How old is Windows XP? It was released the same year as the first-generation iPod. The first of the eight Harry Potter movies was not yet out. DVDs were just starting to displace VHS for home video. It would be three years before cell phones commonly had cameras, color screens, and Internet access. Only about 9% of American households had adopted broadband Internet. It was years before the launch of Facebook, GMail, or Google Maps.
Windows XP was originally released in 2001. You could buy it pre-installed on a new computer up until 2008, and on netbooks until 2010. Even after the introduction of newer versions of Windows, it continued to have the largest market share of any personal computer operating system until August 2012, when it was overtaken by Windows 7. Microsoft continued supporting it with bug fixes and security patches until this year, but that support officially ended on April 8, 2014.
The 13 years since Windows XP was introduced have included a lot of changes in the way we use computers and the Internet. Microsoft’s end of support for Windows XP means that it really is time to move on to a more modern operating system. You might be able to install Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 on your old computer, or you might be better off buying a new computer with Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 pre-installed.
If you have a really good reason for keeping Windows XP – for example, a favorite piece of software that isn’t available for later versions of Windows – you can continue to use it if you keep the computer off the Internet. Get a modern computer to use on the Internet and keep the old one permanently offline.
Why? Because by connecting an out-of-date computer to the Internet, especially if it’s using an always-online broadband connection, you endanger both yourself and other Internet users, just as somebody operating an unsafe vehicle on the highway endangers both himself and other drivers.
Without fixes to known bugs and patches for known security vulnerability, your outdated computer connected to the Internet is a magnet and safe haven for hackers. The risk to yourself is that, once hacked and hijacked, your computer might be vandalized so that you lose data, or your passwords and personal data might be stolen in a way that could lead to identity theft. The risk to others is that your computer can be used by the hijackers without your knowledge to crank out malware-infested spam email, participate in online attacks against corporations or governments, or even host porn or other illegal software.
So please, do us all a favor and update now.