To do a quick re-cap, Microsoft will cease to support Windows XP (and Office 2003) after April 8th, 2014.
This means that there will be no more updates from Microsoft (for XP/Office 2003) that often patch security holes, fix vulnerabilities, and enhance the functionality of Windows.
which means that your PC is likely to either get hacked (think stolen passwords, files, data security) and/or infected with malware and viruses sometime after April 8th.
Also, vendors who produce third party software and productivity applications will most likely cease to release updates for programs designed to run on Windows XP.
Read my post What the Windows XP End of Life Means for Your Business for more detail on this.
What Your Business Can Do About Windows XP End of Life
The first and most obvious solution to the problem would be to buy a new PC that either runs Windows 7 or Windows 8.
Microsoft will supposedly offer extended support for Windows 7 until January 2020 (just so you know, mainstream support for XP ended April 14th, 2009 — you probably didn’t even notice).
If you’re a Windows 7 fan, you may want to skip many of the well known big-box stores, as many of them focus on the consumer who generally wants the latest thing, and as a result are mainly selling PCs with Windows 8 installed.
Instead, look for sales channels that are more business-centric rather than consumer-centric.
Microcenter has stores that may carry Windows 7 based desktops and laptops. Unfortunately, there may not be a Microcenter in your area, but they do have a website.
If you’d rather have Microsoft’s latest flavor of Windows, just about any store that sells computers has PCs with Windows 8 (or the latest version, 8.1) installed.
What About Your Files and Programs?
If you opt for a new PC rather than upgrade your current model, you’ll face the issue of having to transfer all your programs and files over to the new PC.
This can be a somewhat trivial task, or a major undertaking depending on the amount of data (files) are on the old PC, the number and type of programs installed on the old computer, and the ability to easily find install discs/files and serial keys to activate the programs, among other things.
Some programs made for Windows XP may not work or be available for Windows 7 or 8.
For others, you’ll need to obtain the latest version to get it to work with the newer versions of Windows.
This all depends on the software you use.
Transferring files is usually as easy as copying them to a flash drive or external hard drive and then copying them back to the new PC.
The trick is to find ALL the files you’ll need, then copy them to the right places.
Again, this depends on the software that’s using the files and possibly the version of Windows you’re business is upgrading to.
Upgrading Your PC to Windows 7 or Windows 8
This is another option, depending on the hardware your computer is made up of.
The system requirements for running Windows 8 and 8.1 can be found here, but most non-technical people may not get much out of it.
Download and run the appropriate application. The screen shots below are for the Windows 8 upgrade assistant.
When it starts you’ll see a screen like the one above as it scans your computer’s hardware and installed programs.
Once it finishes, you’ll have the opportunity to view a report on what it found which will list any incompatible hardware or software, as below.
I also downloaded and ran the windows 8.1 upgrade assistant, which is not shown in any pictures here (I’m currently running Windows 7 Pro).
Curiously enough, even though the Windwos 8 upgrade assistant found a few small issues, the scan for 8.1 found no issues. This is most likely because Windows 8.1 has improved compatibility over Windows 8.
Which Path to Take?
When upgrading your PC to Windows 7, or 8.x it is important to keep in mind that not all upgrade paths are possible.
What does that mean?
For example, you will not be able to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 or 8 without wiping your drive and reinstalling a fresh copy of the newer operating system (note that some third party software may be available that allows XP users to upgrade to 7 or 8 while keeping all files, programs, etc intact. However, this can cause compatibility issue and is beyond the scope of this post).
You may also run into this situation if you wish to upgrade from a 32 bit version of Windows to a 64 bit version.
If it is not possible to upgrade from your version of Windows to a newer version directly, then you’ll need to back up all your important data, assure you have all discs and/or installation files for your programs, and make sure those programs are compatible with the newer versions of Windows.
Talk to a sales associate or call the online store for free help in determining which upgrades are possible and what your options are.
In the end, the decision to buy a new PC or upgrade your current computer to a newer version of Windows will depend on cost, time required, and many other factors.
When you boil it down, it’s a business decision just like all the other you’ve made.