The Death of Windows XP and Office 2003

It is an ominous title, but very important.  According to a recent survey, more than a quarter of all the computers out there are still running Windows XP.  That is more than everyone running Mac, Linux, Windows Vista, and Windows 8 combined.  Microsoft released Windows XP in 2001, then they skipped a release in their normal cycle, and then released Vista which nobody liked.  So most of us have had over a decade on this one operating system, but the party is coming to an end.  Microsoft is discontinuing support for Windows XP, among other products, in April.

April 8, 2014 is the End of Life date for Windows XP

Microsoft has a predefined product lifecycle for its software.  When the release a product to the public, they already know when the end-of-sale date will be, when the end of Mainstream Support will be, and when the end of Extended Support will be.  In general, most products will be supported for 5-10 years.

Which brings us back to our eulogy today.  On April 8, 2014, the Extended Support period will expire for Windows XP and Office 2003, and Exchange 2003.  Server 2003 has another year and will reach end-of-life on July 15, 2015.  You can actually continue using these products as long as you like, they will not stop working in April, but MS will stop fixing bugs.  And hackers will continue finding bugs.

[learn_more caption=”Find out more about Microsoft’s support lifecycle”] The rules are bit complex, but in general, they will fully support a product for 5 years in what they call their “mainstream support” period. Then, for business and development (i.e. programming) product, they offer an additional 5 years of “extended support.” These are the times in which you can call up Microsoft phone the phone, get their tech support on the line, and they will fix your problems (for a fee).

This is also the period in which they release service packs, patches, and security updates. Every month (sometimes more often), Microsoft releases updates to all of its products that fix bugs that have been found. These get pushed to everyone’s computers through Windows Update. Your computer should be doing this automatically. (If it is not, call us and we can discuss why it is important.) After the end of the Extended Support period, Microsoft stops releasing these fixes.[/learn_more]

So what do you do now?  Don’t panic yet.  First, you have a full quarter until we reach that date.  Second, like we mentioned already, Windows will not stop working come April 8, they will just stop releasing security patches and bug fixes for it.  So here are a few suggestions to help you prepare for this:

  1. Look through your network and identify which computers have Windows XP, which computers have Office 2003, and if any servers are running Exchange 2003 email server.  Your IT vendor should be able to provide a report on this info in just a couple minutes.
  2. Office can often be upgraded.  Computers with Windows XP should be replaced, not upgraded.  For help in choosing new computers, read this article.  Exchange 2003 should not be upgraded; either replace with a new server or choose a different email solution (like Hosted Exchange).
  3. With all this information at hand, review your IT budget.  If it needs to be updated in light of your results, meet with your IT vendor and revise accordingly.  If you do not have an IT budget yet, read this article for information on how to create one.

Do you still have Windows XP running in your office?  Are you concerned about how to deal with this information?  Is your office already up to date and you feel safer now that you know you will be in support for the next several years?  Tell us what you think and how your company has dealt with this situation.

Microsoft’s lifecycle policy
Microsoft’s lifecycle product index
Net Market Share’s operating system distribution