If you’re still running Windows XP you’ve got one year of support left.

roadends_by_Johan_Larsson_flickrIt’s amazing to think that Windows XP has been around since 2001 and there are still a crap load of people using it daily. Microsoft has been supporting it all along with new patches for any vulnerabilities that are found, but unfortunately that support will be coming to an end in just about a year’s time:

Windows XP, Internet Explorer 6, Office 2003 enter their final support year | Ars Technica.

Windows XP drops out of extended support on April 8, 2014. As of April 9, 2014, there will be no more security updates or other fixes made for the ancient operating system.

Joining it are Internet Explorer 6 on Windows XP, Office 2003, and Exchange Server 2003. Exchange Server 2010 Service Pack 2 will also end support on that day, but newer Service Packs will continue to be supported. Naturally, this also includes “Windows XP Mode” in Windows 7 and other virtualized solutions.

If you’re one of the 38% of folks who still run Windows XP then now is the time to start considering moving on to something else. Once support for patches ends the longer your continue to use the OS the more vulnerable you will become. It’s impossible to patch every possible exploit and it’s only a matter of time before new ones are found. The more unpatched vulnerabilities discovered the more likely you are to fall victim to one. Especially if you spend any amount of time on the Internet.

So what should you make your next OS? That depends on you and your needs. Microsoft is, of course, hoping you’ll make your next OS Windows 8, but unless you’re going to buy a new computer with a touch interface of some sort then it’s probably not the ideal choice. Windows 7 would probably be a better option and it’ll continue to be supported for many years to come. If you’re buying a new machine and aren’t interested in Windows 8 then there’s always the Apple Mac as an option, though it would mean learning the ins and outs of an entirely new operating system and putting up with Apple’s annoying attitude of dictating how you use the hardware you spent so much money on. If you have older hardware and don’t want to upgrade or spend any money there’s always several flavors of Linux available to choose from. With a year left of support for XP you’ve got some time to investigate the various options and make a decision.

Windows XP SP3 is now available through Windows Update.

The new service pack brings a handful of new security related features, a whole host of bug fixes, and a purported speed boost as well. As always it’s probably a good idea to install it if you’re running Windows XP on your machine. Microsoft has also re-released Windows Vista SP1 which was pulled after some compatibility issues. Both are available through Windows Update.

Windows XP SP3 gives a speed boost. Vista SP1 not so much.

If Microsoft is serious about having Vista supplant XP as the dominate OS they sure are going about it in an odd way. This Yahoo News article on testing by Devil Mountain Software says that the upcoming Service Pack 3 for Windows XP improves performance by some 10% whereas Vista’s SP1, which was touted as improving performance, fails to do so:

The news comes as a “nice bonus,” the research staff said on the blog, because SP3 was expected mainly to deliver bug fixes and consolidate various patches. “In fact, XP SP3 is shaping up to be a must-have update for the majority of users who are still running Redmond’s not-so-latest-and-greatest desktop OS,” the company said.

These results run in stark contrast to tests conducted on Vista SP1. On November 18, Devil Mountain Software reported that performance gains under Vista SP1 were negligible and that Vista continues to be slower than XP.

“The hoped-for performance fixes that Microsoft has been hinting at never materialized,” the testers reported. “Vista + SP1 is no faster” than out-of-the-box Vista, they said.

“If you’ve been disappointed with the performance of Windows Vista to date, get used to it. SP1 is simply not the panacea that many predicted. In the end, it’s Vista’s architecture—not a lack of tuning or bug fixes—that makes it perform so poorly on systems that were ‘barn-burners’ under Windows XP,” the research staff said.

There’s no real details on the configuration of the PCs used in the tests so it’s hard to say if there’s any flaws in them, but my experience on my machine with both Vista and XP is that the amount of RAM you have installed makes a big difference. XP runs at it’s best with 1GB of RAM, but to get Vista to perform at a similar level takes a minimum of 2GB. Alas I’ll probably have to switch back to XP in the near future myself as the audio drivers for my motherboard are causing lockups after an hour and a half or so of use. At least until new drivers come out from the folks at nVidia to address the issue.

Still if the reported speed increase actually comes to pass then a little more time under XP won’t be a bad thing. SP3 is expected out early in 2008.