It's time to loosen your cold, dead grip on Windows XP

With XP apocalypse nearly a year away, admins should jump to Windows 7 or Windows 8 before they're pushed over the cliff

In just 13 months, Windows XP will be toast. Forever.

Anything is possible, but as of now, nothing suggests that Microsoft will push back its April 8, 2014, endgame for XP. If you haven't already done so, the time to migrate is nigh.

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Those of you who aren't impressed by Windows 8 may be waiting to see if Windows "Blue" is going to knock your socks off. My recommendation: Don't wait. Instead, play it safe with Windows 7 or make the leap with Windows 8. Supposedly "Blue" will be a free upgrade for Windows 8 users anyway.

What's holding back the XP crowd?

There are any number of reasons folks still cling to Windows XP. For some it has been pure economics. Older systems are chugging away, and you don't want to waste money you don't have in your budget.

But it's time to face facts. Windows XP was released in 2001. You had to know you'd need to upgrade to new systems at some point in the next dozen years -- you should've planned ahead. From a cost perspective, you're working with four-generation-old technology and at a security risk that could cost you more money in the long run than new systems will cost you now.

Microsoft will not provide further security updates to Windows XP, so all companies that need to be compliant are going to loosen their grip on these systems. Even though you might be able to get Windows 7 or 8 to run on an older machine that just barely meets (or barely misses) compatibility, keep in mind that just because you can get it to run doesn't mean you should. Think about the experience you'll be providing your users. If it's horrible and slow, you'll make them less productive, and they'll hate both the new OS and you for saddling it on an old horse.

Another big complaint is application compatibility. Folks say their apps won't work with Windows 7 or Windows 8. Here is where they need to do their homework and play with tools created specifically to assist them. For instance, the Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) is designed to help you evaluate and mitigate application compatibility. TechNet offers another great place for information on application compatibility.

Many applications you think will suffer compability issues may have upgraded versions. Sure, it's a pain to upgrade them, especially the homegrown apps, but it's all part of the application lifecycle. Plus, doing so can open up "opportunities," as Microsoft's Stephen Rose has pointed out. Along those lines, check out Microsoft's Windows 8 Jump Start series on Windows 8 Deployment to see how to make it happen.

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