calendar February 21, 2014 in Communications, News, Technology

Tech Tip: Time to Upgrade Windows XP

Key takeaway: Windows XP and Office 2003 will no longer be supported after April 8, 2014. You should make plans to replace computer hardware and/or upgrade your software as soon as possible.

Microsoft’s venerable Windows XP was introduced in 2001, and has had an long and stable life. But nearly 13 years and three versions of Windows later, Microsoft is taking XP off of life support. This means that XP users will no longer receive free security updates through Windows Update after April 8. This puts your computer at risk because exploits and malware will continue to emerge for this now unsupported platform.

Office 2003, although still functional for many users, will also stop receiving updates on April 8. Without getting too technical, Office 2003 uses older and less secure file formats, which have commonly exploited vulnerabilities. Once support ends fixes for these exploits will no longer be released, which puts your system at risk.

To make matters worse, there is no direct upgrade from XP to Windows 7 or 8. Instead you must backup all of your data, do a clean install of the new Windows version, and then reinstall your programs and restore your data.

Another complicating factor is that Windows 8 introduced a new interface that can be confusing to new users. Windows 7 is a solid operating system that will be supported until 2020. However, Microsoft officially stopped selling it in December. Because your congregation is covered under the ELCA’s 501(c)(3) designation, you can request donations of Windows 7 licenses from TechSoup,  an organization that specializes in non-profit tech needs (free registration required). TechSoup donations carry a small administrative fee, currently $12 per Windows license. If you do not qualify for TechSoup donations, you should be able to get discounted charity pricing from retailers such as CDW. You can also find Windows 7 licenses at some online retailers.

If your computer is still running Windows XP, it is likely four to 12 years old, which means it may have trouble running newer software. If your computer meets Microsoft’s hardware requirements you can use the backup and clean install approach. Windows 7 and 8 run well on older PCs. At the Synod office we have upgraded a number of 2008-vintage PCs to Windows 7 by adding memory, and they work fine. Replacing your old hard drive with a fast solid-state disk (SSD) can also extend the life of your PC.

If its time for a new computer, you have options. Unless you are already familiar with Windows 8, you can request refurbished computers with Windows 7 from TechSoup, which start at about $300. Vendors that sell to corporate clients, such as Dell, can also provide new computers with Windows 7 installed. Your local electronics retailer, though, is likely to only sell Windows 8.

New licenses for Office 2010 and 2013 can also be requested via TechSoup; the admin fee of $32 is less than a tenth of the price of Office Professional 2013 on Microsoft’s website.

After a baker’s dozen of years, it really is time to bid farewell to Windows XP and its cousin, Office 2003. If you have questions contact your IT provider or retailer, or visit the Community section of the TechSoup website.


— Bob Fisher, assistant to the bishop for mission interpretation,