Microsoft is Ending Support for Windows XP and Office 2003
Some computer users may be in for a bumpy ride going into the future.
Microsoft says it will end support for the Windows XP operating system and the Microsoft Office 2003 business software suite beginning on April 8.
After that date, the programs will function, but they will not receive automatic software updates. Microsoft will no longer provide technical assistance to resolve problems. Users should either upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 and a current version of Office, or buy a new computer.
There are significant risks for computer owners who do not upgrade and continue to use their computers. Without security updates, computers will not have adequate protection from spyware, viruses, and other malicious software, even if anti-virus programs are used. If a computer becomes infected, data can be stolen or damaged, identity theft can occur, and the compromised computer may infect other computers.
Upgrading Windows XP to Windows 7 or 8.1 requires the hard drive to be erased before installation. All data, settings, and programs must be backed up onto another hard drive, USB flash Drive, CD, or to cloud storage prior to the upgrade.
Not all older computers have the capacity to run Windows 7 or 8.1. To determine whether a computer is a candidate for the upgrade, the system requirements for the new version of Windows should be compared with the computer's system information.
Click HERE to see system requirements for Windows 8.1. On this webpage, Microsoft provides an "Upgrade Assistant" link at the end of the requirements listings as a quick way to automatically assess whether the computer can be upgraded to Windows 8.1.
Older computers that may not qualify for Windows 8.1 may be able to run Windows 7. Click HERE to see the Windows 7 system requirements. Windows 7 is no longer sold directly by Microsoft but can be purchased online and from some retail stores.
To locate your computer's system information for comparison with the Windows 7 or 8.1 requirements, check the computer's manual and documentation, contact the manufacturer, or look on the computer itself. To check the computer, left click on the start button, right click on My Computer, and left click on Properties to open the system information listing.
Windows operating systems are available in two versions, 32 bit and 64 bit. The operating system must match the computer hardware, so the bit version of the upgraded Windows operating system must be the same as the original version.
To determine whether the computer's version of Windows is 32 bit or 64 bit click HERE.
The computer's system information listing also can indicate the version. The 64 bit version is listed as "Windows XP Professional x64 Edition Version," and the 32 bit version is called "Windows XP Professional Version."
For computer owners who prefer to upgrade the computer themselves rather than hiring a computer technician, Microsoft has created a tutorial, "Upgrade to Windows 8.1 from Windows Vista or Windows XP."
Business owners have access to another resource. The Pennsylvania Small Business Development Centers reports, in the March 2014 "SBDC Advisor," that Microsoft estimates more than 20 percent of small businesses are currently using Windows XP. Recognizing the challenges that this presents, the "SBDC Advisor" recommends that "Business owners interested in personalized no-fee consulting on critical business processes should contact their local SBDC for assistance."