It’s Finally Time to Ditch Windows XP

By  |  Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 12:41 am

(Here’s another story I wrote for

When Microsoft released Windows XP in October of 2001, the software got upbeat reviews and sold briskly. But I doubt if even XP’s biggest boosters would have predicted just how long-running a hit it would be. Nine years later, it’s still the the world’s favorite operating system.

Two words explain XP’s uncommonly long reign: Windows Vista. The much-hyped 2007 Windows upgrade turned out to be notoriously glitchy (especially at first) and short on substance. Some PC users tried Vista and loathed it; others simply chose to avoid it. Either way, XP got a new lease on life.

And then Windows 7 arrived last October. For the millions of PC users who chose to skip Vista, 7 is the upgrade to XP. And it’s a nifty one, retaining what was good about Vista — such as the ability to instantly search your entire hard drive — while fixing every major problem. Features for juggling multiple applications are greatly improved, and annoyances such as pop-up messages are much reduced. Overall, Windows 7 is just plain pleasant in a way that even XP isn’t.

Even so, when I reviewed Windows 7 back in October, I told would-be upgraders that there was no shame in waiting a bit just to make sure that the early adopters who installed it on day one didn’t discover any nasty surprises. For the most part, they didn’t — and the vast majority of those who participated in a survey I conducted raved about the software.

So today my advice is simple: If you’re buying a new PC, get Windows 7. And my recommendation to XP users who aren’t ready to get a new machine is only a little more complicated: Unless you’re really resistant to change or have a really old PC, spending $120 on Windows 7 Home Premium edition is a great way to get more out of your computer.

But before you take the Win 7 plunge, do this:

Make sure your PC is up to the task. Most computers sold in the past few years should do a decent job of running Windows 7. But it’s still wise to run Microsoft’s Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor, which will do a quick system check and provide customized upgrade advice. (One tip: If your PC doesn’t already have 2GB of RAM, get it.)

Back up. I’ve heard very few horror stories of Windows 7 upgrades gone awry, but you don’t want to be the exception that proves the rule. Before you begin the process, make sure that you’ve backed up your data to an external hard drive or an online service such as Mozy — especially irreplaceable items such as family photos and videos.

Take your time. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t give you any way to install Windows 7 over XP, retaining existing programs and settings. You need to install a fresh copy of the operating system, reinstall your favorite software, set up peripherals such as your printer, and generally recreate your environment the way you like it. Consequently, it’s best to do the job when you’re not in a huge hurry. (I’ve been known to upgrade Windows on otherwise lazy weekends.)

What if you’re still not convinced that it’s time to give up XP? Fret not — I’m done trying to convince you otherwise. In fact, I’ll provide some tips for you, too:

Stay up to date. Let’s face it, XP is inherently antiquated. But it’s an antiquated operating system that’s still evolving, especially when security vulnerabilities are discovered. Use Microsoft’s Windows Update service to verify that you’re running Windows XP Service Pack 3, the most recent major update — and that you’re getting new security patches as they come out.

Get a modern browser. Don’t use Internet Explorer 6, XP’s default browser — it has too many security holes and is too lacking in essential conveniences, such as tabbed browsing. At the very least, upgrade to Internet Explorer 8, the current version. Better yet, try one of the two Windows browsers I recommend most often these days: Firefox and Google Chrome.

Prepare for the inevitable. Unless you have no interest whatsoever in new software, hardware or services, you will say goodbye to Windows XP at some point. Microsoft has repeatedly bowed to reality, allowing manufacturers to put XP inside the boxes of even Windows 7 PCs as a “downgrade” option. But XP’s time is almost over, and there’s going to be more and more interesting stuff that won’t work with it, such as Microsoft’s own upcoming Internet Explorer 9, which will support Vista and 7 only.

So feel free to hold onto XP if you choose. Just know when to say when — and understand that the day is coming soon.



9 Comments For This Post

  1. Stilgar Says:

    The older I get, the less I care about having the latest OS. I’m not going to be shelling out any money for a Win7 upgrade until I get a new PC. I have Win7 on my work machine, and I do like it, but other than reasonable 64-bit support, WinXP still works fine for me at home. That is to say, I can think of better ways to spend $170 right now.

  2. hadr0n Says:

    I’ve managed to avoid Vista apart from the inevitable fixing of problems on other peoples PCs which they wouldn’t have had if they were using XP (their computers would run faster too).

    Windows 7 doesn’t seem much better in all honesty and I don’t really see it as the upgrade for me. Once I’ve finished my dissertation my next upgrade is probably going to be to finally make the move to Linux (probably some flavour of Debian) rather than new version of Windows.

    I wonder how many people are thinking the same? With all the improvements to GNU/Linux desktop distros over the last few years might it be Linux’s time to shine?

  3. sfmitch Says:

    While I agree that getting Windows 7 on a new machine is a good idea, I think it is a waste for most people running Windows XP to upgrade.

    Putting that much money and time into an old system just doesn’t make sense.

    What exactly do you think is worth the $120 and hours of time to upgrade XP?

    With new computers so inexpensive, I would recommend avoiding spending money on an old system and instead start saving for a new computer.

    If someone wants to spruce up that old system for free – backup, erase and re-install XP. It will run like it did when it was new.

  4. Praveen B Says:

    Been using XP since the day it came out and still works like a charm for me. I tried using Windoze Vista but gave up after a while.It was too buggy, slow and had a mind of its own. I still use XP on my home computer and somehow i feel that I won’t be upgrading to 7 anytime soon as all my basic home computing needs like watching movies, browsing, listening to music and playing flash games [lol] are fulfilled by XP.Maybe when I buy a new computer….

  5. ReynaldoRiv Says:

    Hey, I notice you only seem to write these stories for FoxNews, why not submit these articles to other news outlets like CNN or MSNBC or maybe even the BBC?

  6. Ahad Bokhari Says:

    I love XP, have worked on hoards of stuff with this single operating system for quite some time now. Of course Linux is right there as well, right next to XP 🙂

    I’ve thought about upgrading to Windows 7 and i will (never really cared about Vista and all the hardware problems, some compatibility issues with old hardware also stem into Windows 7). I do advocate change, however if the tools are suiting me fine now then I’m going with that.

    That said I certainly don’t believe the hype. In my region Sir(s) everyone is using cracked software, and that is the _root of all evil. It amazes me how silly people are, I would never load a pirated copy (especially OS) on my machine…

  7. Tune Up Says:

    Although I definitely like Windows 7, I do agree with the people who think it’s not worth it to invest in an upgrade yet. If you’re still using an older OS like XP or Vista, it would be a good idea to discover ways to tweak and tune your system. For me, both XP and Vista can work fine with the right tools and tweaks. What do you think about trying to tune your old system before buying a new machine or upgrading? This blog post can help with tweaking your current system—

  8. Hokawho Says:

    I bought a Mac. Linux is good too. I have it in a VM, I also Have my old XP in a vm for those rare times.

  9. atypicalnerd Says:

    For businesses, or home users who can't live without some XP software, even if you upgrade to Win7, you still won't lose your WinXP. A free copy of XP is available as virtual machine in Win7 Professional. PROFESSIONAL, NOT HOME!

    Plenty of businesses need this feature.

    Win7 support for older software doesn't always exist, and some businesses have embedded older software into their core functionality. (Like the one I work for.)

    If the choice was to spend a vast fortune re-writing older software (never going to happen), or never upgrading the OS (really bad idea) then businesses would be in a bad way. Luckily, Microsoft has made it easier to upgrade without losing backward compatibility (albeit in a way that most casual computer users will find confusing and difficult to set up).

    So really, for the price of a Win7 Pro license, you get two operating systems, the latest (Win7) and the greatest (in terms of compatibility and software library, Win XP).

    That said however, I use Linux at home, and love it. If you've a mind to tinker, if you consider yourself above average in technical skill, and if computing is your hobby, you should do yourself a huge favor and dig into Ubuntu. It's free, fast, stable, easy (once you learn how it works, which is different from Windows of course) and it's also got loads of nifty features that make it a pleasure to work with. I have to admit, it's made my home computing life so much more pleasurable that I will never go back to Windows OSs. It's like having a Mac, without having to pay for it. 🙂