SAN FRANCISCO — The end of Microsoft's support for Windows XP is just three weeks away. Astonishingly, there are as many as 400 million or more PCs still running the operating system first launched by Microsoft in 2001.
And, bizarre, but true: Its market share ticked upward the last couple of months. As Microsoft's XP countdown clock ticks down toward April 8, here are a few interesting facts (or factoids, if you prefer). And some things to consider:
According to consultant Net Applications, XP machines represented a 29.53% market share in February. Naturally, that was down year over year, but it was up a tick from January, and up from December. It's still the second most popular operating system after Windows 7, which had 47.31 % market share in February. Crazy, right?
Those pint-sized computers that had about a minute of popularity in 2008-2009 before the iPad arrived and made tablets de rigeur for the most part ran on Windows XP, even as Microsoft's disastrous Vista OS was playing itself out on normal-sized machines. I have one (and special, netbook-viewing eyeglass lenses=joking) , do you?
PATCH TUESDAY: PLAYBOOK FOR XP VULNERABILITIES
On the first Tuesday of every month, Microsoft issues new security patches for its operating systems. On April 8, official XP support from Microsoft ceases. Microsoft will no longer issue patches or system updates to protect against viruses and other malware. If you run into any snags at all you won't be able to call Microsoft for technical assistance.
Come Patch Tuesday in May, hackers will get a list of fresh security holes for XP machines still in use. What that means to you: Hackers can effectively take information about new problems with Windows 7 or Windows 8 and apply them to XP. Be afraid.
Microsoft has stuck by XP longer than any previous version. It went eight years before cutting support for Windows NT (first released in 1993). It went 11 years before doing the same with Windows 2000. Wondering how much life is left in your Vista (first launched in 2007) machine? Write this down: April 11, 2017.
HAND ME DOWN PCS
How to quantify this one? Well, we won't. But let's just say of all of those hundreds of millions of XP machines, many have been handed over to friends and family and will no doubt continue to be. Uber-techies will load up Ubuntu or some other Linux-flavored operating system and call it a day. The rest of us try to migrate old software and cross our fingers.
I spent some family time last holiday season getting a hand-me-down XP machine running for a niece. Among other things, we installed an archaic copy of Word on the aging machine, updated security software as best we could, and decided to revisit the whole issue come April.
And here we are.
THE WISH (and the prayer)
Keep yourself safe. There's a lot of advice floating around about how to protect your XP computer after April 8. The bottom line is if it is still running XP and you use it to access the Internet you will be vulnerable. So if you want to continue to use your old programs, use them offline. And if you just use the machine to surf the web, write emails and keep up with friends and family on social networks, consider buying a cheap replacement.
Over the next few weeks, USA TODAY will offer up more advice on the transition. Have a question, or some advice for fellow readers? Email us at email@example.com or connect with us on Twitter at @usatodaytech.