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The Great OS Exodus: Managing the Windows XP Retirement


By now you know that Microsoft stopped supporting the Windows XP operating system on April 8, 2014. Microsoft Security Essentials will continue offering security updates until July 15, 2015, but updates for your peripherals and system are done. Soon, everyone will need to go through the Windows XP retirement process and choose another operating system. But making the transition won’t be the nightmare you fear — as long as you do it right.

Fewer Headaches Than You Think, with a Big “If”

Microsoft would have you believe that upgrading to Windows 8.1 is the best option, but I see Windows 7 as the new Windows XP and Windows 8 as the new Windows Vista. Do you remember the nightmare of that operating system? Nothing worked with it. Peripherals were a mess and complaints were rampant. I feel sorry for any enterprise that bought into the Vista hype. Upgrading an operating system is enough work, so I can only imagine the chagrin of companies that decided rolling back to Windows XP was easier than living with Windows Vista.

But hindsight shows us that Windows Vista was really just Windows 7 in its infancy. Many of the heavily criticized Windows Vista features have turned out to be quite handy. I agree wholeheartedly with Infoworld’s J. Peter Bruzzese’s assessment of the situation when he wrote, “…it may be better to slap a whole new name or number on Windows and put the Windows 8 moniker on a shelf next to kindred spirits like Windows 98, Windows Me, and Windows Vista. The label of that shelf should read, ‘We led the way so that those who come after us might succeed.’” It’s so true. With each major roll out, the OS that followed turned out to be the solid and useful OS customers wanted.

Windows 8 as a Repeat of Vista

I recall being at a client presentation with USB stick in hand. The laptop they offered me was Windows Vista and I had a heck of a time just figuring out how to open the file and give my spiel. It was more than a little embarrassing. Shouldn’t one Windows product be enough like the next that you can intuitively figure out what to do?

I had none of the same problems switching to Windows 7 that I had with Windows Vista. The operating system immediately made sense to my Windows XP mind in a way Windows Vista couldn’t come close to, and it worked with my peripherals almost all the time. Even when it didn’t, the compatibility options found a way for me to make almost anything function correctly on my PC.

The Windows 8 roll out feels an awful lot like Windows Vista to me. It just wasn’t intuitive to use because the company tried to change too many things too quickly. Microsoft just hasn’t figured out how to make big leaps in innovation while still keeping familiarity in the interface. Windows 8 is the perfect example. I’ve tried it, I like the new things you can do with it, but I hate the interface, because it’s just too foreign. So, if you choose Windows 7 for your Windows XP retirement, you’re likely to experience fewer headaches than if you migrated to Windows 8.

Plenty of Life Left in Windows 7

The Windows 7 OS still has a lot of life left in it, too. Historically, Microsoft continues mainstream support for a few years after releasing an operating system. It then offers extended support for a few years more. The company will continue free mainstream support of Windows 7 until Jan. 12, 2015. After that, you’ll need a paid subscription to continue receiving the same level of assistance. The extended support period will last until Jan. 14, 2020. That gives us six years to hope and pray Windows comes out with a better operating system than Windows 8. Unfortunately, we won’t know for another three or four years, and maybe (please, no) longer.

On to More Technical Matters

Now that I’ve offered a treatise on why you should choose Windows 7 for your Windows XP retirement, it’s time to prepare for the transition. Get your IT guy or gal on board and create a game plan for the following steps toward a successful transition:

  • Data Backup – An operating system transition is a big deal, so be sure you backup all data before you begin. Quorum has several solutions to help with this.

  • Systems Audit – Before anything changes, you need to know where you’re starting from. That means you need to know which of your hardware and software systems will work with Windows 7. Windows 7 has an audit mode you can use for this purpose. It also has compatibility tools to make older programs function on the Windows 7 platform. You’ll find very few that won’t be compatible in some way – maybe 2 percent, according to Computer Weekly’s research.

  • Switching to 64-Bit – Not all of your devices will run on 64-bit software available in Windows 7. But Windows 7 has been out since 2009, so by now, most devices have made 64-bit drivers available. It’s just a matter of locating and installing them via manufacturer websites.

  • Browser Wars – Now is a good time to look at whether you should continue using Internet Explorer in your business. For many years, the browser suffered from severe vulnerabilities. In fact, some users were known to see Internet Explorer’s only good use as a way to download another browser. In March, the company finally patched a long-standing security flaw. But that flaw was years old. Enterprises may be wise to choose a different web browser until Microsoft can show it has changed its ways when it comes to browser security. If your company runs applications dependent on the notoriously vulnerable IE 6, which is not supported by Windows 7, it’s high past time to find alternatives.

  • Windows XP-Dependent Applications – One of the Windows 7 features that makes it such a great option for a Windows XP retirement is the Windows XP Mode virtualization feature. You can use this to continue running Windows XP-dependent applications until you find suitable replacements.

Remember, the longer you wait, the more vulnerable your systems become to malware and hacker attacks. Microsoft Security Essentials can protect you for a time, but the longer you wait to implement your Windows XP retirement, the greater the risk becomes.

Quorum Has Backup Solutions for the Transition

Use Quorum’s backup solutions to protect your data during the transition, ensuring data continuity through the transition. Use our online contact form to get a free quote on the best backup solutions for your Windows XP switch.


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