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Aged Windows XP costs 5x more to manage than Windows 7

As XP's life wanes, Microsoft talks dollars to get businesses to ditch 11-year-old OS

May 25, 2012 10:27 AM ET

Computerworld - Microsoft yesterday added ammunition to its increasingly aggressive battle to get users off the nearly-11-year-old Windows XP by citing a company-sponsored report that claims annual support costs for the older OS are more than five times that of Windows 7.

Microsoft has been banging the Windows XP upgrade drum for years, but stepped up the campaign in 2012, including starting a "two-year countdown" to the demise of security support. Last month, Microsoft was blunt, saying "If your organization has not started the migration to a modern PC, you are late."

Windows XP exits all support, including monthly security patches, in April 2014.

In a blog post Thursday, Erwin Visser, a senior director for Windows, used data collected by IDC to make Microsoft's upgrade case.

"The bottom line...[is that] businesses that migrate from Windows XP to Windows 7 will see significant return on investment," said Visser.

Microsoft sponsored the survey (download PDF) conducted by IDC, which in turn interviewed nine enterprises or large organizations to drill into the support costs of XP and Windows 7.

According to IDC, an amazing 42% of the Windows "commercial" installed base, or anything other than consumers' home machines, was Window XP, making Microsoft's job of moving everyone off the old OS by its April 2014 retirement nearly impossible.

In fact, IDC projected that if current trends continue, 11% of the enterprise and educational Windows installed base will still be running XP when Microsoft stops patch delivery in 23 months.

And those XP machines costs organizations considerably more to support than comparable PCs running Windows 7.

One reason for the increased costs for supporting Windows XP is that it's typically running on older hardware that, independent of the OS, is more expensive to simply keep running.

The magic milestone is after the three-year mark, when "costs begin to accelerate" because of additional IT and help desk time, and increased user downtime due to more security woes and time spent rebooting, said IDC.

IT labor costs jump 25% during year four of a PC's lifespan, and another 29% in year five, IDC noted, while user productivity costs climb 23% in year four and jump 40% during year five. Total year five costs are a whopping 73% higher than support costs of a two-year-old client.

However, the operating system also plays a major role in the cost differences, said IDC, with XP more expensive to support in every category the research company surveyed.

Organizations reported that they spent 82% less time managing patches on Windows 7 systems than they did on Windows XP, 90% less time mitigating malware, and 84% less help desk time.

Benefits were also striking for Windows 7 users' productivity compared to XP. Windows 7 users wasted 94% less time rebooting their computers and lost 90% less time due to malware attacks.

On the IT side, the savings of Windows 7 mount dramatically, IDC said.

"IT activities account for 11.3 hours of time spent per PC per year when using Windows XP," the research group said. "Shops that have moved to Windows 7...spend 2.3 hours per PC per year on maintaining those systems."

IDC did the math, and concluded that for every 230 PCs running Windows 7 rather than XP, an organization could shift one full-time IT person to other work. Or conceivably do without him or her entirely.



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