I’m Sorry, It has Six Months To Live. Windows XP Is Dying.

Sure, lets be melodramatic for a bit.   I kept thinking of a doctor’s office with dark walnut book cases and the doctor talking to the patient in hushed tones. 

I guess I watch too much TV. 

We had this discussion last night.   Sitting on the bench, Bill, Kevin, and I, and our dogs Rack and Ellie, were watching life go by.  Bill’s Mom, Lisa, has an aged Windows XP computer.   We may be able to get some more use out of it by adding more memory since it only has 1 GB.  Maybe not.  But the thing that most needs to change is Windows XP.

On April, 8, 2014, Windows XP support from Microsoft will end.   Customers who pay lots of money will get support, but that won’t help you since Microsoft won’t be sharing that with the world. 

All of the dates for the end of life of Microsoft Windows are on this page.  You are safe with Windows 7 until 2020, although I suspect that you will find your software won’t work with it near the end.  Things might get a bit “weird”.

There are reports of people writing viruses to be set out into “the wild” on April 9, 2014 to create havoc.

Bot-nets, Trojans, and Viruses, Oh My! 

The result is that if you are running XP on your computer on that day or later, you really need to change that to a newer operating system.

So there’s the typical decision tree:

If you don’t need it, recycle the computer or pass it on to someone who can do that for you.  Problem solved!

If you still think you can use it, or you must keep it for “records”, or you’re just one of those paranoid people who can’t stand the idea of your old hard drive falling into someone else’s hands, you may be able to upgrade it.  Just don’t get onto the internet with Windows XP next April.  You’ll have a bad time of it, eventually.

Bad boys, Bad boys, What’cha gonna do when they come for you?!

Ok, so how do you know whether to upgrade?  If you really want to know, here’s a great oversimplification of things, but basically:

  • Windows 8 will work on a machine with 4GB of memory but if you are looking at a computer with XP on it, you’re going to be shocked when you start it with Windows 8.  You might want to stick with Windows 7.

  • You can install Windows 7 or Linux if you have 2GB of memory, an Intel Core Processor, or newer.

  • Assuming you need to keep the software and data on the computer, and your older computer has 1GB of memory and won’t take any more than that, Windows 7 Home can be installed, but it may be slow.  You probably won’t want to use it for much more than that “archive” look around for your old records or recipes.

  • If you don’t need the data and you’re comfortable with playing with new software, look into Linux.  Specifically Ubuntu Linux.   All the software you will need for normal “office” or “web surfing” use is free, including Libre Office to do what your Microsoft Office did for you.  One thing to consider with Linux is that there are very few viruses on Linux.  I don’t even run a virus scanner on my Linux laptops.

  • With older computers it gets more complex, but basically Linux will be your only option to use the machine on the web.  If the computer can’t take 1GB of memory, you really are limited.

Checking your memory is easy.   Start, find “My Computer” and right click on it.   Select Properties and it will be there for you.  Whether your machine can take more than what it has in it is another story, and you will have to do that research on the computer vendor’s website.  Good luck there, there are way too many combinations to fit in the scope of a blog article, so I can’t be all that specific.

Personally I have a mix of things here.   My older machines are either Linux or Windows 7.  While all of my computers are old, and some as old as 10 years old, I haven’t had to throw any out due to this XP thing – they’re all still serving a purpose.  Basically, this is the process I’m going through here as well.   Remember your mileage will vary and one size doesn’t fit all, you’re going to have to actually think this through, but it isn’t that tough, I’ve got faith in you!

No More Desktop Computer? Same Here!

I moved down to South Florida, Lock Stock And Barrel as the saying goes, in 2006.

Shortly after moving here, Florida Power and Light “decided” I didn’t need that desktop computer that I built.  There was a power spike and Poof! It was gone.

I was “That Guy”.  The one everyone leans on to fix their computer after their 10 year old discovered this cool website sitting on a server somewhere in Russia… that infected it with a virus.  The guy who built computers since Back In The Days of the 486. 

Remember those?

I would say it’s fair to put the number of Desktop PCs I’ve built in the area of 200, perhaps more.  It was never my job to do so, but it was always something that I found fun enough to do that I kept up with the trends.

Until I moved here.

Here is a 2 bedroom, 1 bath, 1200 square foot house.   Down from a 3 and 1 1/2 1900 square foot in Philly.

I kept my skills up, but there were some things that I found I really didn’t care for about a desktop computer.

The main reason why I stopped using a desktop computer was space.   My desk is in The Florida Room, and that room is the warmest one in the house.  The Redundantly named Florida Room would be between 5 and 10 degrees warmer depending on the time of year, and since I keep the house at 78 … I migrated to the living room.

The thing is that it required that I keep a desk out there.   That desk got used less and less and became a thorn in my side that illustrated what was said about Possessions Enslaving You.

While I was migrating off of that old desktop computer, I kept the desk there to do computer repairs when I needed to, but I realized that I was using the laptop more and more.   They got cheaper to the point where the laptop I use now costs less than some of the motherboards that I bought in the past.

Unless you were playing a game, you really didn’t need a cutting edge desktop computer in the home. 

I noticed that many of my friends and clients were doing the same thing.   Why keep a boat anchor next to a desk in a house cluttered with “goodies” when you really wanted to be in the comfy chair in a living room or media room with your feet up?

A cutting edge desktop computer got less expensive as a result.  You can get a good desktop computer from many vendors for less than $500 these days, but when you can get similar laptops for the nearly the same price it led me to ask why.

I still have parts laying around the house.   A spare power supply here, a fan there.   For the most part, that Hardware Closet I used to keep in Philly is reduced down to a box of odd junk and a computer case.   I haven’t been asked to repair a desktop computer in over a year – fix a Virus problem, yes, upgrade a laptop, yes, but fix a desktop?  Nope!

Besides, you’d be shocked how much benefit you’d get out of a couple gigs more memory, and a really hard look at what you have installed on the computer.  If you don’t need it, uninstall it!

It seems that a casual glance in a big box electronics store will prove my point.   Rows of Laptops being hovered over by people, curious folks tapping at a tablet to try to wrap their head around what it is, but the desktop computer aisle is empty.   It’s even hard to get someone to tell you about a desktop computer in a computer store these days. 

There used to be a great amount of strategy that you’d have to employ to get just the right computer.  Now, you pick your price point, buy a laptop, and within two years you start looking to see what’s out there again.

Which is great for me, since I have a nice stack of Hand-Me-Down laptops from people who know I’ll pass them onto someone who needs them.  Your computer “slowing down” is usually because something installed itself on your browser that needs to be banished – toolbars, for example are useless.

For the vast majority of us out there, those home users of the world, you do not need the high end computer that the salesmen of the world push you toward.  In fact, I’d wager if you really look at what you need, a 3 or a 4 on a scale of 10 would be more like it. 

Yes, I’m being deliberately vague there, this isn’t intended to be a specific discussion of what to get now, since many of these articles are re-read in the future.

So if the salesperson is trying to sell you a computer for the home that is a laptop, at least these days, if you’re paying more than around $500 or so, step back and think about it.  You may be happy with the ego side of the purchase, but you probably do not need the extra expense.  The one I’m using to write this on, I paid $225 for in September 2012, and I’ll probably get another 2 years out of it.

But the Desktop?  Stick a fork in them – in the home, they’re done.