How to extend the “End of life” of your Windows XP based computer beyond April 8th, 2014 which is when Microsoft drops all support for XP.
The US Government has a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) designed to extend the useful life of older equipment. In this article I will show you how to protect and extend the service life of your Windows XP computer.
There are two basic categories of XP based computers:
1) Store or Internet purchase of a computer with XP pre-installed by the manufacture (Dell, HP, Gateway, Emachines, Etc.).
2) A PC you custom built (Do It Yourself) using hardware parts and a “Retail” version of XP you purchased and installed.
Store bought or home built either way you will need to know the hardware configuration of your PC in order to determine what options are available to you. Both of the categories listed above have an infinite number of hardware and processor combinations, but these can be reduced to a set of basic milestones and guidelines in the 6 years (2001 to 2007) when XP was Microsoft’s main Operating System sold with pre-built computers. Do It Yourselfers can still assemble and built a new XP based computer as long as you have a “Retail” product key.
This is a multi-part series of articles covering a number of steps you can take to keep Windows XP running for years to come.
Protecting your existing hardware and the Windows XP operating system: Before we look at possible computer hardware upgrades to both extend and improve the performance of Windows XP, here are some of the most important immediate steps you can take is to protect your current investment.
1) Protection from electrical surges and power outages. If your PC is still plugged into a wall outlet it’s time to protect it from surges or power outages. All it takes is one strong electrical surge and your PC is now a pile of junk.
The solution is either a good surge protector or battery powered UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply). Surge protectors are a less expensive solution, but will not prevent a sudden shutdown of your PC and sometimes results in corrupted files on the hard drive, even a non-bootable PC if power goes out just when your PC is booting or shutting down. But they will at least stop a surge on the AC line from damaging your PC’s power supply or motherboard.
UPS: You should pick something that will give you at least 20 minutes of run time is the AC power goes off in your house, as the internal batteries age the run time will drop to 10 minutes of less which is more than enough time to exit your applications and shut down the PC. A 550VA to 650VA (Volt Amp) unit should do the job. UPS units also provide surge protection.
2) Protecting Windows XP and your data. Chances are you may still have Windows XP installed on the original hard drive that came with the PC. Hard drives are mechanical devices and do not last forever. If your drive should fail you have lost not only all your data (Documents, Photos, Music, Etc.), your applications (Word processor, Photo editor, Anti-virus software, Etc.) and of course Windows XP. If you never obtained recovery media from the PC manufacture, it is way too late now, so how would you re-install XP?
The answer is to purchase an external USB hard drive and Image Backup software. This is not an inexpensive proposition, with most of the cost going for the purchase of an external USB drive. The cost of Image Backup software varies from “Free” to a range of $30.00 to $50.00 US Dollars.
External USB drives: Preferably you want to pick a drive that includes an AC Power module, but they are getting harder to find. Also you USB drive must to support USB 2.0 as its unlikely your PC supports the newer USB 3.0 interface. A 1GB drive should cost about $70 to $100 US Dollars.
Next you need to choose a brand and model that has the best user feedback. Hard drives suffered a setback a few years ago when the manufacturing plants located in Thailand were flooded. The result was a constant supply of drives that failed within a few days or weeks and this continues even to today in my opinion, as you can still find external (and internal) drives with more than a 25 to 30% failure rate, when about 5 to 7% was the pre-flood normal fail rate.
I give all my new internal hard drives that I purchase a series of tests that can take as long as 12 hours or more. After each test I check for drive errors and the S.M.A.R.T. values for any signs of deterioration. Then and only then do I put the drive in service. Software includes Western Digital’s Data Lifeguard Diagnostics, HD Tune and Passmark’s BurninTest software.
However with the end of Windows Update support after April 8th, 2014 any new security holes discovered in XP will go un-patched leaving a potential for more widely spread attacks on XP based system. With a good antivirus software package and careful surfing habits and file download you can reduce the likelihood of being the next victim.
If you have more than one PC but your XP based computer contains some valuable software than will not run on newer versions of Windows you can disconnect the LAN or Wireless connection, which will eliminate the chance of being attached. In my case I have a high precision scanner, more than $600 worth of software for that scanner that will not run on Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8. Yes there is a function limited Windows 7 driver for the scanner but the software would cost a small fortune to upgrade. So my XP based system is not connected to the Internet and has not been for quite some time, but I still use the software and scanner and transferring the edited photos to my Windows 7 PC when needed for printing purposes.
However if you must have an Internet connect now is the time to contact your AV software company and ask what their plans are for supporting XP beyond 2014 as most companies release next year’s version in the fall of each year. If you are using Symantec virus products check their community forum ( https://community.norton.com/ ) in late spring (April thru June) to see if their public beta of Norton Anti-Virus, Norton Internet Security or Norton 360 supports XP.
4) Still using Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer 11, 10 and 9 are not supported on XP, IE8 was the last version Microsoft released for XP. So if you haven’t already ditched IE8 it time to do so. Take a look at Firefox or Google Chrome.
One final note: It goes without saying that you need to have Service Pack 3 (SP3) installed for most any software sold in today’s market for it to install and run properly. If you still are at SP1 or 2 then you need to download and install SP3. You can download SP3 and install it here: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=24
Windows XP - Service Life Extension Project - Part 2 ----->>>
February 25th, 2014
More information on how to extend the “End of life” of your Windows XP based computer "and improve the performance of your PC".