Windows XP support ends today – how to protect your PC
Microsoft’s support for Windows XP ends today, 8 April 2014. This means that there is no longer automatic software and security updates for the ageing operating system (OS).
Not being regularly prompted to install new Windows updates might not sound so bad, but it means that any PCs that continue to run the XP operating system will become more vulnerable to online security attacks and viruses over time, so putting your files and data at risk. We explain what you need to do to help keep your PC protected.
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Windows XP support ends – what will happen on 8 April?
On 8 April XP users will see a pop-up message on their desktop which includes a link to Microsoft’s end-of-support website www.windowsxp.com. This notification will reoccur on 8 May and the 8th of every month, unless disabled. On the site Microsoft provides information for its customers as well as a free file transfer tool, Laplink’s PCmover Express, to help those switching to a new PC.
Can I upgrade or do I need a new computer?
No matter how you look at it, Windows XP owners will have to change to a different operating system if they plan to use their PC online. You do have a decision to make though, as you can elect to upgrade your existing machine, or buy a new system:
- Keep your PC and upgrade its OS – you could install a new version of Windows, such as Windows 7 or 8. Some older PCs won’t be able to run Windows 8, the latest version of Windows, but Windows 7 may be suitable. Not only that but Windows 7 should be cheaper, while its design is similar to Windows XP (unlike Windows 8). Download Microsoft’s Upgrade Advisor tool to find out whether you can upgrade the version of Windows running on your computer to either Windows 7 or Windows 8.
- Keep your PC and install a new OS – another option is to forego Windows altogether and install a version of the Linux operating system. It’s free and a version such as Linux Mint should comfortably run on older XP machines. However, installing a brand new OS can be challenging for all but advanced PC users, and Linux doesn’t have the familiar Microsoft programs that you’re used to. We recommend doing some reading and research before installing Linux, not to mention ensuring that all essential files are safely stored on backup hard drives.
- Buy a new PC – you could find a new PC or Mac that suits you, which will be faster and support the latest software, although you’ll likely find any older XP software you have won’t install on it. If you’re PC experience begins and ends at browsing the web and sending emails then you may even find that a tablet or Chromebook may suit you instead.
Whether you choose to keep your current PC or buy a new one, you’ll want to backup your files for use on your updated, or new, PC. There are several ways to do this – you can backup files to cloud storage, or to physical formats like DVDs, USB memory and hard disk drives. Or you might use a file transfer utility such as Laplink (see below), that Microsoft is providing for free to help those moving to Windows 7 or 8.
How to transfer files with Laplink
For anyone who chooses a new Windows PC, Microsoft has teamed up with Laplink to provide a free tool to help you transfer your settings and files from XP to a new PC, as long as it runs Windows 7, 8 or 8.1. It will transfer documents, photos, music and videos – though it won’t transfer programs.
Before you begin, ensure that both PCs are on the same network. You’ll also need sufficient time as the transfer process can take 3-5 hours.
1) Download Laplink PCmover Express to your old XP machine. Install it from the downloaded file, pcmoverx_en.exe, and follow the on-screen prompts. Repeat this on your new Windows PC.
2) On the XP machine, close all unessential programs such as web browsers and music players and then open PCmover. Review the transfer tips and click Next.
3) You should see the welcome screen. With ‘PC to PC Transfer’ selected, click Next.
4) Select WiFi or Wired Network as the connection method, and click Next.
5) Begin the transfer and wait for it to complete.
6) Next, open PCmover on the new PC. If you see a Windows Security Alert (User Account Control) message, select ‘Unblock’ or ‘Yes’ to run PCmover.
7) Repeat the above steps, selecting the destination PC as Windows 7/Windows 8. You will also need to complete the internet registration.
8) On the next screen, select the same connection method and click Next.
9) On the Identify Old Computer screen, select your XP PC. If it’s not listed, click Browse to locate and select it. If it’s still not listed, click ‘Re-scan’.
10) Depending on your PC, you will either see a Standard or Advanced or Customize the Transfer screen:
Standard – to transfer using default settings, select Standard and click Next.
Advanced – to choose specific drives and folders, select Advanced and click Next.
Customize – this gives you the option to review any settings that require attention before proceeding with the transfer. You can also make adjustments, including excluding any directories or files you don’t want to be transferred. Once you’re happy click Done to proceed.
11) At the Ready to Transfer window, click Next.
12) PCmover will begin the transfer and display the progress window. Once finished, click Finish to restart the new PC so all of the settings can take effect.
What if I use legacy software that only runs on XP?
We advise that it’s still best to make the change and would recommend against continuing to use XP. However, if you’re set on it, then it’s best to make sure all updates for XP SP3 are installed before 8 April. Next, run a good anti-virus program and switch from using Internet Explorer to a web browser that will continue to get updates, such as Google Chrome or Firefox. In a perfect world your safest bet would then be to simply unplug the PC from the internet, thereby negating any risk of online attack entirely.
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