Welcome to the seventh circle of (Old Windows) hell

I’ve been saying this for months, despite some people questioning my motives for it, i.e. was I just touting for business. But now it’s official – Microsoft themselves are telling you; ditch Windows XP by the time they stop releasing updates for it on 8 April next year or your computer will melt on the 9th.

Microsoft scares Windows XP users straight with undead bug warning

Well, not quite. But they are right, you do need to have left XP behind by next April. The link above tells you why but I’ll try and boil it down a bit.

Let me use this analogy – the basic engine of a car hasn’t changed much for over 100 years, but it’s been refined and improved and new technologies introduced, and the original car engine would be completely useless in a modern car, and may even be dangerous. (Please, petrolheads, don’t bombard me with fine details about this. I’m merely trying to explain a complicated issue as simply as I know how to as many people as I can with an example they can relate to). The ‘engine’ of Windows is a similar beast, with all versions still retaining a small core from what went before (usually referred to as “legacy” code). And that small core may well contain one of the countless little flaws that Microsoft patch once every month. And that’s why, if you’re still running XP next April, you could be in for a very bumpy ride security-wise.

Because, as now, Microsoft will continue to test and analyse the versions of Windows they are still supporting – Vista, 7 and 8, and the Server software. And, if they find any security flaws (which they will) they will write a fix and unleash it on you, the unsuspecting public. BUT if they find one of those flaws in the legacy code I mentioned earlier, that means that flaw will also be in XP. And because Microsoft will have stopped looking after XP, that flaw will remain unfixed. And in your system, ready to let the bad guys in. And make no mistake, the bad guys are waiting with baited breath. This could be their easiest and most lucrative operation yet, and all made possible by people who do not know about XP’s imminent demise and don’t realise the significance. And those who know but don’t think it’s a problem.

Trust me, it’s a problem. Because the cybercrooks can work out what’s been fixed in the new versions, by comparing a patched system to an unpatched system. This won’t just tell them what’s been changed, but if it is in the new or the legacy code. And if it’s in the legacy code, they will hurtle off at great speed to write a program that will crowbar that flaw wide open, to let themselves right into your computer, your bank accounts, your facebook profile, your twitter, your email, basically, your entire life. And, yes, you can then run all the usual tools and clean it. But without a patch from Microsoft, they’ll just wander straight back in at the first opportunity. It’s like blowing up a tyre with a puncture, and not fixing the puncture. It will go flat again. And next time you might be driving a little faster and you could get hurt.

So. In a nutshell. Start making arrangements to ensure that, come next April, you are an XP-free zone, however you choose to do that. Upgrade Windows, buy a new PC, buy a Mac, install Linux, however you do it. But do it. Because, like the slowly deflating tyre on a moving car, depending when it goes it might not just be you that gets hurt.

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