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back to article 500 MEELLION PCs still run Windows XP. How did we get here?

Six months from now, on 8 April 2014, Microsoft will stop pushing out security updates for Windows XP – and that's going to be a big deal. At time of writing a whopping one-third of the world’s millions of PCs were still running Microsoft’s 13-year-old client operating system. According to Gartner, the global installed base of …

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But slowly – over time

If you use Disabled Autorun on all media, Libra Office, Firefox & NoScript, don't click to install Tool bars or addblockers or codecs from random sites and an external Firewall the risk is very very very low.

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...try again @Mage

Recommendation to NOT installing toolbars etc isn't a solution - limiting user rights is a solution and has worked wonders with my IT declined parents for example.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: But slowly – over time

Yes very good but......

XP applications will no longer be supported by vendors so no FF. LO. etc updates and these apps now become vulnerable.

So either move to Linux or W7, forget W8 it's shit.

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Linux

Re: But slowly – over time - and maybe not...........

Do what I have done to support old Win software.

1 Move to Linux for all your day to day productivity and comms

2 Install VirtualBox or other Vware

3 Using the original discs, clean install Win XP in VBox

4 Fire up XP (or Win 7 if you prefer) and DISABLE ALL INTERNET CONNECTIVITY

5 Install your Win-only software and use it as before

6 Never, but never let the Win system to talk directly to the internet - move files/data through the host

Your Win software will work fast and flawlessly - probably until the end of time, or at least until it is directly ported to Linux or the Linux equivalent becomes available. The simple secret is NEVER to let Win call home and become corrupted by "security" updates.

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Re: But slowly – over time

"FF. LO. etc updates and these apps now become vulnerable."

No they don't. Either they (and XP itself) are already vulnerable or they aren't. They don't gradually become vulnerable due to age and/or lack of support/updates.

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Terminator

Be careful what you wish for

It seems that, in its quest for world domination, Microsoft entrenched its customers a little too deeply into the Windows ecosystem, and as a result they're now stuck on XP/IE6, unable to migrate to newer versions of Windows, and thus unlikely to spend any more money with Microsoft.

How ironic.

Recommending an alternative to Windows isn't very helpful at this stage, at least not for businesses. In the long term, companies will need to somehow disenfranchise themselves from XP/IE6, and if they have to do that anyway then they may as well use that as an opportunity to move to a free alternative like GNU/Linux, or better yet do it in a standards-based, platform-agnostic manner where the underlying OS is irrelevant (i.e. the "Cloud"). But in the short term they really are stuck, lacking both time and money to upgrade hardware and software.

Meanwhile, home users are rapidly losing interest in the rather antiquated PC, as we see a paradigm-shift to mobile. For them, switching "desktop" platforms is moot, and simply not worth the effort. Whatever little they still use their PCs for, XP is "good enough" as far as they're concerned. After that ... well, there is no after that for the home PC market I'm afraid, so I'm not expecting a mad rush to GNU/Linux. The Wintel PC will die a slow, lingering and quiet death, much like the Amiga, serving the needs of a few die-hards and retro users. Although it may get a new lease on life as a games console (see Valve's forthcoming SteamBox).

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Re: But slowly – over time

.... but they do gradually become vulnerable due to new bugs being discovered, which now wont be patched.

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Re: Be careful what you wish for

@Homer 1

If you chew your leg off to get out of the XP trap and put your remaining foot into W7 or 8 you are just going to have to chew that one off too. The desktop is going away - the legacy cruft has become unsustainable and the better security model of trusted whitelisted app stores is now well proven. So good luck with that.

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Re: But slowly – over time

Don't forget to say the Lord's Prayer before every click, and a Hail Mary after if the page loads without giving you malware. For luck.

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Re: But slowly – over time

That will not work long term, you need to migrate off XP. Plus software companies will also stop supporting XP and won't make versions compatible with, some already are.

If you're "stuck" on Windows for specific apps, then suck it up and get Win 7 or 8. 8 is the "Vista" of our time but it's the latest Windows so you better get used to it.

If you can, try Linux Mint, it's free so doesn't hurt to try even if you're "stuck" with Windows. Install Windows in a VM even.

What we're doing at my place of work is we've setup Terminal Servers for the Windows apps and use Linux clients for the desktops. They just RDP into the TS for the specific apps.

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Linux

Re: ...try again @Mage

Both my parents (in their late 70's) are using Linux now... they're sick and tired of windows borking itself and suffering from viruses and Windows 8 was the last straw...

I had great joy in wiping Windows 8 off their new laptops and sticking Cinnamon Mint on them instead and pulling down both XFCE & LXDE for them and defaulting them to LXDE for their desktops...

They were already using Firefox, Thunderbird & LibreOffice on their windows machines, so the transition was pretty painless.

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Re: But slowly – FF IS supported!!

you havent asked the mozilla forum have you???

they say as long as you have XP SP3, and latest FF, you will have no security problems...

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Re: Be careful what you wish for

No, windows was going along FINE until they made some very bad decisions...

(and the PC industry, desperate for more ways to sell stuff, blindly went along, without even thinking if it was 'fit' for the PC's they they were installing in on...)

- hey mobile windows is lovely, lets use it on HUGE screens! :( :(

- deadlines!! nah leave out that startbar stuff, and that other stuff in win7 that 'most' people dont use, not enough time, and metro is lovely.... :(

- hey *everyone* uses a touch screen, dont they???

I think you know the answer to the above.... :P

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MCG

Re: But slowly – over time

"Move to Linux"

Haw haw, no wonder you posted as AC :)

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Re: But slowly – over time @Kunari

8 is the Vista of our time? Possibly more like the XP of our time, well Vista was the XP of its time, but 7 came along before SP 2.

Don't forget a lot of people loathed Windows XP and its Fisher Price looks when it came out. They were reluctant to move from Windows 9x or Windows 2000 until MS went away and worked on security, coming out with Service Pack 2. Only then did it really take off.

We've already moved to Windows 7 here and are rolling out Windows 8 with new machines - at user request, I might add. All of our software runs fine with Windows 8, so we don't have the big problems some companies are facing - and our customers can comfortably upgrade as well, because we "eat our own dogfood".

Now, getting people to upgrade their Linux and UNIX servers is another thing, some are still running SUSE 6 or have old DEC Alpha minis in their computer rooms! :-P

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Re: ...try again @Mage @Paulc

On the other hand, if you are having problems getting legacy software to run on Windows 7 or 8, you are going to have even more problems getting it running under Linux!

For home use, it can work. My mother visited and said my "Windows" was much easier to use than her Windows. She ended up taking my SUSE laptop back with her! :-D The support calls stopped, but she kept phoning up to brag about her Tetris scores!

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Re: But slowly – FF IS supported!!

"they say as long as you have XP SP3, and latest FF, you will have no security problems..."

and they are giving a money-back guarantee as well

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Re: But slowly – over time - and maybe not...........

@BobChip

That's sound advice my friend.

The only problem is only 10% of windows users know how to follow it.

And I include a large of CIOs and CTOs in that number. Sigh.

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Re: Be careful what you wish for

"The desktop is going away"

Like the mainframe and Cobol were in 1990.

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Re: Be careful what you wish for

They're not 'stuck' on XP, they just haven't seen any reason to replace the PC that's been chugging happily away under their desk for the past 6 years or more. Hardly any non-technical domestic users choose to change or upgrade their OS, they just use whatever happens to be installed on their new computer from PC World.

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Re: But slowly – over time

> Haw haw, no wonder you posted as AC :)

http://threewordphrase.com/ahawhaw.htm

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Re: ...try again @Mage @Paulc

> On the other hand, if you are having problems getting legacy software to run on Windows 7 or 8, you are going to have even more problems getting it running under Linux!

Believe it or not, there are *some* pieces of older Windows software run better under Wine than they do with the latest versions of Windows, particularly those that run into permissions issues. Not many I'll grant you, but they do exist.

I find Wine is great for a lot of things, not perfect or complete by any stretch, but getting better all the time.

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Re: ...try again @Mage @Paulc @skelband

Could you please name some of these software that runs better on Wine than latest versions of Windows?

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Re: But slowly – over time

"new bugs being discovered"

I think you mean newly discovered, old, previously unknown bugs, which was the point I suspect you and the other downvoters spectacularly missed.

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Re: Be careful what you wish for

"It seems that, in its quest for world domination, Microsoft entrenched its customers a little too deeply into the Windows ecosystem"

Exactly, it's worth noting that XP/IE6 were produced around the time that MS were busy in court defending their actions in the browser wars against Netscape.

As part of that defence they did their utmost to embed IE6 and other networking stuff as deeply into the core OS as possible in order to support their claim that it was not possible to provide Windows without a browser as the claimant and court was suggesting.

Those chickens have now come home to roost.

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Re: ...try again @Mage @Paulc @skelband

"Could you please name some of these software that runs better on Wine than latest versions of Windows?"

Well, three or four years back I found that Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion ran better on wine than Windows.

It's is a typically Bethesda game (ie: prone to crashing) but hardly ever did so when running under wine. I don't really use wine for anything these days so I can't provide more recent examples.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: But slowly – over time - and maybe not...........

"Move to Linux for all your day to day productivity and comms"

Great - and have ~ ten times as many security patches to evaluate - and have to upgrade the OS every 2 years or so when it goes out of support. That will do wonders for any business...

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Re: Be careful what you wish for

"The desktop is going away "

Not anytime soon it isn't. There is no significant movement to anything else in the corporate world as yet.

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Re: But slowly – over time @Kunari

@Big D

What are you talking about? Only reason people didn't go for xp that time was cause most pc's were running on less than minimum -or barely enough memory required for xp. That was also a time most memory wasn't compatible with one another. People who upgraded to xp had to w a it 1 or 2 minutes start up for office docs due to page swapping. Until my hardware was up to it, I was happily using 98, second edition. ME was a disaster, IMHO.

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Re: But slowly – over time

Vendors? For Firefox and LibreOffice?

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Re: But slowly – over time @Kunari

I'm pretty sure Microsoft are in a cycle like Star Trek movies, with a good one followed by a horrible one followed by a good one.

We're replacing XP with 7 (about 1/4 done, eek) as PCs get replaced in tech refresh; cataloguing apps is herding cats ,the alternative is a pain but reconnaissance-by-fire is usually accurate.

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Linux

Re: But slowly – over time - and maybe not...........

> 3 Using the original discs, clean install Win XP in VBox

Personally I like this idea. Although I am not sure how noob friendly it is. Running an entirely other OS in a VM may also be too much for your XP era hardware to handle.

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Mushroom

Re: But slowly – over time - and maybe not...........

> Great - and have ~ ten times as many security patches to evaluate

Don't be an idiot. It's Unix. It will chug along happily until you decide it needs to be changed. Since it's not a festering pile to begin with, you can forgo the updates if your Windows experiences have made you afraid of them.

Same goes for a Mac really.

If you are a real business user and not just some poser, your real problem with be "support". What obscure vertical market apps do you need and what platforms do those run on? The current version of monopolyware might not be supported yet.

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Re: But slowly – over time

Technically correct, but actually the "gradual" analogy is better because it takes time for the bad guys to discover the vulnerabilities, even though they may have been there the whole time. So from the outside world's perspective, the likelihood is that the apps will become gradually more and more vulnerable to existing threats.

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Re: But slowly – over time @Martin Huizing

When it first came out, many businesses were reformatting and installing either a Windows 98 or Windows 2000 image on the machines, for mainly the same reasons companies are still on Windows XP today.

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Re: But slowly – over time @Kunari

You might laugh, but I actually bought a machine with ME on it rather than XP when XP first came out...

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Anonymous Coward

Operating Systems should be free

Paying $200 or more for an operating system is insane. Especially for one with a desktop for kinky gardeners.

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Re: Operating Systems should be free

> Paying $200 or more for an operating system is insane. Especially for one with a desktop for kinky gardeners.

The real cost is more like $90. Just get an OEM copy. These are pretty trivial to find.

Only a total rube would buy the "consumer boxed version".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Operating Systems should be free @JEDEDIAH 14:09

He's just cutting and pasting something he posted/saw the other day. Probably the same saddo who repeatedly posts the "Why is everytime there's a problem it's Microsoft? People using it need to give themselves a good shake" thing. Not an exact quote, but as near as I can remember. I dislike calling people trolls, but in this case I can't think of anything else he might be. And a damn lazy and unimaginative one at that.

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Anonymous Coward

XP is good enough

And so is the hardware.

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Re: XP is good enough

And therein lies the true tale.

XP was the first desktop OS Microsoft produced which was widely perceived as truly stable (I always thought Win 2000 was a pretty good deal but I don't think it ever really made it into the consumer channel). Microsoft followed it with Vista which was crap on so many levels, so the upgrade cycle breaks and most users (business or otherwise) start realizing they really don't need a new OS or Office suite.

The real problem is that when IT goes to the business, the first question they face is "What is this upgrade going to get me?" Security is a poor answer in that situation because only IT cares about security. What they will hear is "It'll keep doing what it's doing." So, in essence, what you're telling them is that you want to spend huge amounts of their budget and disrupt their operations for an extended period and when they come out the other side, they'll see no obvious benefit (because security is only a problem when it fails).

And the reality is, the only reason for this massive disruption is that Microsoft doesn't want to support the OS anymore. This is where the business model really flounders: when the new features just don't justify the move.

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Re: XP is good enough

Yep.

I've moved to Win7 at home, and the only benefit that I get out of it is that hovering over winamp gives me a media player control bar which I didn't have in XP. (if you don't count foxytunes in firefox)

At work? being able to log in with a second user when a first locks the desktop is the only benefit that I have identified so far.

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Re: XP is good enough

Very true, and to extend it... a computer is a tool to help you to get a job done. If a tool continues to work and continues to allow you to get your job done using it, why would, or even should, you need to replace it? This is, quite correctly, how the majority of small businesses and similar users see their PCs - tools to get a job done.

<rant>A lot of the software problems are down to past incompetence on the part of developers. They chose to do stupid things, shun best practices, ignore the well documented correct file usage protocols, embedded suicidal technologies in place of effective design and embedded systems together that had no need to be integrated in the way that they were. Many of these problems were down to lazy coders assuming that all users had administrator access, could create and write files in program locations (i.e. utterly failing the basic concept of separating data files from programs), opening the registry assuming administrator access (or just using the registry at all as it's a ball ache of inefficient nastiness that benefits nobody), using ActiveX in any of its forms, embedding external controls over which the developer had no control or expectation of support state and so on... That's before the stupid applications that start trying to interact with the OS in kooky and unnecessary ways (especially looking at you Corel) and those that "work" through making assumptions about basics such as time zone, locale (date formats) or even screen resolutions. To top it off, then there were the fucktards who developed web applications to non-standard "standards", as in anything "designed for Internet Explorer" rather than using established web standards - it's annoying but not that hard, but many developers were too lazy or stupid to do it. Even now I still see idiotic "web applications" that rely on Java controls that barely work where they could have just put the data in plain HTML and enhanced the core application with Javascript, falling back to less efficient server based manipulation if this failed. </rant>

I think I need to take some tablets now... :)

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Re: XP is good enough @Vector

You are missing out that people rejected XP when it first came out. It wasn't until 2 years and 2 service packs later that it really took off.

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Re: XP is good enough

@Vector who quoth:

'The real problem is that when IT goes to the business, the first question they face is "What is this upgrade going to get me?" Security is a poor answer in that situation because only IT cares about security.'

Which is correct and also the reason why, these days, my conversation goes like this:

Q: "What is this upgrade going to get me?"

A: "Immunity from ${AMOUNT} in criminal negligence lawsuits when security lapses that you knew were likely resulted in material losses to ${NUMBER} of ${ANGRY&POWERFUL} users."

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Re: XP is good enough

Q: "What is this upgrade going to get me?"

A: "Immunity from ${AMOUNT} in criminal negligence lawsuits when security lapses that you knew were likely resulted in material losses to ${NUMBER} of ${ANGRY&POWERFUL} users."

In my experience, this works about 1 time in 3 (that might be optimistic). The rest of the time the response is "Oh, they're just overreacting." Until they've been burned, it's a threat they just won't take seriously.

As mentioned above, this is just a tool to them and they don't see any reason to fix what doesn't seem to be broken. And it's really not broken, the support is just slipping out from under it. If Microsoft had moved their business model towards support and away from new products as the OS stabilized, we wouldn't be having this discussion. But support isn't sexy, new and shiny are (or, that's the theory, at least).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: XP is good enough

Reminds me of our company's move from Lotus Notes to Outlook.

Now you guys may all bit%% about Notes, but the thing is 98% of the users only care about email and calendars. So 3 years later and multi millions later, 98% of the users are using only email and calendars. Also, local control of Notes has been lost to corporate control of Outlook. And some of our apps still only run on Notes, so we need to have both installed. Ain't progress grand.

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Re: XP is good enough @Vector

You are missing out that people rejected XP when it first came out. It wasn't until 2 years and 2 service packs later that it really took off.

You're right and I shouldn't miss that point since I, myself, rejected it for possibly longer than that. As noted before, I kinda liked Win 2000.

But eventually, it did stabilize, blue became a less familiar color, and we all got happiliy on with our lives doing useful stuff.

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Re: XP is good enough

Riiiiiiight, because every chain-smoker quits smoking IMMEDIATELY when you tell them going on doing it is going to kill them. Suuuuure...

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Re: XP is good enough @Vector

"You are missing out that people rejected XP when it first came out. It wasn't until 2 years and 2 service packs later that it really took off."

In what universe? XP was bacon sandwich popular in my neck of the woods. I had to hold off buying myself until 2002 but that was a hardware acquisition cash flow problem, not an inherent desire not to buy the first decently bullet-proof user-oriented OS MS had put out (I was using a pre MMX Pentium 1).

The only blue screen I ever saw at home with XP was solidly tied to Norton Nagware too. I never saw one at work until two months ago, when the motherboard on my workstation was starting to show squirrels. I'd asked for months to get it swapped for a new 64-bit Win7 machine, but I'm low man on the ladder and work for the Government and your scarce tax dollars mustn't be spent unwisely on fripperies,.

We know this because taxpayers tell us so.

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