Windows XP End of Support

Yesterday was crunch day for many people out there still running Windows XP as Microsoft support for the aged operating system ended. Yesterday was significant being Patch Tuesday, the usual monthly release cycle of Windows Updates across the Microsoft operating system and product lines but for Windows XP, this is supposedly the last.

Some customers have already paid up multi-million pound deals to continue getting support for Windows XP beyond this date such as the UK government which agreed a £5.5 million deal with Microsoft to continue to receive support (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/microsoft/10741243/Government-pays-Microsoft-5.5m-to-extend-Windows-XP-support.html) but this only gives them an extra 12 months before the support ends once more. I think that people have left the Windows XP support issue to so late in the day to even give thought to that it’s costing them sums of money like this is a huge shame and a missed opportunity.

I work in IT and I’m a big evangelist for the latest and greatest from Microsoft so I’ve got a hugely biased view on the Windows XP support issue but this isn’t something that Microsoft have pulled out of the bag without notice. Microsoft have been warning people for quite some time that XP support would end and for an operating system first released in 2001, it’s had a fantastic run of 13 years but times have to move on as holding onto the past only hinders you long term.

You can see for yourself when Microsoft will be retiring support for applications and operating systems and the transition between phases of the support lifecycle at the Microsoft Support Lifecycle Index at http://support.microsoft.com/gp/lifeselectindex.

Windows 7

Windows 7 is a great mainstay operating system and for 99% of applications currently running on Windows XP, you won’t have an issue so moving to Windows 7 not only keeps you in support but it will improve the effectiveness of your employees due to improvements and usability gains in Windows 7 over XP, not to mention the ability to support a fuller and richer set of hardware features and capabilities: 64-bit anyone? Windows 7 has extended support available until January 2020 which gives you another 6 years before you need to worry about the problem. Windows 7 has a pretty similar look and feel to Windows XP which means the operating system isn’t a culture shock to them.

Windows 8

Windows 8 has improved a lot since it’s initial release with Windows 8.1 and most recently with the Windows 8.1 Update 1, not that I personally had a problem with it prior to these update releases but we know that others did for certain. Sure, there are going to be application compatibility issues with applications coming forwards from Windows XP to Windows 8.1 but that’s to be expected really when you try and make a 13 year technology jump in one hit but unless applications are making specific calls into hooks in the operating system there still shouldn’t be any major issues aside from perhaps browser?

The user interface and experience is going to be daunting for some people sure but Microsoft are aiming to quash this with more and more updates to Windows 8.1 to improve keyboard and mouse control for classical desktop users and actually, the majority of people will love it once they become accustomed to it.

I moved by mum over to Windows 8 and later Windows 8.1 sometime last year. She works for a government sector group in the UK and is one of these stuck on Windows XP and Office 2003 people by day. She took to Windows 8.1 like a duck to water and loves it and that’s on a conventional laptop, not even a touch screen device to really get the most out of it.

Internet Explorer

One of the biggest hang ups for Windows XP that I see is Internet Explorer. As sad as I find it both as an IT Pro and someone who tries to write code for websites, people still use Internet Explorer 6, 7 or 8 because some enterprise applications were designed for the ways that they uniquely rendered pages and moving upwards to Internet Explorer 11 seems like an unsurpassable mountain.  Old versions of Internet Explorer not only potentially harm the user experience because of limited or no support for modern Internet standards but also for security because the older browsers can be more susceptible to attacks through exploits which are often protected against either in more modern software or even at a hardware level thanks to improvements in technologies like Intel Data Execution Protection (DEP).

I’m aware of one organisation who is deploying Google Chrome to allow them to use a new HTML5 web application instead of upgrading from Internet Explorer 8.

Enterprise Mode in Internet Explorer 11 with the Windows 8.1 Update 1 release is designed to try and deal with this by allowing Internet Explorer to render pages in a manner consistent with older versions of Internet Explorer and we can control all of these settings as an administrator with Group Policy.

Group Policy Enterprise Mode

Office 2003

Yes, some people do still use. There are so many features, improvements and optimizations in every version of Office since 2003 that people working with Office 2003 must feel like they are being left out to pasture. I think if I had to go back to working with Windows XP and Office 2003 that a part of me would actually die. It’s even just the little things that make all the difference like Flash Fill in Excel 2013, one of my personal favourites.

If anyone has ever send you an Office 2003 format document such as a .doc and you are using Office 2010 for example, open that file, and save a copy of it as a .docx and check the file size difference. The XML file formats are so much smaller that if you were to convert all of a businesses existing documents to the XML formats, I’m pretty confident that you could reduce your storage growth expenditure for the forthcoming financial year paying for a large part of your Windows operating system upgrade project.

Upgrade Easily

Moving to later versions of Windows need not be as hard as some people fear either. System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) for example can be used with User State Migration Toolkit (USMT) to migrate a machine, applications and all of the users data and settings from a Windows XP machine to a Windows 7 machine using an automated task sequence process requiring no user input. You could even deliver it as a self-service offering for end-users to upgrade when its convenient to them.

Moving off Windows XP could even be the driver you need to review your technology approach and spur you to start looking at other options like VDI or tablet devices?

Try It You Might Like It

I guess what I’m getting at is that I work in IT, I deal with enterprises all day long and I understand the challenge but I still don’t quite understand how some people have managed to hang on to Windows XP for quite so long especially with the rise of the millennial in the workplace. These new workers are becoming more demanding of enterprise IT to provide technology experiences not only with more synergy to experiences they are used to in the home but also with the adoption of BYOD. Yes, BYOD adoption rates are questionable in both volumes according to who your source is and what exactly do you define as BYOD but there is no denying it is happens to varying extents.

I believe that there are a lot of organisations out there who have a perceived Windows XP problem because that’s what they think is the case through fear and uncertainty (FUD) spread through the media about new versions of Windows but I ask have you actually tried Windows 7 or Windows 8.1? Have you actually built out a device with the operating system and tested all of your applications? What is the cost to replace one or two applications that don’t upgrade quite right or the cost to revamp a web interface with a web developer for a couple of weeks verses paying large sums of money for special support arrangements for Windows XP with Microsoft, something which doesn’t actually help you solve the problem but only prolongs it’s effects upon you?

Using NTBackup in Vista

So it’s official that with all of the nice new features and pretty things in Vista that the new backup utility sucks especially if your interested in scheduling things from the command line.

Reason? The new Vista backup utility only allows you to backup entire volumes or specified mount points using their GUID, so what happens if you want to backup only a few selected folders?

The answer is to use NTBackup from Windows XP or Server 2003, however this isn’t as simple as copying the ntbackup.exe file from the XP System32 directory.

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