Don't believe the lies about Windows XP's imminent death

On April 8, Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP, but XP-based PCs will continue to work just fine

Every few weeks, you see a bunch of stories warning that Windows XP will meets its demise on April 8, when Microsoft stops supporting the 12-year-old version of Windows, including ending security updates for the world's second-most widely used version of Windows. XP will reach what Microsoft calls "end of life" on April 8, but it will hardly die. XP-based PCs will run the same on April 9 as they did on April 7, and they'll be as secure on April 9 as they were on April 7.

I understand why Microsoft, PC vendors, and IT consultants are screaming over the "death of XP": They want to scare XP-using companies and individuals -- who comprise a whopping 30 percent of the customer base seven years after its successor's debut -- into buying new PCs, or at least getting new licenses and consulting gigs. FUD is the unfortunately common MO for tech companies' sales staffs. But I'm not certain why so many tech writers repeat this foolishness.

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Some tech writers have joined the "XP will die" bandwagon out of sincerity, some of mindless repetition of whatever press releases come their way. One who's joined the bandwagon out of sincerity is Ars Technica's Peter Bright, who strongly believes that users should switch to Windows 8.1 (or at least Windows 7) because the new Windows is much more secure and is actively maintained by Microsoft.

I recently called him out on Twitter about a story he wrote whose headline said XP was about to die, and we had a Twitter exchange about the whole issue. (To be fair, his actual story was more nuanced, and I know that writers rarely write their own headlines.) He argues that hanging on to XP means greater risk over time, whether of peripherals and applications not working on it or of unpatched security holes getting exploits from hackers who don't have to worry about Microsoft's eventual remediation getting in their way.

Both fears are theoretically true, but it doesn't mean XP is dying -- or that users will be any worse off after Microsoft ends support for Windows XP than they were before it. XP itself will not change, so the pros and cons of XP will remain the same as they are now for at least months to come. I also know that if large groups of users keep running XP, third parties will fill in many of the major security gaps and ensure application compatibility -- as they've been doing since 2007 through all three successors to Windows XP!

Microsoft and the PC makers don't like that fact, so they want to panic users to switch. The problem is that Microsoft and PC makers have created much of the reason that people cling to Windows XP in the first place, and I don't believe there's an easy way out of the dilemma they created for themselves.

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