Tips for keeping or upgrading Windows XP

On April 8 Microsoft quit supporting the 12-year old Windows XP.

This means no more updates from Microsoft to patch security holes and fix other known issues. This leaves its users at more of a risk to viruses, malware, hackers, and instability. Though I don’t think users are instantly destined to become hacked, I do recommend following some security practices and suggest abandoning it sooner than later.

Don’t let older applications hold you back from upgrading to a newer Windows version or PC. You may be able to run older applications directly in a newer Windows using the Compatibility Mode. If that doesn’t work and Windows XP is still truly needed, you can use the Windows XP Mode of Windows 7 or use another virtual solution like VirtualBox to run XP inside a newer Windows.

Though upgrading PCs that originally came with Windows XP to a newer Windows version could be a possibility, you can run into compatibility issues as the hardware components may not support newer versions. But if you want to try, keep in mind you’ll have a better chance with Windows 7 than you would with the newest version, Windows 8.1.

If you’re still using Windows XP for whatever reason, there are some things you should do to help increase your security. Ensure you have Service Pack 3 and all other updates installed, which are still downloadable via Windows Update. Don’t use the Internet Explorer web browser as it is no longer updated either. Consider Google Chrome, which will be supported at least until April of 2015, or Mozilla Firefox that hasn’t announced any plans to end support yet. Better yet, if you don’t require the Internet on the PC, keep it offline.

If the Internet is required on your Windows XP PC, consider disabling or uninstalling Java, Adobe Reader, and Adobe Flash Player. These programs won’t be updated anymore and are popular intrusion points for hackers and malware. But if you’d like to keep these enabled for websites that require them, consider using a sandbox program like Sandboxie to virtually isolate the browser and any viruses and malware you might pick up.

If you have Microsoft Office installed, it no longer will receive updates in Windows XP either. Consider removing it and using a free open source office suite like LibreOffice.

As always, ensure you have a good antivirus running to help catch any hackers or malware you might run into. Most antivirus vendors will continue to support Windows XP for some time, so their protection could help protect you against new security holes that are now found in and unpatched by Microsoft.

If you’re comfortable using your older PC with Windows XP for a while longer you may want to add more memory (RAM) along with performing a good cleaning to better help increase speed, performance, and security.

Eric Geier is the Owner of On Spot Techs, which provides on-site computer repair and IT services at homes and businesses in the Dayton, Springfield and Northern Cincinnati areas. For more information, visit www.onspottechs.com or call 937-315-0286.

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