The Sun Sets on Windows XP

WindowsXP SunsetThe fateful day is nearly upon us. On April 8 of this year, Microsoft will officially drop all support for the venerable Windows XP operating system.

XP, despite its age, is everywhere! Even one of our staffers here at Wheatstone still has XP on his desktop computer, simply because there’s never been a good reason to upgrade it. It does what he needs it to do! The same may be true in your plant.

For a long time, the rule among reliability-conscious engineers has been, “If it works, don’t fool with it.” (I’ve softened that a little. It’s a family newsletter.) If an automation system, for example, worked reliably under XP when it was installed, it’s likely to go on working reliably under XP, and any OS change at all would be an unnecessary risk. Most engineers won’t go around upgrading operating systems unless there’s a compelling reason to do so.

For some, the compelling reason may have arrived. After April 8, if you continue to use Windows XP, Microsoft has expressly stated that you’re on your own, and that you’re doing so at your own risk.

Let’s look at three of those risks.

First of all, there will be no further security updates. Any future exploits that the Internet’s ne’er-do-wells come up with after the sunset date will not be addressed by Microsoft at all. Once these exploits have been found and disseminated among the bad guys, your XP system will be vulnerable to them and will stay that way.

A second risk to consider is the effect the sunset will have on developers. You might now be relying on commercial or freeware anti-virus software. Will those developers continue to offer XP-compatible product updates now that the operating system is unsupported? Some might, but it would be foolish to count on that support continuing for more than a few months.

Thirdly, the sunset date might also be the beginning of the end of XP-compatible drivers. Should you find yourself needing to replace a graphics card, a network interface (NIC), or even a printer, you might well have difficulty locating one that has XP drivers available — supporting an unsupported operating system isn’t profitable for the vendors.

There’s one ray of light in all this, and that is that Microsoft has assured us that activation (the process necessary to make new XP installations work) will continue to be available after April 8. We don’t know how long that will continue, though, so it will be something to keep a sharp eye on.









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