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The XP Exit: What To Consider

by Scott Lewis

Yes, people, the time of XP has ended, and it is time to move on. I know there is a lot to think about now that Microsoft is forcing people to think about the future. However, it does not have to be hard or scary.

But there are some things to think about as you consider using Windows 7 or going all the way to Windows 8.1. XP and Windows 2003 server have had a great 12-year run, and it is loved by IT departments and users alike because of its reliability and stability, but 12 years for any technology is a lifetime and we should now be thinking about how we migrate to a new platform.

As I reminded everyone in my April 2014 Small Business Monthly column, there is no reason to panic. Your software is not going to magically stop working. Microsoft actually announced the end of the product life in 2009 and stopped any significant upgrades or patches in 2011, but now the official support life cycle has come to an end.

Obviously the first step is to decide: Are you going to migrate to Windows 7, or are you going to migrate to Windows 8? Windows 7 is going to have less of an impact on the hardware you already own and the users, whereas Windows 8 may require that you purchase new systems to support the operating system and its demands on the hardware resources.

Argument for Windows 7:
-   Should work with most of the hardware you already own, works with Android and Apple products, and is compatible with most tablet and mobile devices.
-    End users like it because it maintains the look and feel of Windows XP.
Argument against Windows 7:
-    It has already been replaced by Windows 8 and 8.1, so Windows 7 is already on its way out.
Argument for Windows 8 or 8.1:
-    An end user working experience that translates easily across desktop and tablet devices.
-    The latest and greatest OS that is the platform for Microsoft development moving forward into the future.
-    Cloud-technology-friendly, so the more cloud applications you use, the better the experience with Windows 8 or 8.1.
Argument against Windows 8 or 8.1:
-    Totally new platform; can be difficult for users to make the transition, so user training is very important.

Once the decision to migrate to a particular operating system is made, there are other items to keep in mind. One is that only XP with Service Pack 3 can upgrade to Windows 8, but users will get to keep only personal data; everything else will be overwritten.

Everyone else should plan on doing a wipe and a clean install of Windows 7 or 8. This is not a bad thing. It gives you a new solid install of your operating system, which could eliminate compatibility and stability issues in the future. However, don’t forget to back up your data because a wipe with a clean install will destroy all data and it will be lost if you don’t back up.

Hardware is going to be key: Both Windows 7 and Windows 8 require additional hardware resources. Although Windows 7 may still operate and perform nicely on your XP system with the addition of some memory, Windows 8 is most likely going to require new hardware in order to take advantage of all the new cloud integration features available. It is recommended that you visit Microsoft’s website for hardware standards for Windows 8 before making any new hardware purchases.

Software compatibility is the big one, the 800-pound gorilla. Windows XP could easily run 16-bit applications and, yes, even DOS programs. I know – but some companies still use DOS-based applications.

Windows 7 and Windows 8 do not run these types of applications natively, so the answer is to run them in a terminal server or Citrix environment with the virtual desktop running Windows XP. Along with application compatibility issues, Internet Explorer 6 is not supported in Windows 7 or 8, so if you are not on a current version of Internet Explorer, you will need to upgrade.

A successful migration to Windows 7 or 8 can be done with a little planning, no panic and some basic guidelines.
1) Hardware audit. Make sure you know the current specifications of your hardware so you can upgrade or replace as required.
2) Software audit. Make sure that you have identified any software that will need to be upgraded to be compatible with Windows 7 or 8 and that you are properly licensed for that software.
3) Consider a virtual environment for legacy applications. This may significantly add to the cost of your migration, so make sure you explore all options.
4) End user training. This will be the key to any successful migration and should not be overlooked.
Microsoft does offer many online tools that you can use to simplify and streamline your upgrade processes. These include the Application Compatibility Toolkit, Microsoft Upgrade Assistant and Microsoft Deployment Toolkit.

Scott Lewis is the President and CEO of Winning Technologies Group of Companies.  The Winning Technologies Group of companies is an international technology management company. Scott has more than 30 years of experience in the technology industry, is a nationally recognized speaker on technology subjects such as Collocation, Security, CIO level Management, Data and Voice Communications and Best Practices related to the management of technology resources.  Learn more about Winning Technologies at

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