina Duwe
Sunday, February 23, 2014

JANESVILLE--News that Microsoft will soon end support for its popular Windows XP operating system sent Mike McCarthy of Janesville computer shopping.

On April 8, Microsoft will no longer provide security updates or technical support for XP, which means computers running on the system “should not be considered protected” against malicious attacks, according to Microsoft.

Although it more than a dozen years old, Windows XP had 29 percent of market share in December, according to Net Application.

McCarthy checked with his computer service guru, who explained the requirements to upgrade to a new operating system. McCarthy's two older desktop computers wouldn't be able to handle upgrades, so he spent about $420 on a new Dell computer. 

The soon-to-expire XP support pushed McCarthy to buy a new computer, he said.

“I had no idea it was coming, that's why I thought maybe other people would want to know about it," he said.

Here's four things to know about the change:

1. Are you running XP?

The easiest way to tell if your computer is running Windows XP is by looking at the lower left-hand corner of the screen, said David Booth, manager of Milwaukee PC in Janesville. If there's a circle with a Microsoft symbol, you're OK. If it says “Start,” you are running XP or a system even older, he said.

XP is Microsoft's longest running software, Booth said, and a lot of people still use it. 

2. What will happen? 

“It doesn't mean that on April 8 that you'll turn on your computer, and it won't come on,” Booth said.

The computer will continue running, but it will no longer receive security updates, leaving it “vulnerable to harmful viruses, spyware and other malicious software, which can steal or damage your business data and information,” according to Microsoft. “Anti-virus software will also not be able to fully protect you once Windows XP itself is unsupported.”

If a security patch is released for newer Windows operating systems, Booth said, “more than likely whatever that security hole they have found will then be exposed if that is a hole that is in Windows XP.”

Usually when Microsoft ends support for a system, other manufacturers that support the system such as anti-virus software, will start to trickle off, he said.

3. What are the options?

With the right hardware, some computers can be upgraded to a newer operating system such as Windows 7 or 8 for $150 to $250, Booth said.

Buying a new computer is the other option, with basic desktops around $350, he said.

4. How quickly could bad things happen?

Booth referenced an article quoting Michael Menor, a former military computer specialist and network engineer in Michigan, who said a lot of hackers would be exclusively targeting the XP system come April 8.

“They will get infected very quickly,” Menor said in an article in the Wisconsin Law Journal. “With XP, you can expect that within 10 minutes, the system would get infected without all of the patches and service bulletins.”

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