Upgrades may be unnecessary for Windows XP users

Software additions can prolong life of operating system.

Support for Windows XP may have come to an end, but that doesn’t make computers with the operating system obsolete.

On Tuesday, April 8, Microsoft stopped supporting the 12-year-old operating system.

What this means is the company will no longer be providing technical support or updates, including hardware and security updates, though Microsoft Security Essentials, the company’s free antivirus program, will continue to receive support until July 14, 2015.

What this doesn’t mean, necessarily, says John Schlosar of Sicamous’ Keystroke Computer Service, is that existing XP users must upgrade their operating system or computer – as is being recommended by Microsoft.

“Because of this message, people are thinking I have to upgrade my computer – and I’m getting phone calls all the time – or I have to buy a new one,” said Schlosar. “I know they are phoning other computer repair places and they’re saying, ‘yes, you have to,’ just to get the business. It’s not imperative. You have to be maybe a little more diligent, but you don’t have to upgrade it.”

Being diligent requires changing some habits and adding new software to make sure your computer is protected.

With security no longer coming from Microsoft, this is something XP users need to take care of on their own. Schlosar says you can protect yourself by making sure you’ve got an antivirus program on your computer, adding you’ll eventually want to replace security essentials. Schlosar also recommends having an anti-malware/spyware program, which will target advertising, spyware, hijack and blackmail software.

“I get computers in here all the time where it’s completely blackmailed or hijacked, and you’re locked out of the computer until you pay a lot of money to something,” said Schlosar, adding the free programs at superantispyware.com and malwarebytes.org work well.

Another recommendation Schlosar has for XP users is, if they haven’t done so already, stop using Internet Explorer as a web browser, as it will no longer be updated.

“Usually, if there’s (security) exploits coming in, they come through the browser,” said Schlosar, suggesting XP users switch to another browser such as Google Chrome or Firefox.

Schlosar says those considering a newer Windows-based operating system first need to know if their computer is compatible.

“If you go to a repair place and they say, ‘We can do it,’ that’s the wrong answer,” said Schlosar. “Their answer should be, ‘let me find out if your computer is compatible for you’… It may be price prohibitive to do that, it may not work or you may be better off buying another computer.”

Schlosar notes an operating system upgrade can cost up to $300 if done professionally, and involves backing up existing information, erasing your hard drive, installing the new disc, updating, etc. He adds older peripherals, such as scanners and printers, may not work with the newer operating systems.

Schlosar credits Microsoft for having supported XP as long it has and, while it may not work as well as newer operating systems, he says by taking a proactive approach, XP users can avoid the expense of major upgrades.