Windows XP (and Linux/Ubuntu)

what to do when XP is no longer secure


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Windows XP was more secure than previous versions but now has become very vulnerable
Windows Vista , Windows 7,  8.1 and 10 are the current replacements for Windows XP, 2000 , Millennium and Media Edition. Vista is supported until 2017. Windows 7 and 8.1 carry on until 2020. Microsoft's page is confusing. http://windows.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows/end-support-help#find_topsupport

With a quick search of the internet showing refurbished Windows 7 machines selling for as little as 60 it really is time for people to 'bite the bullet' and upgrade from XP. Encouraging this move is the fact that Microsoft has promised users of Windows 7 and 8 to give a free upgrade to the very latest Windows (version 10) until July 2016. They claim that this version will overcome the shortcomings of Version 8 and 8.1, which had such a bad press and has failed to be taken up by the majority of users.

The death of Windows XP - a personal view: 
Microsoft's decision to end support for XP seems even more cavalier when you realise that 80% of the cash machines in the UK run on that old Operating System.  I am amazed that the combined muscle of governments, business and especially the banks have not been able to twist the arm of that company. I am have had  to help a small company whose network -and a program I wrote for them in 1990 (!) - is dependent on two versions of Windows which are no longer secure. WHAT ARE MICROSOFT THINKING ?

Microsoft  partly relented on its strategy to no longer support Windows XP security and extended malware detection (only) until July 2015.  This came as an immense relief, not only the 30% of PC users worldwide who were still dependent on the popular 12 year old Operating System (OS), but also to the rest of the internet-using world (numbering billions) who are likely to be affected by a vulnerable OS.  This is because anyone (Microsoft/Apple/Android/Chrome users) can receive email containing malware spread from computers infiltrated by hackers.  We are not just talking about annoying spam or other money making devices. We are talking about serious internet crime, which is already costing businesses, financial institutions and private individuals, millions ($yenEuroYuan)  So what is to be done ?

I am pleased to say that expert, Leo, is saying similar things in this video.  Except that he seems to encourage those people who hate change to carry on with XP as long as they fortify their anti malware protection. I disagree with this. It can lead to disaster.  But he DOES also suggest the Linux (Ubuntu) method. http://askleo.com/what-to-do-about-windows-xp/?awt_l=BNm.h&awt_m=JYwNLaywTJdfbL

Strategy for XP Users (if you don’t use it I am sure you know someone who does)  See also http://bestnetguru.com/win8.1 for the experience of a friend who recently upgraded

So, what is to be done until an XP based computer finally becomes so insecure it should be detached from your router. The computer would still be useful for all the things we used to do before the internet became commonplace: word processing, printing, record keeping, playing games, CDs or DVDs and photo (viewing and improvement), as long as it is off line. Most desktops and early laptops can be disconnected by detaching a cable from the router. Newer laptops will be wireless but this can, and should, be turned off.

But before you begin to suffer from Internet withdrawal symptoms XP users must plan what to do. Can they upgrade their present equipment to an Operating System which IS going to be kept secure? If they are keen to stick to Windows, this means Vista (supported until 2017, Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 (supported until 2020) n.b. for the slower learner Windows 7 is the most like XP. Windows 8.1 would be a another new learning curve.

But looking at the comments from people who have struggled to install later Windows, even on comparatively new machines, l would not recommend the task, especially if your PC is quite old. After all, Windows XP has been around for over twelve years. These days Windows requires a smarter PC;. more hard disk space, more memory, even more capable graphics. All Windows type 'updates' you attempt will require the removal of XP and your precious programs and data, although it might just be possible to install the new OS alongside XP in a separate partition.

Windows Vista will be supported until 2017

See http://windows.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows-vista/upgrading-from-windows-xp-to-windows-vista. If you would be happy to upgrade from XP to a version of Windows Vista, providing you have an XP Home Edition  and can get hold of an UPGRADE VERSION of Windows Vista you can upgrade XP without losing your data.. But see the Microsoft article above for other XP versions. You must be able to buy an unregistered copy of Vista.Upgrade  See Ebay or Amazon. But it has to be an Upgrade version.  If you get a Full Install version of Vista you will have to back up your data and programs and reinstall them later. If you get a version that has been used (installed on another PC) you are likely to have problems when you try to register it with Microsoft.

Are there any alternatives to this method ?

One similar Operating System, which is free, is called Linux. One version, Ubuntu, (Ubuntu  13.10)  is fairly undemanding when it comes to computer specification (memory, speed etc) and this can easily be loaded on to an XP machine either in place of, or in addition to, the XP program. Ubuntu can be downloaded free onto a CD or memory stick from www.ubuntu.com/download/server.It comes complete with an Office compatible suite and a great deal more besides.

n.b. I have a contact, James, at help.sh.jayjay.2015@gmail.com Who is something of an expert in Linux and its variations, even those which are loaded onto Android hardware.  He is willing to answer questions on that subject (Jan 2015)

Installing Ubuntu on an old PC is straightforward. See http://www.ubuntu.com/desktop/features/social-and-email You will have to make sure that the machine will start from a CD. This means a look at the BIOS.  But most machines already are set up this way.  So, put your Ubuntu disk in the drive and restart the machine.Ubuntu displays a series of red dots on screen. Eventually you are asked whether you want to just Try out Ubuntu from the disk or Install it.  By all means have a look at it.first.  It takes a while to start from the disk. If you are happy to install, reboot the machine. You will see an option to install it alongside your current Operating System or instead of it. Read any release notes. Agree to download any updates.  Agree to download a 3rd party MP3 player plugin. If you replace your OS it will delete all data and will take less space. If you install it alongside it will require 4Gb of space to install it and connect it to the internet. It will need to create another partition on your hard disk.  The program makes it easy to resize partitions. Ubuntu supplies a number of free programs to replace Microsoft ones. e.g. Firefox for browsing, Thunderbird  or Gmail for email, Office Writer, Calculator, Impress ((Powerpoint) and there is an online software centre where you can download additional programs e.g. Picasa.  n.b. While these programs will read Microsoft format data, such as Word, Excel, Powerpoints, there might be slight differences and techniques. Ubuntu readily offers to connect to the internet either wirelessly or by cable.It also has drivers for most peripherals such as printers and scanners.  So it really is a reasonable alternative to Windows.and it has a better security record

Buy new ? See Help32

Many people will find the better option is to buy a new machine, complete with Windows 7, 8.1 or 10. This might be a laptop or desktop. New PCs and laptops can be found from around 250 including the OS. When you .think that Windows costs around 80 this is probably be the way most people will go. You can even buy a computer without an OS and buy a copy of a newer windows to install onto that. .
 In 2016 there are still many refurbished PCs with Windows 7 for as little as 6 delivered.

Another option ?

With the increasing popularity of tablet computers (See Help39) many people will decide on this route, keeping their old XP machine for ‘work’, printing, photography DVDs etc and using the tablet for all Internet access. Tablets have various operating systems, such as the Apple OS, Android, Windows and Chrome. All of these have proved to be much more secure than older Windows and are regularly and automatically updated, free. Prices of tablets vary from 40 to over 600 according to size, capacity, speed, capabilities and popularity. This is a subject on its own (see my page on Tablets). All tablets have touch screens and easily connect wirelessly to the same ‘router’ that almost everyone uses these days to connect to the Internet. They are fine for accessing the net, emails, photography, Skype, Facebook, Twitter.etc. But not so brilliant for writing your next novel. Most use an on-screen keyboard, although larger keyboards can be attached wirelessly. Printing is easier if you have a special wireless printer, although other printers which are attached to your network (e.g. via a PC) can be used.

So, many people may do just that. Keep the disconnected XP machine and exclusively use a tablet for the Internet. Not a bad idea

Minimum Specifications for Windows OS

These are approximately the same for Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 (32bit versions)  64 bit versions require a slightly higher spec.

Chip speed: minimum 1 ghz, 1Gb Memory (RAM), 40Gb hard disk, Directx9-capable graphics + a CD drive and Internet access

Linux versions e.g. Ubuntu, are much less demanding and will run on a PC with a low specification and small hard disk or even directly from a CD or USB stick, should you want to try it out. The basic version is Ubuntu 12.04 (32 bit), which is guaranteed to be updated and secure until at least 2017.

Ubuntu is similar but not identical to Windows, so there would be a short learning curve. Remarkably it recognizes your mouse, keyboard, screen and most printers without difficulty. There is the opportunity to install it OVER your XP, thus clearing the data you have or, if you have some spare space on your hard disk, you can install it alongside XP. You can then access things like your old Word documents, spreadsheets and Presentations using the free Microsoft Office compatible Libre Office suite.

So, if you are prepared to use a slightly different OS this would be the cheapest (indeed FREE) option. And you can try it out using a memory stick or CD even before installing it.

For instructions on how to upgrade to another Windows from XP see http://windows.microsoft.com/en-GB/windows7/help/upgrading-from-windows-xp-to-windows-7#T1=tab01

Apart from the security concerns, what other effects might there be?

Obviously Microsoft will see a surge in OS sales. But many people, who have enjoyed the benefits of comparatively virus free (and faster) OS, such as Apple's iPad or iPhone will consider making the switch (to Apple), despite the often higher cost of hardware. Other free OS such as those used on mobile phones and 'pads' will see an upsurge in usage. Linux will certainly receive more attention, especially as an alternative on the now aging PCs. It comes with a great deal of free software built in, which will be able to use existing word processing documents, spreadsheets, browsers, emails and graphics and can be downloaded f.o.c. It is reasonably fast and is not as prone to virus infection as Windows - though not completely impervious..

Many people will take the opportunity to buy a new machine, complete with Windows 7 or 8 or 10, meaning that there will be a glut of old XP units, which are already of little value. For a while there will be lots of work for 'upgraders', who will charge a great deal to transfer data from the old machines to new. Having done that job often myself, I know that it can be very time consuming, even for one's own machine. It is an even bigger job on an unknown machine, which may contain data and software vital to a company or individual. It is not an exaggeration to anticipate that some companies will fail if errors are made at this stage.

Worst aspect of changing  Undoubtedly, if you have older equipment or programs you may find that the OS does not like one or the other. You may have to abandon a favourite graphics program and learn another. In the case of hardware new OS try to direct you to a place on  your hard disk or the internet where you can find the relevant drivers.  But some manufacturers haven't got around to rewriting the drivers for all their equipment and you will find many people trawling the net for elusive drivers, even for quite recent printers, scanners, webcams etc In some cases you may have to abandon a piece of equipment and buy new.

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When Windows Vista appeared on the scene many people wondered whether to upgrade.  I did and do not have any complaints about it

Brief History of XP

Windows XP, which came out in 2001 and replaced ME and 98 has had many updates since then.  If you install a basic copy you are in for a long job to get it up to date (whether you use SP3 or a piecemeal update). I wouldn't even like to attempt it (again) on a 56k dialup connection.  Apart from the download time, the machine has to be rebooted often.  Many of the updates overwrite previous updates. It is possible to get the important (vital) SP2 on disk and this helps. Dialup folk were told to leave it on all night to download SP3.

The essential Service pack 1 was released just short of a year after XP on September 9th, 2002. It included the NET Framework, support for USB 2.0 and the expected fixes and security patches. SP1a soon followed to remove the Java virtual machine. The removal was because of a lawsuit with Sun Microsystems.

SP2 (which is another essential) saw the addition of the Windows Security Center, which controlled the use of a new firewall, pop-up blockers, and Windows Automatic Update. Blue tooth and WiFi support were also included as new additions to the operating system. Production of this service pack took major resources and time from Microsoft and required a good amount of time for the users to install. As the years stacked up after this major update, so did the more than 100 added patches and fixes.

n.b. XP users HAVE to have at least Service Pack 2 (SP2) in order to receive further security updates. So, if you are didn't install SP2 you will be left vulnerable to hacker attack.  Get all the Service Pack updates rolled into one (SP3) from http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com.

Service Pack 2 (80 - 110 Mb) for XP turned on the Firewall by default, and had a popup advert blocker, which appears at the top of Internet Explorer. If you click on this you can allow popups for that site either temporarily or permanently.  Also some attempt is made to prevent virus infections from attachments, including Zip files. But you still need anti virus software.  Control of these facilities is via two new icons in the Control Panel (Firewall and Security Centre).

Service Pack 3 (SP3) for Windows XP was an important release.  It was a roll up of all the previous updates but left XP looking substantially the same. The full update (including all versions and languages) downloads as a 316 Mb compressed file called KB936929.  but, using the Update Centre, it will vary according to what configuration you have and may be as little as 70Mb.  It took 30 minutes to download on my 2Mb/s broadband and a great deal longer to install. I think that people on dialup connections should try to get hold of a of an SP3 disk or file on a memory key as it would take many hours to download.  If you have a friend who has broadband they could copy the installer program onto your machine via a CD or memory stick. There were numerous complaints on the net of SP3 causing problems.  Some saying that it does not get along with certain anti virus programs or processors other than Intel.

An excellent resource for fixes for XP problems is http://www.kellys-korner-xp.com/xp.htm

XP users were regularly reminded to get updates - especially Security updates) and, since SP2, it has been possible to set your machine to download updates whenever you are on line. Click on the yellow shield which appears on the bottom line.  If you contact Microsoft's update site your machine will be checked for the updates you require.  There are so many and they are so large it is difficult to keep up to date. See next para.

Like Windows ME, XP has a Restore facility to enable you to go back to a previous date's setup, without losing data you have added since. So, if you mess things up or get a virus you should go back to a restore point fairly rapidly. Otherwise you may forget when it happened. I usually go Start, Help, Restore.

Simpler facility to set up one PC for multiple users, all having their own 'Desktop'. You can log out as one user, leaving your processes running, log in to another and back to the first knowing everything will be just as it was. This setup can be managed by a Computer Administrator so as to restrict some users (e.g. children) to certain facilities.  However, this does create a more complicated folder system, which is bound to confuse people (and take extra space).  Even I lose downloaded files down the rabbit warren of a system. Do remember the name of any such file (e.g. a picture) so, at least you can search for it !

MSN Messenger allowed real time communication with text, voice and video. Messenger has now been overtaken by Skype and was  withdrawn in 2013

You can communicate with your computer from any location as if you were there. You can now invite a technician to take over your PC and fix the problems remotely or you can do the same for other people.

A limited Cdwriting or Rewriting program was included, although you probably also needed something like Roxio Easy CD writer or Nero Burning software

File encryption became possible to prevent access by hackers

File and folder compression was possible without them going into 'Zip' format.  Compression, though, was limited.  

Transfer data and settings from an old computer to a new one via a wizard (but they have to be compatible with Windows XP)

Cleaner Desktop design and Settings control.

An advanced Task Manager, which shows you what processes are in operation and how much memory they are using, whether on one machine or on a network  If a program crashes you may still have to hit Ctl+Alt+Del and close it from this screen (if you can find it on the list)

A Utilities Manager (Windows key + U) which allows a dreadful, unintelligible, voice (Narrator) to attempt to say what is on your screen.  I would recommend that any blind or partially sited person obtains more advanced software.  Try Thunder or the www.willowpond.com site
Slightly more useful was its ability to say the keys you touch.  There is also an on screen keyboard, which might be useful for some people.  

The taskbar hid icons which were rarely used with a double arrow to access these. You can turn off this facility if you prefer. The Cleanup Wizard: XP tries to be helpful by clearing infrequently used icons off your desktop. This facility can be removed via Control Panel, Display, Desktop, Customize and unticking "Run Desktop Cleanup every 60 days"

The Windows Picture and Fax Viewer was one of the best additions to the Windows program This has full screen display, thumbnail, printing and slideshow features. Just click on a picture file and click the Printer and it will enable you to print any number of pictures per page, even turning them round to fit the paper. You do not have to obtain an additional graphic program for this, though I recommend you get one such as Picasa for the purpose of resizing and compressing graphics.

There is a Publish to Web feature which enables you to send pictures to a Microsoft server. Or you can upload your pictures so they can be printed for you - at a cost. But see the page on Picasa.

The digital camera, video and scanning Wizards of ME were retained. Windows Movie Maker (V2) was available on the Windows Update site and the latest version of the Media Player was also included. This included DVD movie playback

The My Music Folder allowed you to play music or shop for music on line. You could view tracks by artist, album track number or even see an album cover. You could extract ('rip') music from a CD. Windows Media program will compress sound files to WMA files, even smaller than MP3's and MUCH smaller than WAV files.

The Windows Media Video Format (WMV) allows as much as 1.5 hours of video to be fitted into a gigabyte. You can vary the quality and size and, therefore, the file size.

XP may suddenly say "There is an error, please click here so it can be reported to Microsoft".  In most cases that is the last you hear of it.  However, sometimes you get a response telling you what to do about it.  You can turn this feature off.

Internet Explorer is included, although the version may still vulnerable to virus attack until you get the regular patches from Microsoft.  Some organisations are suggesting that your do not use Internet Explorer or Outlook Express because of these vulnerabilities. They usually suggest programs from www.mozilla.com (Firefox) or Google (Chrome)

The local area network features were strengthened and simplified and included Firewall protection. Wireless networking is catered for.

For older programs there is a Compatibility Mode, so that most Windows programs should run. You right click the program and choose the Windows Version under which it should run. I have even found DOS programs will run, sometimes in a smaller window.

There is a Help and Support Centre, partly on the PC and partly on line. The Welcome tutorial is strengthened with sound and video

Installation (This is old material but may still be relevant to some people)

XP can be installed alongside the old system in another partition or an upgrade (from older OS) can be bought. Installation is straightforward but time consuming.

A minimum of 128Mb RAM is required to run XP and, because of all the new features, PC's of over 400Mhz are recommended. 1.5gb of disk space is also needed. An older machine would not be suitable.  Buy new with XP installed.

You may find that, when you are on line, XP does not show the usual 'connection icon' at the bottom of the screen. To do this go to the Control Panel (Classic Mode), Network Connections, right click your connection, click Properties, General and click "Show icon in notification area when connected".

An Internet Connection Firewall is provided by XP. To activate this, in the same area as above (in Properties) click the Advanced Tab and tick "Protect my Computer and Network..." Click OK  

TIP : XP has a lot of things going on in the background. To check what is running and what can run go Start, Run and type Services.msc. This gives a complete list with details. On mine there were 83 items !  

Windows XP does a lot of thinking for you.  For instance, if you add a peripheral, such as a camera or printer it usually recognises what you have done and says something like 'new hardware detected, Windows has installed the software for it and it is ready to use'. But it may say 'new hardware added I haven't a clue what it is; you had better put the the disk in; or sorry,Windows XP doesn't accept that software, try it at your peril but you had better get onto the manufacturer and see if he has got around to writing some new stuff that we do recognise !'  Mind you, if you subsequently change the drive layout of your machine (e.g. swap which drives are on which cables, which are Master and which Slave) you will probably need to boot up with your original XP disk to allow XP to sort it out again.

Faxing. The XP Fax facility has to be set up. To see details of the XP fax facility go Start, Help and do a search on the word Fax. It needs a dialup modem (doesn't work on Broadband). It has a Send and Receive facility,providing you PC is left on, and can be set to print a fax on receipt or just viewed with the Fax Viewer.

Microsoft has now ceased to support for Windows 98 and Windows M.E..  XP is said to stand for the Experience.  It was certainly 'a giant step for man' and it  has proved to be more reliable than previous versions.  

Microsoft certainly did its homework with XP and included many 'add-ons' which you previously had to buy or download - things like the Movie Maker and the picture viewers.

Reinstalling XP   Not for the faint hearted

Reinstallation, especially if you intend to reformat the disk, is a big procedure and you need to make sure that you have all the installation disks that were supplied with the PC.  This should include disks to reinstall the modem and also the drivers for the screen and sound as all of these would be cleared with a reformat. Obviously you should also have backups of documents and photographs that you wish to keep.

Next you need to make sure that the PC starts by looking at the CD drive.  To do this you may need to go into the BIOS Setup.  To find which key to press to do this watch your screen as the machine starts. It can be by pressing F2, F8 or the Del key. Make sure that you set the Boot Sequence to start from the CD.  

Now,  restart your PC with the XP CD in its drive.  If you were not supplied with an XP disk that is not a good sign and frankly I would avoid this exercise if at all possible.  In any case you will require your registration key as you will have to re-register XP on completion.

When the machine has restarted and settled down you should be given three choices 1) To set Windows XP. 2) To repair XP.  3) To Exit

If you decide to go for a complete install you will be asked to Reformat the drive onto which XP will be installed.  It is recommended that you go for a FULL rather than a QUICK reformat.  With big hard disks this can take quite a while. After that it is just a question of following the screen instructions. Then it will be necessary to install the drivers referred to earlier. You should realise that it will be necessary to get Windows Security Updates as soon as possible.  I would recommend getting an SP2 disk rather than going on line before your machine is properly protected.

Repair If you do not wish to lose all the data on you PC you should choose  to Repair.  If you merely go for a repair driver re-installation should not be necessary unless they were a problem before the reinstall. Some computers are supplied with an additional disk which will return the machine to its factory settings.  Very useful but you will still have to reinstall many things that you have added since you got it.


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