Forget the XPocalypse: Sticking with Windows XP can be a smart move

Tomorrow Microsoft ends support for Windows XP, and if you believe the company and others, XP holdouts are head-in-the-sand technophobes heading for disaster. In fact, though, sticking with XP can be a smart move.

When Microsoft ends support for XP, it will no longer issue security updates for the operating system. XP users will be on their own, and be potentially vulnerable to a variety of dangers, particularly zero-day threats.

But die-hard owners of XP machines don't seem particularly concerned. Many of them might not know they're about to be vulnerable. But as PC World's Ian Paul reports, many of them are tech-savvy users who know the potential hazards, and believe they have good reasons not to switch.

One example cited by Paul is Bob Appel, who put together his own private network with 12 PCs, of which 10 run XP. Appel told Paul:

"I use a third-party firewall, a free virus checker, and run Housecall periodically. My Firefox browser uses Keyscrambler, HTTPS Anywhere, Ghostery, and Disconnect. I also have a VPN account (PIA) when traveling. For suspicious email attachments, I deploy private proprietary bioware (me!) to analyze before opening. All the 'experts' say I am crazy. Thing is, I stopped the security updates in XP years ago after a bad update trashed my system, and yet I have never been infected, although online for hours each day. So, crazy though I be, I am sticking with XP."

Even though Microsoft will be ending support for XP, makers of anti-malware won't be stopping support. Symantec, McAfee, Kaspersky Lap, and Avast have all said that their anti-malware will continue to protect against threats to XP, although it's not clear how long that protection will last beyond 2015.

As to why users don't want to switch from XP, that runs the gamut. Mostly, it's because XP provides them with exactly what they need, and there's no reason for them to pay to buy a new PC and go through the pain of transferring all their files to it and re-installing software. Many of them also don't like Windows 8.

There are still plenty of holdouts -- 30.5% of all Windows-powered PCs ran Windows XP in March, according to Net Applications.

It's no coincidence that Microsoft will be releasing the Windows 8.1 update tomorrow, the same day that it's ending support for XP. The 8.1 update will make it easier to use Windows 8.1 with a mouse and keyboard, and better integrate the Windows 8 touch-based interface with the traditional desktop. Clearly, Microsoft hopes that will prod Windows XP users to make the switch.

But even though XP use has been steadily dwindling, it's not likely the Windows 8.1 update will change XP market share much. XP users are here to stay. Some have held on to the operating system for as long as 12 years, and there's still no reason for them not to switch. And there's nothing wrong with that at all.

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