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Computer industry news source ZDNet published an article today called “Microsoft security research paints bleak picture for XP users”. You can click on the title to read the whole report, or you can save yourself some time and just peruse our executive summary:

  • Windows XP was released in October 2001. That’s 12 years ago, which is forever in computer years. But, as Windows versions go, XP has been a rock-solid workhorse. Thrifty users, both individuals and businesses, who don’t have a pressing need to upgrade to the latest and greatest new software, have hung onto Windows XP and milked it for all it’s worth.
  • That ride is coming to an end. You can still continue to use your antiquated XP, but do so at your own risk. Microsoft will stop issuing security updates for it in April of next year. Once the last Windows XP patch is issued, unpatched vulnerabilities will begin to emerge. With no one watching the store, the bad guys will loot and pillage to their hearts’ content.
  • Even before all this happens, the vulnerability situation for XP users is bad compared to later versions of Windows. Microsoft has steadily incorporated new defensive technologies into Windows with each new version. Windows XP is 12 years behind in that defensive technology. As such, Windows XP users are many times more likely than Windows 8 users to become infected with malware. The number of vulnerabilities in Windows XP has steadily increased over the last few years. Things will get worse — much worse — when Microsoft stops releasing security patches in April.

The moral of the story is that it’s time for every XP user who is connected to the Internet or who receives files of any kind from any outside source to make plans to scrap their beloved operating system and make the move to Windows 8 (or at least to Windows 7 if you can still find it). XP has become a “bad neighborhood” for system security, a magnet for malware. It’s time to pull up stakes and head to higher ground.

On the bright side, Windows 7 and 8 open up the bold new world of 64-bit computing. Windows XP was a 32-bit operating system, a 32-lane data highway so to speak. (OK, there was a 64-bit version of XP, but it was rare. Who needed 64 bits in 2001?) It moved data around in 32-bit (4 byte) chunks. Windows 7 and 8 come in both 32-bit and 64-bit variations.  Take the 64-bit option.  It allows your system to access more memory, it runs all of your 32-bit software, and it opens the door to 64-bit software. Notably, the newest versions of Adobe’s Creative Cloud software require a 64-bit operating system, so go with the 64-bit option and hopefully you won’t have to upgrade your operating system for another 12 years.

But don’t count on it.

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