April 8, 2014, marks the end of an era in computer history. This is the date that Microsoft will end support for the popular operating system Windows XP, which was first released to the public at the end of October 2001. At the time, it was a groundbreaking new system that made performing simple computing tasks easy. Over 400 million copies of Windows XP were sold. Although more recent operating systems have been released, Windows XP is still in widespread use today and even still available to purchase.
Personal computer users and businesses who are still using Windows XP should take action because after today, there won’t be any new security updates, assisted support options, nor any online technical content updates available. By continuing to use this operating system after the day support ends, both personal and business computers will be vulnerable to security risks.
Individuals and businesses still running Windows XP have a couple of options:
Upgrade: Many older computers can be upgraded to Windows 7 or Windows 8, however, users need to double check the minimum hardware requirements of the new operating system to ensure that it will run reliably on your older machine. Microsoft has a handy transfer tool to make the migration from XP to Windows 7 or 8 easy. This tool transfers files and many settings to your new operating system although you still must install reinstall all of your software applications.
Purchase New: The second option private users and businesses have is buying new computers that come pre-loaded with Windows 7 or Windows 8. A brand new computer and OS can last for eight or more years and even longer.
Here is a summary and history of Windows XP’s successors that both did well and not so well.
Following on the heels of Windows XP’s successful sales run, Microsoft made Windows Vista available to the worldwide market in early 2007. Vista offered a new graphical user interface and visual style called Aero. Vista never took off like Microsoft had hoped. Novice and pro computer users alike complained profusely that it “flopped.” Expectations were high as Vista was expected to be faster and with many new features.
The problem, however, was that it had just too many features that slowed down computers considerably, making it run more slowly than XP. Additionally, Vista was not compatible with many older computers, which limited the number of users who made the upgrade from XP.
Microsoft made Windows 7 available worldwide during the fall of 2009, less than three years after the release of Vista. This OS was primarily intended to address the many criticisms Vista received, including performance issues. Windows 7 introduced a new streamlined interface, a redesigned taskbar and new window management tools. Windows 7 was compatible with older computers and it booted up much more quickly than Vista. In a nutshell, Windows 7 is a cleaner, more stable version of what Vista should have been. It’s an OS that simply doesn’t disappoint, regardless if you’re a first-time computer user or a seasoned fanatic.
The highly anticipated Windows 8 was released to the public in October 2012. This new OS introduced major changes that included a touch-optimized Windows shell based on Microsoft’s “Metro” design language, a new Start screen that shows programs and real-time content on a grid of tiles, and an online store for downloading and purchasing new computer software. Windows 8 also added USB 3.0 support, cloud computing, built-in antivirus software and more.
Windows 8 has been highly criticized thus far, as the new touch-based user interface, nicknamed "Metro", is considered a major failure for those who sit behind desktops using a keyboard and mouse. Microsoft started providing Windows 8 users with a free updates to Windows 8.1 or free "downgrades" to Windows 7 at the end of 2013 in its attempt to address the problems users were having with Windows 8. In 8.1, a visible Start button with a new function was restored to the taskbar. The desktop can be displayed on login instead of the Start screen and hot corners can now be disabled. In spite of the improvements made to Windows 8, complaints continue to run rampant as many users say Microsoft has lost its way and has abandoned its PC user base.
What’s Next? Windows 9 aka Threshold
With the recent upgrade from Windows 8 to 8.1, many people are wondering where Microsoft will take its OS next. While Microsoft is tight-lipped about the future of its operating system, rumors abound in the computing world. Microsoft will likely announce the release date of Windows 8's successor, codenamed "Threshold" this month at the BUILD conference for developers. Most rumors say Microsoft will stick with their current naming convention and call this new OS Windows 9 with a release date of April 2015.