By now, every Windows XP user and his third cousin should know that on April 8, the clock runs out on the venerable OS.
But recent developments might give XP users a bit of a reprieve. When and how Microsoft will blink are the open questions.
Microsoft’s original stance: The end is the end
The folks in Redmond continue to insist that XP is well and truly done on April 8. But there could be half a billion XP computers still out there humming away, depending on how you count them and what assumptions you’re willing to make. Getting an accurate count is exceptionally difficult, becausemany of them aren’t connected to the Internet via a browser. Consequently, they don’t appear in independent Internet stats. But whatever the precise number, a huge number of PCs are officially end of life in just over two months.
Contrary to what some XP users believe, “end of life” doesn’t mean that XP computers will stop working, that XP can no longer be installed, or that existing security patches will be pulled from Windows Update. It means that officially, on April 8, Microsoft will no longer support XP — there will be no more updates for the OS.
Regular Windows Secrets readers have seen numerous stories on living with XP for the long term. See, for example:
- Preparing Windows XP for the long haul – Aug. 12, 2010, Top Story
- Building your own XP Service Pack 4 – Dec. 1, 2011, Top Story
- PC security after XP’s official end of life – Sept. 19, 2013, LangaList Plus
- Securing XP PCs after Microsoft drops support – Dec. 19, 2013, Top Story
If you’ve been reading this newsletter, you know that XP’s end is coming. But you probably didn’t know that Microsoft’s moved the goalposts — repeatedly. What end of life means, precisely, has been redefined by Microsoft at least three times in the past couple of months. And there’s a strong possibility that the definition will change again before April — to the confusion of most XP users.
So what did end of life mean? Back in the good old days — say, three months ago — Microsoft’s description of the April deadline suggested nothing less than the complete end of any XP support: no tech-support help, no new enhancements, and no security updates. (That, as it turns out, isn’t quite correct. As I’ll discuss below, Microsoft will no longer give away updates — but businesses with corporate-licensing plans can pay for them after April 8.)