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The End of an ERA

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The End of an ERA

Time-for-Change-150x150April 9th 2014, will be the day that Microsoft will finally kill off Windows XP or at least all support for that operating system.  As an engineer, who has worked with Microsoft operating systems since Windows 95, there are is place in my heart for the dependable Windows XP.  I probably know XP too well, inside and out.  However, there comes a time with technology, that we must move away from the old and grudgingly move forward.

Of the two workstations and three laptops, that I use on a continuous basis, three of them are still Windows XP.  I will feel the pain, as I put to bed two of my three Windows XP machines.  For tech support reasons, I will keep a Windows XP machine around as long I can.  How will the death of Windows XP really impact those of us who have kept the dependable machines around?

The biggest and most immediate impact will be that Microsoft will no longer release any updates for Windows XP.  No new service packs, OS enhancements or security updates.  This last piece, the security is the most concerning.  A number of certifications require that organizations ensure that their computers are fully updated and patched.  If Microsoft isn’t releasing patches, and you are running older workstations, this could be a compliance issue.  PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliance requires that organizations “develop a system to identify new security vulnerabilities and remediate them when the update is made available”.  If vulnerabilities are made known, but there are no security patches, this would be a compliance issue.

Then there are zero day exploits.  Viruses or malware that attack newly discovered weakness will become a problem, as Microsoft won’t even bother to address them.  Without Microsoft releasing their code base to other third party developers, there is a chance these holes will never be patched.  In the long run there will be some major security issues that will need to be addressed.

Outside of the security issues, there is one item that is left to be discussed.  Windows XP is the first Microsoft OS that requires online activation.  Okay, if you have a volume license, you can ignore this next part but for any home users and even a large number of business users, you rely on Microsoft allowing you to use their phone or online activation service when you install or at times, repair your Windows installation.  At this point in time, Microsoft has not fully agreed to maintain their activation servers after the drop dead date.  That means that as of April 9th, you might only get 30 days from your Windows installation before it stops functioning.

There are number of arguments for Microsoft to terminate support.  At some point they need to put to bed the operating system that they have been working on over 12 years.  So, what is there to really worry about?

1)  No more service packs and hot fixes mean potential security holes that will go  unpatched.

2)  Compliance with organization such as PCI DSS and HIPPA could lapse

3)  There is change an activation and re-activation will not be possible

The positive spin to this is that Microsoft does have two good operating systems to choose from when you do your upgrade. Windows 7 has proven to be a good replacement and Windows 8 has some perks too.