Tomorrow is D-day for Windows XP SP2 users. Granted, Windows XP SP2 will still work, but tomorrow is the last Patch Tuesday for the venerable OS which means it will become more unstable and less secure as time goes on. Simply applying SP3 will suffice to continue running a supported platform, but here are five reasons to consider switching off of Windows XP entirely.
1. Hardware Support. Windows XP is archaic, and it is designed to run on outdated hardware. As new technologies are introduced, it is unlikely that Windows XP will be compatible or able to take advantage of them. Windows 7 provides support for multitouch displays, and also has greatly improved memory and power management features.
2. Improved Drivers Installation. Windows 7 has a superior system for automatically detecting and installing drivers. Windows XP sort of has this capability, but more often than not the search for drivers yields nothing and requests that you insert a driver disc from the vendor. Install a new piece of hardware in Windows 7, and most of the time it will automatically be added along with the correct driver without any additional user interaction.
3.Security. Windows XP lacks many of the crucial security controls that have been introduced in Windows Vista and Windows 7. Looking at the vulnerabilities that have been discovered since the launch of Windows 7, the Windows 7 operating system is frequently unaffected, or when it is affected by the same flaw as Windows XP, the result of an exploit is minor while the Windows XP system will be completely owned by the attacker.
4. Performance. One of the complaints against each new generation of Windows is that it seems to get slower and more bloated with each iteration. Windows 7 certainly adds new features--some of which may be frivolous or unnecessary--but it manages to boot faster and run snappier than its predecessor--Windows Vista. Windows XP users should not experience any significant lag in boot time or performance, and some may even see an improvement over XP.
5. XP Mode Virtualization. This is the Windows 7 trump card. With Windows XP Mode virtualization, Windows 7 runs a full Windows XP SP3 system in a virtual PC. It enables you to continue using hardware and software that are not compatible with Windows 7 from within the Windows 7 operating system. And, XP Mode virtualization is fast--somehow much faster than other Microsoft virtual PCs I have created. The caveat for this feature, though, is that it is only available on Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise.
Granted, moving to Windows 7 may not be cheap for some businesses. Many are running Windows XP on hardware that is more or less obsolete by today's standards, which means upgrading to Windows 7 must include replacing the hardware as well.
Windows 7 is not the only solution, though. As I stated up top--companies can simply upgrade from Windows XP SP2 to Windows XP SP3 and still have Microsoft support through 2014. It is also possible to migrate off of Windows XP SP2 by switching to some variation of Linux rather than moving to Windows 7. The XP hardware would most likely support it, but IT admins must also consider the learning curve of adopting a new OS culture--both for the users and for the technicians that have to support the desktop environment.