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SHERIDAN — Today marks the beginning of the end for a widely used computer operating system, as support from Microsoft for Windows XP will be discontinued.
Users in Sheridan can turn to local technical support experts regarding how to best adjust home or business computer usage to maintain security and efficacy of their personal computers.
According to Net Applications data, as of last week, 27.69 percent of Americans were still using Windows XP. Those machines won’t suddenly stop running, but Microsoft will not attempt to prevent hackers from exploiting the operating system by issuing security updates. The company said in a press release that it’s time to move on from the 12-year-old software.
“The time has come for us, along with our hardware and software partners to invest our resources toward supporting more recent technologies,” it said.
With the discontinuation in support services from Microsoft, the operating system is on its way to becoming obsolete and a bigger target for hackers.
“You can use it as long as you want and as long as it’s licensed, but you’ll be online at your own risk,” Just Computers Owner James Gilbert said. “The impact of this is pretty high because the number one thing is lack of security.”
Information Technology Specialist and owner of Callageek.biz Brandon Barclay said that XP machines won’t immediately crash after the program’s updates end, but the likelihood of recovery after being infected with malware or a virus goes way down.
“It’s like a car manufacturer who says they’re going to stop making new parts for the car,” Barclay said, adding that there’s a possibility another company will adopt an initiative to produce aftermarket software, but it wouldn’t be guaranteed by the company that originally built the program.
“You can’t put everybody in the same classification about how it’s going to affect them,” Barclay said. “It’s about the person and what they’re doing when they go online and how educated they are on how to avoid malware or viruses.”
Barclay pointed out that some XP users don’t regularly update their computers anyway, and running the system after today’s “drop dead” date isn’t different from what some people have been doing for years.
Gilbert said that most computers are unable to upgrade to the newest version of Windows, and the necessary upgrade will entail getting a whole new computer.
“Very few computers that are older than five to seven years will support a new operating system,” Gilbert said. “With that, even if it will support it, they may need a little more hardware inside just to get it to run effectively.”
Gilbert said customers who cling to XP will ultimately be on their own when it comes to technical glitches.
“A lot of repair shops are not going to do repairs on XP after the eighth because it’s not supported anymore,” Gilbert said. “There’s not going to be a lot of telephone support from Microsoft for people who think things might be going on. They’re just going to recommend the upgrade.”
The inevitable result is that the majority of machines still running XP software will likely be replaced in the coming months.
“If you value the information coming in or going out of your computer, it’s time to upgrade,” Barclay said, indicating that business computers are more susceptible to be a target for hackers.
The process of upgrading from XP to a newer operation system means either a software download or getting a new computer and transferring files that need saved, like pictures and music, from the old to the new.
The switch, Gilbert said, requires technical literacy beyond that of an everyday computer user, and the best bet would be to get professional help installing and transferring files to the new setup.
“That transition is easier when the old computer is functioning normally,” Gilbert said. “The hardest thing to do is transfer data off of a machine with compromised security. If people can even unplug computers from the Internet and not use them until they can get upgraded, it would help repair shops a lot.”
Old computers are accepted at the Sheridan Landfill for recycling free of charge for both private residents and businesses. Old computer towers and monitors should not be discarded in a landfill.