Windows XP: Pros and cons of not upgrading

Microsoft plans to support Windows XP Service Pack 3 until April 8, 2014, which means XP users have 30 months before they're on their own

Windows XP users, your favorite operating system is a decade old, and if you're still using it, you're not cool anymore, at least according to Microsoft. That's the software giant's recent take on its aging OS, which is still more popular than Vista or Windows 7 worldwide. Microsoft is hoping the final cadre of users hanging on to XP will start to dump it and move to the more modern Windows 7.

"Windows XP just turned 10 years old ... 10 years is a long time to have the same old technology," Microsoft's Kristina Libby said in a recent blog post. Libby also included an infographic in her post showing you how out of date XP users are. Ten years ago, people were carrying flip phones and watching "Friends" on TV. Now they've got iPhones (oops, Windows Phones) and watching "Modern Family."

The last of the XPicans

Of course, switching to a new phone or giving up your favorite TV show isn't that tough, but overhauling your home PC is an act some would prefer to avoid as long as possible. And it's not as if the switchover is imminent. Microsoft plans to support Windows XP Service Pack 3 until April 8, 2014, (SP3 is available for 32-bit systems only). That's about another 30 months of more XP updates and support from Microsoft, after that you're on your own.

So is it time to switch or do you plan on running XP until your machine finally gives out and sputters its last blue screen of death?

Here's a look at the pros and cons of sticking with XP, along with some comments from PCWorld readers who are still die-hard XP fans.

Pro: Stability

Microsoft has had 10 years to work many of the bugs out of Windows XP. And while many people will cite XP's pre-Service Pack 2 days when you could literally get a virus just by connecting to a network, that age is long gone. As with any Windows computer, you have to watch out for malware, but most users are happy with how smoothly XP runs even 10 years later.

Pro: Cheap

Since XP is now 10 years old, many users bought and paid for their OS years ago. So if you decided to upgrade to Windows 7, chances are you'll need to buy a new computer, unless you bought a new machine in the past few years and deliberately downgraded it to XP.

A prevailing theme among PCWorld readers still running XP appears to be an aversion to purchasing a new device. Arguing that all that will do is line the pockets of Microsoft and its manufacturing partners. "I don't want a new computer, I don't need a new OS, and I sure as heck don't need to spend the time and dollars reinstalling, buying, and re-tweaking applications that work perfectly fine now," said mb56.

Pro: You can still do a lot of stuff

The truth is you can still keep up with modern technologies and services even if you're running XP. Skype, Mozilla's Firefox 7, Google Chrome, Office 2010, Adobe Photoshop CS5, iTunes, Spotify, and Adobe Flash Player 11 are just a few of the more popular programs that are XP-compatible. The only thing truly holding you back might be your hardware. But considering most programs call for at least a 1GHz processor, and considering the 1GHz Pentium III came out in 2000, chances are your machine will be just fine.

Con: Compatibility

If you've got old programs that you're used to using and are running well, you may want to stick with XP until you've thoroughly researched whether you can take your old apps with you. PCWorld reader JSamuel says he's not moving to Windows 7 since he's running editing software on XP that costs more than $2,000 and is not compatible with Microsoft's latest OS or Vista.

Another PCWorld reader, goshdarnit, lamented that several of his old programs simply disappeared during the XP-to-7 upgrade, some of which were gone forever since he had lost the discs to reinstall those programs years ago.

Microsoft provides a tool called Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor that can help you determine if you'll encounter any problems with old software during an XP-to-7 upgrade.

Con: Time really is running out, slowly

You probably don't want to be running XP after Microsoft gives up on XP in 2014. The biggest reason for upgrading is security. Once Microsoft stops delivering security updates to SP3, you could expose yourself to some serious threats if a new exploit is found in the OS or in a third-party program you're running. So while you may not want to switch away from XP right now, it is something you should at least start considering. Before you know it, your 30 months will be up.

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) and Today@PCWorldon Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

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Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
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