Windows XP End of Life - Possible to keep computers running XP

I'm proud to say that I've managed to keep about 1/2 the office running on Windows XP. Not only do the XP machines run, they run well. I've jacked the memory on all XP machines to the maximum allowed, I've replaced old HDDs with new SSDs, and I've optimized the heck each machine. Some of our old XP machines run faster than our newer Windows 8 machines.

Here's the question, with the XP End-of-Life looming next April, do I simply throw in the towel with all these machines, or can I prolong their lives?

Upgrading the OS on these machines to Windows 7 or Windows 8 is probably out of the question because I'm going to run into so many driver issue. (Feel free to disagree me. That's why I'm posting this question.)
It occurred to me that I could install a VM environment in these machines, running a Windows 8 "functional" OS inside an XP "shell." This work-around would handle the driver issue, but I'm concerned that the performance hit would make configuration problematic. I'm also concerned that this configuration might leave me exposed with XP. While users wouldn't actively be using XP, it would be running in the background and the no-longer-supported OS would be vulnerable to malware.
Finally, I'm wondering if a third party might continue to provide patches for XP (and perhaps Office 2003 as well.) Is it possible that another party might be willing to continue to provide patches for a monthly fee?
Who is Participating?
I wear a lot of hats...

"The solutions and answers provided on Experts Exchange have been extremely helpful to me over the last few years. I wear a lot of hats - Developer, Database Administrator, Help Desk, etc., so I know a lot of things but not a lot about one thing. Experts Exchange gives me answers from people who do know a lot about one thing, in a easy to use platform." -Todd S.

Kent DyerIT Security Analyst SeniorCommented:
I love Windows XP..    Windows XP came out like what in 2001 - it would be prudent to get your client's systems updated.

However, I would stay away from Vista and from 8..  If there is any option to go to Windows 7, by all means go to it.  You will be happy you did.  Windows Vista and 8 are dogs..  Windows 7 is a star - IHMO.  Windows 7 maybe a bit of a challenge to a hold of in the OEM space.

Hope this helps.

As long as none of your machines have any access to the internet, and you don't use external media with them, like USB sticks, CD's, DVD's or floppies, you can keep on running XP. But if you have access to the internet, don't. The problem is that after the 8th of June you won't be getting any patches or security updates anymore, and that will make them easier to attack every day of staying with XP.

I'm not sure what drivers you are afraid of, but Windows 7 will probably run with most of your hardware. But without details on the hardware we can't really tell. I've only mainly run into video card and soundcard problems, but if you need aero or sound you can usually easily use other cards.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
1. I would not try to upgrade existing old machines. Let them run to end of life and replace them with an newer OS at that time.

2. Run Windows 8 inside XP? I think it might run like a dog.

3. Third parties to patch XP? Not likely.

Vista is dead as well so don't waste time there, although Vista runs perfectly well if you have it.

Windows 7 works very well and has a few years of life left.

Windows 8 works perfectly well (I use it now in my consulting business) and it can be made to run trouble free. Stay on the desktop and forget Metro.

So starting moving to your choice of Windows 7 Pro 64-bit or Windows 8 Pro 64-bit. Forget 32-bit and never under any circumstances use Home. It is ONLY for home, not for business.

.... Thinkpads_User
10 Tips to Protect Your Business from Ransomware

Did you know that ransomware is the most widespread, destructive malware in the world today? It accounts for 39% of all security breaches, with ransomware gangsters projected to make $11.5B in profits from online extortion by 2019.

☠ MASQ ☠Commented:
There are still enough people out there running XP that it's going to be a really attractive target for malware just a soon as Microsoft drop security updates - (I'm still wondering if M$ will look at the total number of XP machines attached to the Net and their vulnerability and consider the affect of "zero-day" exploits on systems which include their newer versions - but I won't hold my breath).

Third party patching isn't going to happen - ultimately Microsoft need the market to move on and buy more product from them.  They're hardly likely to make NT public domain.

If you stick with XP you need to be more vigilant about exploits but more importantly as has already been mentioned you're by definition running with kit that was delivered with XP and that is at higher risk of failure, you've already admitted you're tweaked the hardware as far as you can and you really need to have a replacement strategy for as & when these machines die.
I recommend you read this very infomative article:

Windows XP Support Ends in April 2014: What Technicians Need to Know
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
Whether you can keep using XP depends more on corporate policies you have to follow than the actual technical risks.

If you ensure all of your systems are full up-to-date with all updates immediately BEFORE the EOL data (when Microsoft is going to "pull the plug" on Windows Update for XP);  and IMAGE those systems in their fully up-to-date, "clean" state, then you'll have an easy "Restore" capability for the systems in the event they should have any future problems that require it [failed hard drive;  really bad virus/malware; corrupted OS files; etc.]

Meanwhile, the key protection you need -- antivirus, antimalware, etc. is NOT going to "go away" when Microsoft's support stops.   3rd party antivirus and antimalware utilities will still work just fine and you'll still be able to get the updates.   Systems running XP will run just fine for years to come as long as you maintain good antivirus protection on them -- or don't access the internet with them.

Having said that, I'll add a couple comments on your concerns r.e. upgrading ...

=>  It's actually unlikely that you'd have any notable issues upgrading to Windows 7.   Windows 7 is VERY "driver aware" for older hardware.   I suspect if you were to run a Windows 7 install on one of your old systems, you'd be surprised.   Chances are excellent that if you installed it;  then ran Windows Update a few cycles (until there were no further updates); that you'd have a "clean" Device Manager ... with NO unknown devices.

=>  Windows 8 runs just fine in a virtual machine IF the underlying hardware is good enough.   BUT that's very unlikely to be the case on your older systems.   I'd either upgrade; or just keep using XP; but would definitely abandon any thoughts of resolving this via virtualization.

=>  If you DO decide to upgrade the old systems to Windows 7, you may want to use Windows 7 x32 instead of x64.    If the hardware on those systems is limited to 4GB (common on older hardware);  or if you simply don't plan on installing more than that;  then you'll have a higher degree of compatibility with older software and are less likely to encounter migration issues.    I've seen MANY programs that folks aid "won't run on Windows 7" that actually run just fine on Windows 7 ... just not with the x64 version.   [The same is true for Vista -- many programs that won't run on the x64 version run just fine in the x32 version.]

=>  I definitely agree that upgrading to Windows 7 is preferable to using Windows 8.   Note that many of those programs I just referred to (run in x32, but not x64 with Vista or '7) simply do NOT work in Windows 8.   In addition, the GUI is so different that your users are much more likely to be frustrated by the changes.

Bottom Line:   There's no technical reason you can't simply continue to use XP for a few more years;  but it IS a better idea to upgrade the systems to Windows 7.

Experts Exchange Solution brought to you by

Your issues matter to us.

Facing a tech roadblock? Get the help and guidance you need from experienced professionals who care. Ask your question anytime, anywhere, with no hassle.

Start your 7-day free trial
Jason WatkinsIT Project LeaderCommented:
The best option would be to get everyone on Windows 7 or 8 (I'd go with 7). Since the existing hardware has been optimized, you may be able to get away with reusing it for Windows 7. Where I work that is rare. We do OS upgrades with the roll-out of new hardware. Keeping XP around just because one likes it is not a great use case. You want to stay current with what the manufacturer support. That does not mean one needs to be bleeding edge, just supported. No third party is going to take over patching XP/Office 2003 for Microsoft. Best to move on and stay current.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
I am not a big fan of putting time and money in operating system upgrades on old machines. No sooner done then the odds are the old machine will break anyway. So be careful on that point.

Some of our old XP machines run faster than our newer Windows 8 machines.

Someone did not put the Windows 8 machines together well. A Windows 7 or Windows 8 64-bit machine with 8Gb of memory will run circles around any 32-bit machine. You should probably ask why this is the case in your organization.

... Thinkpads_User
Brian PiercePhotographerCommented:
Sooner or later you are going to have to upgrade your hardware and OS - it simply makes no sense to invest in stuff that is obsolete. No one is going to provide updates for XP once the Microsoft commitment expires.

As others have said forget Vista - its a pig, Windows 7 and Windows 8 are both stable and reliable (windows 8.1 is due within a couple of months). Again it really makes no sense to invest in Windows 7 as this has already been superseded.
you can always run the upgrade advisor, to help make your decision :
Just to dd to the mix :)

Yes, XP will continue to run. No, you'll not be getting any new security updates. And while I don't want to minimize that, if you're depending solely on Windows updates to keep you safe, you aren't being very smart. Your enterprise environment should already have a multi-layered approach to protection that "may" keep your old XP machines "safe". The level of safeness obviously depends on how well you protect the environment overall.

We aren't trashing all of our XP machines, but we are not trying to keep them running either. We are moving to virtual machines running 7 and, as others have mentioned, I'd stay away from Vista and 8.

Unless you have pretty new machines, I'd also not attempt to upgrade them to 7 at any point.  If you are doing anything with virtual desktops, you can always try gutting the XP machine so that it's very light or replacing the OS with LInux and then running a virtual client like the View client from VMware to put a virtual Windows 7 desktop on top of your old physical hardware. A better solution is to replace the old computers with a zero client like a Wyse P25 and do virtual desktops that way.

But if you are sticking with physical boxes, then run XP as long as you can, as long as you feel that you can protect yourself, and then ultimately trash them and get new PCs with a new OS.
jdanaAuthor Commented:
Amazing responses.
jdanaAuthor Commented:
garycase - GREAT feedback. I agree completely about W7 x86 versus W7 x64. I'm going to try a couple "beta" upgrades to W7 and compare the upgrade cost to buying new equipment and using W8. (The End-of-Life of W7 and W8 also have to factor into the analysis as well.)

rindi - The driver hint was a something I didn't know. Thanks!

MASQUERAID - Thanks for the warnings.

All-in-all a terrific batch of responses. Thanks to all.
It's more than this solution.Get answers and train to solve all your tech problems - anytime, anywhere.Try it for free Edge Out The Competitionfor your dream job with proven skills and certifications.Get started today Stand Outas the employee with proven skills.Start learning today for free Move Your Career Forwardwith certification training in the latest technologies.Start your trial today
Windows XP

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.