NOTE: In an update below are some suggestions as to what you can do after Microsoft stops offering support for XP and if you have to reformat or replace your hard drive after XP updates are no longer available.
by Jerry Lobdill, a retired physicist
If you're a Windows XP user who has delayed the dreaded Microsoft OS "upgrades" because they are frequently bombs, you are facing an excruciating torture session in April, 2014, when Microsoft will declare XP officially dead. Here's what this milestone means to Microsoft's captive audience.
In 1Q13, Windows
XP's market share of the OS market was 38.31 percent, following Windows 7
which commanded 44.72 percent. The usage of Windows XP has dropped to some
degree over the past year, but not as much as Microsoft would probably like. In
June 2012, the platform owned 43.61 percent of the market, and by December it
still retained 39.08 percent. That said, Microsoft has a long way to go before
Windows XP is completely out of the picture.
In 2011 400 million PCs were sold. Let's say, just for talking purposes, that at termination of XP there will be 400x10^6x0.3831 = 153,240,000 units that must upgrade to Windows 7 or 8. (The actual number of XP machines out there is far greater, but this crude estimate will do to make my point.)
My computer repair guy says that it would take a smart user 2 weeks of training to get facile enough with the new OS to the extent that he could be writing his book, building his spreadsheets, etc. without the distraction and frustration of having to learn how to do things using the new OS. Assume that he doesn't spend time or money reinstalling current apps and installing new ones needed because of the "upgrade". So...we've got 153,240,000x80 = 12.259200 billion man-hours that must be used and paid for to get everyone now using XP back to their previous productivity level. At, say, $20/man hour that's a cost of $245.184 billion--all borne by the employer, who used to employ secretaries to turn out reports, proposals, etc. How's that lookin' to ya, Mr. CEO?What if, instead, all "upgrades" were expected to be worthy of the name, providing enhanced worker efficiency--no lemon versions? And suppose the upgrades were expected to be downward compatible, so that no apps would die because of the "upgrade". There was a time when this was an option for Microsoft and Apple. Apple took the option (at least in the beginning), and Microsoft did not. Instead, Microsoft dreamed of a captive market with no options for customers regardless of consumer cost (Microsoft's profit). They decided that software would be designed by hackers (not degreed software engineers) who had no use for elegant code, stability of code, maintainable code, documented, modular code. They just pasted their new code over the old, left the old command structure in place, adding new controls to accommodate the new functionality being added, and shoved the "upgrade" versions of their Microsoft applications out the door as quickly and cheaply as possible using paying customers' complaints to serve beta version needs.
In other words, Microsoft figured their best strategy was to concentrate on locking in the client base as prisoners and milking them for all they could while maximizing profits. To hell with reliability, stability, longevity, sturdiness, efficiency of code, etc.. Make 'em pay every day if possible. To hell with users and their needs.
As a result we have planned obsolescence and shitty products. If a new Windows version is a crappy "upgrade" its crappiness will only create a better market for the next "upgrade". Let Microsoft Office grow in size. No problem. Disk space is no limiting factor.
This is a prison we're living in, folks, not a well-functioning free market with all its touted benefits.
QUESTION --- Posted by the editor of this blog: What if one cannot afford (or does not want) an "upgrade" by April, 2014 --- and has to reformat their hard drive (because of a virus or for whatever other reason) --- how does one obtain all the service packs, security updates, patches, and other programs needed to run their operating system on a computer that has already used an OEM version of Windows XP Pro? I previously had to buy new Windows CD because the original was lost, and I cannot buy a later version of Windows to work on my computer. Does this mean I will also be forced to buy another computer if I have to replace or reformat my hard drive again? I am long-unemployed and NEED a functioning computer!
UPDATE: In response to my XP question, I was informed that I do not need to upgrade after April 2014, but if I do not, I will not have the latest security patches and bug fixes provided by Micro$oft. Here's what they say:
You can either go one of two routes:
1) Stick with XP and not have any upgrades. An advantage to this is that you will not have to change around your settings, files, etc. The disadvantages are that new, future software will probably not be usable on XP, and your computer will be more susceptible to viruses, Trojans, backdoors, etc.
2) You can reformat your machine and install a Linux distribution. The advantages are numerous. Most are free, developed by skilled coders in their free time, and since they are not Micro$oft, viruses are generally not designed for Linux, as there are so many to design for. In essence, Linux is very secure compared to Windows. The disadvantage is that there is a little bit of a learning curve. Thankfully, there are so many different distributions, with several geared toward new converts, that will more than meet you needs. In addition, most Linux distros runs on very old hardware, so your older PC is not obsolete. Plus, there are Linux versions of many popular Windows Apps such as Firefox, Chrome, etc.
A good site to learn more is: www.distrowatch.com
If you decide to go the Linux route, several of them have a "Live CD" mode were you can boot them up in your CD drive and no changes are made to the underlying Windows file system. This allows you to test the distribution to see if it is something you actually want to install, at the cost of a CD. If you do decide to install it though, make sure you back up your data first to an external source.
How are you connected to the Internet? Do you use a cable modem
or DSL that you have to sign on with an account or if your computer
boots, are you already connected? If the former, you may have some
problems running Linux as most of that is Windows based. If that later, you should be okay. I would test a LiveCD out first to see if you have Internet, just to be safe.
If the hard drive dies, you can still run a Linux LiveCD to access the Internet if you have a cable modem, especially if it's wired to your PC directly and not wireless and is one of the "always on" Internet connections that you do not need to log into, so Linux should detect your Internet just fine without any configuring, whether installed or LiveCD.
Another option is, you can partition a
portion of your hard drive and do a dual boot. One partition is
Windows and the other would be Linux. The problem with that is that it
is somewhat advanced and I do not recommend doing it unless you have
everything backed up and are comfortable with the overall process if
something goes wrong.
I would download and burn a copy of a distro now, just in case your
system does die; more of a "be prepared" approach. Several distros
have a LiveCD mode where you can test them out. Also, if your HDD does die, you
can boot up into the LiveCD mode (choose the Boot option "CD ROM"
during your boot process) and at least access the internet and websites. Nothing
in that mode will save, however, as it is running in memory, unless you back it
up to an external source.
I would start with an easy one with a lot of support, such as an Ubuntu based distribution. I use Xubuntu at www.xubuntu.org as it has a nice desktop environment called XFCE which I find visually appealing and
quite usable. There are so many different kinds of desktop environments though, so really it is your choice.
A good tutorial on installing Xubuntu that I found on YouTube is here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1aIsKO29SM
The same gentleman shows how to use various programs in a follow up to the above here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDZeIFkefOs
Another distribution that runs on very old equipment and uses the same
software repositories as Ubuntu is AntiX at http://antix.mepis.org
If your computer is very old and Xubuntu does not run well on it, AntiX is definitely a good option as it has very little hardware requirements. However, it is not as user friendly as Ubuntu or it's derivatives such as Xubuntu above.
If you need it, good, free burning software for windows is ImgBurn: www.imgburn.com.
Also, XP and Linux are different operating systems entirely. Here is a good breakdown of the differences: www.computerhope.com/issues/ch000575.htm
If you want to run some of your old XP programs on Linux, you can use a program called WINE: www.winehq.org
However, there are alternate programs in Linux that are free that are comparable to what you may be using now. A good list of Windows to Linux comparable programs is here: www.linuxalt.com. For instance, if you are looking for an alternate Office suite that is compatible with M$ Office, there is LibreOffice: www.libreoffice.org