For starters there is nothing you can do to keep a Windows XP computer safe, here are some recommendations
When most people buy a computer, they want to accomplish myriad tasks with it. They arent focused on the operating system of the computer or the other components. They just want to use it to get something done. Similarly, we buy a car for transportation, not for the engine that powers it.
An old car can still be operated safely on our roads within the same speed limits and traffic laws as a new car. A Windows XP computer will continue to function even though Microsoft ceased support for it on April 8th, 2014. But unlike an old car that may still be safely operated, a computer running Windows XP is at growing risk of compromise. Thats where we are with Windows XP.
Is a Windows XP computer safe?
There is nothing you can do to keep a Windows XP computer safe. Microsoft will no longer issue security and update patches. But they will continue to issue patches for Windows 7 and Windows 8. Those patches serve as a source of information for saavy hackers who will reverse engineer the patches to determine the vulnerabilities they fix.
Once they determine the vulnerabilities, they will exploit them in unpatched Windows XP computers. Even if the user has an up to date antivirus program, it wont be enough to stop many kinds of attacks.
This issue isnt limited to updates for Windows by Microsoft. Many Line of Business (LOB) software vendors wont issue updates for their products for Windows XP if Microsoft wont support it. Customers may face unexpected burdens to replace XP computers that otherwise work fine.
For example, a client of mine recently received a notice from his LOB vendor that they wont support their software on Windows XP after June 30th, 2014. He has to replace four computers before the end of June, an unexpected expense.
While Windows 7 is still available and fully supported by Microsoft and LOB vendors, I strongly recommend going straight to Windows 8. Most Windows XP computers still in use today run older hardware that wont effectively run Windows 7 or Windows 8.
There is no direct upgrade path to Windows 7, so the best approach is to replace the computer and migrate applications and data to a Windows 7 or Windows 8 PC. I strongly recommend going to Windows 8.1 because it is more stable, hardened, and faster than Windows 7. Even if you have an application that wont work on Windows 8, there is still a way to migrate it.
Windows 8 includes a feature called Hyper-V which can run a virtualized (simulated) copy of your Windows XP PC with your old programs and data. How to do this is a topic for another article. But it works great and preserves your ability to keep the old and bring in the new.
About the author
David Streit is an IT consultant and an entrepreneur, as principal of Stephill Associates, LLC. in Manalapan, New Jersey. Stephill provides IT infrastructure and technology advisory services for small business clients in New Jersey and New York City. Streit has worked with PCs and technology for more than 25 years. He and his wife, Claudia, have two daughters, Hillary and Stephanie.
Stephill Associates website.