XP Creaking On

So, no huge vulnerability has yet come to light in Windows XP

XP logoIt’s now over a year since Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP. This means that any newly apparent security flaws will not be patched up. Lots of people in the IT business (me included) predicted Armageddon for anyone continuing to use XP after April 2014. We were certainly very free with our computer advice to upgrade as soon as possible.

So far, nothing horrendous has happened and you might think you detect a trace of egg on face. However, it wasn’t just the security vulnerability that caused us to advise people to move on, invest in something newer. There are other complications with XP that are only going to get worse as time passes.

Earlier this week, I was with a new computer support client who needed some help and, yes, she’s running XP. We had the initial discussion about whether it might be better to get a new machine now, and the client decided to proceed with her original list of to-dos. We came across several problems that I think are going to become ever more typical for XP users.

Firstly, we tried to install a new HP Officejet printer. After about three attempts, I gave up trying to get the XP laptop to connect wirelessly with the printer. The software was telling me that it recognised that the printer was connected to the router and switched on, but that it couldn’t communicate with it. Even manually providing the unique IP address of the printer didn’t help. Eventually, we took a step back into the 20th century and connected the laptop to the printer via a good old USB cable. No problem. We were pleased to find, though, that setting up the wireless connection wasn’t in vain as it didn’t take long to get the client’s iPhone and iPad printing wirelessly. Big relief that the printer is capable of communicating by both methods without any re-setting of software or connection/dis-connection of cables.

Secondly, the client asked about a notice that Yahoo were placing at the top of her webmail page saying that she had to use the “basic” email interface as her browser didn’t support their latest webmail interface. Sure enough, she uses Internet Explorer and the latest version that can be installed on an XP machine is version 8. This is pretty old, now, and it’s not too surprising that modern websites don’t like it. Luckily, Google Chrome plays nicely with both Windows XP and the latest Yahoo webmail interface, so that solved that particular problem.

Gotcha!And finally, we had a spot of bother with Microsoft Office. Not unreasonably, the client wished to upgrade from Office 2003 (no longer supported by Microsoft) to Office 2013. So, we jumped through Microsoft’s online hoops by creating a Microsoft account and then purchasing Office 2013 Home and Student online. It was only at that point – after the order had been placed and paid for – that the Microsoft end of things decided to check her operating system (a website can discover a number of things about the hardware and software of a web visitor – including the operating system) and informed us that Office 2013 isn’t supported on XP. It didn’t actaully make it clear whether that meant that it wouldn’t work at all or that it might work but that we were on our own. We decided not to take the risk and managed to cancel the order and get her money back by using their online “chat” service. That all worked reasonably well, but I still don’t know why they didn’t warn us of the incompatibility at the time of placing the order rather than waiting until we started to download/install the software.

Bite on the bum
Don’t wait for XP to bite you on the bum
So, three significant niggles that wouldn’t have happened if the operating system had been newer than XP. This kind of problem is only going to get worse. Increasingly, drivers, other software, and peripherals, will not be compatible with XP. So, once again I would advise that if you are running an XP machine for anything important (or even “mission critical” as our friends across the Atlantic would say) then do think seriously about upgrading before something or other catches you out and bites you on the bum (so to speak).