So what is happening on April 8, 2014 that is affecting all Windows XP users? It is the end of support for the operating system. What this means is that Microsoft won't release any more security updates, or other updates for that matter, for the operating system.
There is one exception to that, and that is that companies can pay Microsoft money to get security vulnerabilities patched. But that is not really feasible for most as it would cost a lot of money to patch a single vulnerability.
While that is not really something that you do need to worry about if your computer running Windows XP is not connected to the Internet, you may enter a world of vulnerabilities shortly after that date. Vulnerabilities that get detected after the date won't get fixed anymore, which means that the operating system will remain vulnerable to them.
There may be mitigating factors, like running applications in a sandbox or exploit mitigation tools, but those are usually only run by experienced users and not average ones.
Attackers may come up with new exploit code of their own, or by reverse engineering updates for other versions of Windows to find out if Windows XP is also vulnerable. Since the operating system won't receive any more updates after April 8, 2014, it gives attackers many more opportunities to attack the system.
But it is not only users who will run into issues on that date. Microsoft too is in a precarious situation. If you look at operating system usage stats, you will notice that Windows XP is still placed second in the most used operating system. Only Windows 7 managed to pass it by, while Windows 8 just managed to pass Windows Vista to climb to the third place.
It is obvious that the company does not want to "lose" that user base. So what can Microsoft do to convince users that it is a good time to update? One approach seems to highlight the dangers of running Windows XP right now and after the end of support date.
The question is if this is enough to convince users and organizations to switch to another version of Windows that is still supported.
And what will Windows XP users do when doomsday comes?
- Keep running the system even though it may have known vulnerabilities that are exploited in the wild?
- Update the operating system to Windows 7 / Windows 8?
- Switch to a different operating system such as Ubuntu Linux?
What I would do? I would probably update to Windows 8. Not because I think it is the superior operating system, but because it is possible to ignore the Metro / Start Screen interface for the most part, which means that you get an updated Windows 7 operating system with 3 more years of support.
I'd update to Windows 7 as well, if the operating system would be available for less money than Windows 8.