Microsoft followed through with its plan to end support for Windows XP yesterday, leaving many users to wonder about the fate of the one in five PCs worldwide that run the 12-year-old operating system.
Even with advance warning about the decision to end support, there are still questions about what will happen now that the deadline has passed. Here are some myths and facts about what end of support means for users.
Myth: Windows XP will no longer function after the deadline.
Users running Windows XP will still be able to use their computers as well as activate copies of the operating system via product code. While the end-of-life status of Windows XP has ramifications for security, it will not affect day-to-day usage of machines running the operating system.
Fact: Computers running Windows XP will no longer receive critical updates.
The biggest implication by far of the end-of-life status of Windows XP is new security updates and patches will no longer be released from Microsoft. Previously, if exploits and vulnerabilities were discovered in Windows XP, Microsoft pushed fixes via Windows Update to machines. After yesterday's deadline, new security risks will no longer be fixed.
Mostly Myth: Many banks and ATMs can now be exposed to security loopholes.
While nearly 95 percent of ATMs in the United States run on the Windows XP operating system, most are on a heavily modified version that's vastly different from versions on personal computers. Those machines already have different security precautions, and their modified operating systems will still receive support for up to two years. Banks such as JPMorgan have contracts with Microsoft to continue support while also working to upgrade their software to newer versions of Windows.
Still, older ATMs running Windows XP are more susceptible to vulnerabilities than ATMs running newer versions of Windows while also having one less layer of security support from Microsoft.
Fact: Office 2003 will also no longer be supported.
Microsoft has also stopped issuing security updates for its software in the same generation of Windows XP, most notably Office 2003 and Internet Explorer 8. Most users of Internet Explorer 8 were likely automatically upgraded to newer versions via Windows Update, but Office 2003 users can't upgrade to a newer version without purchasing a new software license. The implications are less severe than for Windows XP, but users may still encounter security vulnerabilities in their Office products.
Myth: Windows XP users will no longer receive antivirus definition updates.
Users with paid antivirus software like Norton or McAfee won't see any change in their antivirus protection as a result of the Windows XP end-of-life transition. Windows XP users will no longer be able to download Microsoft Security Essentials, the free antivirus program provided by Microsoft for Windows computers, but XP users who already have the software will receive the most up-to-date antivirus definitions for up to a year.
Fact: Windows XP users will face compliance and compatibility issues going forward.
Computers running Windows XP will no longer be compliant with regulatory services like HIPAA, as one of the mandates of compliance requires patching of security vulnerabilities.
Third party hardware and software manufacturers will also no longer support Windows XP going forward. Users may find that developers of the programs they use will no longer issue updates for their products on Windows XP machines.