Should you upgrade Windows XP right now, or wait for Windows 9?

Windows XP users need to make a decision next month. When Microsoft ends extended support for the operating system, millions of PC systems running XP will not receive any security updates anymore from the company.

While that may not be a problem depending on how the computer is used, for instance only locally, or as a better typewriter, it can be an issue if it is connected to the Internet.

What makes this worse is the fact that Microsoft security products will also stop supporting Windows XP. EMET, the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit, for instance was released as version 5.0 Tech Preview recently which does not support XP anymore.

Third-party software should work fine however, and programs like Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit can be used instead, at least for the time being.

A system upgrade to another operating system is an option as well.  Instead of running an unsupported operating system from April 8, 2014 on, XP users can upgrade the system to another version of Windows, or Linux.

Choices

As far as Windows goes, there are currently three options to choose from:

  • Windows Vista Service Pack 2 support ends on April 11, 2017
  • Windows 7 Service Pack 1 support ends on January 14, 2020
  • Windows 8.1 support ends on January 10, 2023

Here are the minimum system requirements and important information:

Windows Vista

  • 1 GHz 32-bit or 64-bit processor.
  • 1 GB of system RAM.
  • Windows Aero capable graphics card  with 128 MB of graphics memory.
  • 40 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of free space.

Windows 7

windows 7 home premium

  • 1 GHz 32-bit or 64-bit processor.
  • 1 GB of system RAM.
  • 16 GB of free hard drive space for 32-bit, 20 GB for 64-bit.
  • DirectX 9 capable graphics card.

Windows 8

windows 8.1

  • 1 GHz or faster processor.
  • 1 GB of RAM for 32-bit, 2 GB for 64-bit.
  • 16 GB of free space for 32-bit, 20 GB for 64-bit.
  • Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device.

Depending on the PC running Windows XP, you may or may not be able to upgrade to a newer version of Windows.

Tip: Run Upgrade Advisor to find out about that.

While it is possible to use a newer version with hardware that does not match the requirements, it may cause slow downs and other issues.

The two operating systems that make the most sense right now if you want to continue using Windows, are Windows 7 or 8 in regards to updating a PC running XP.

Windows 7 has the advantage that it resembles Windows XP on many levels. It is regarded by many as one of the best Windows versions that Microsoft put out. While you will have to get accustomed to the changes, you should not run into major issues.

The same cannot be said for Windows 8, which ships with its two interface, one of which has been optimized for touch. It is possible to use the desktop part only and ignore the second interface completely, and also add missing features such as a fully working start menu back to the operating system.

Microsoft has released two updates that aim to make the operating system comfortable to use for keyboard and mouse users, and while I think that it is a step in the right direction, the two-tiered interface may still feel alien to you.

There is another option, one that requires you to wait another year, and keep running XP in that time. We do not know a lot about Windows 9 at this point in time, only that Microsoft plans to release it in 2015.

Some hope that Windows 9 will be like Windows 7, only modern and with improved functionality. I think it is likely that Microsoft will release a unified experience with Windows 9, meaning that you won't switch between desktop and start screen, but use a single interface for everything instead.

That's speculation on the other hand, and I do not think it is a good idea to bet on that just yet.

Here is what I would do:

  1. If the hardware cannot run a newer version of Windows, switch to a Linux distribution such as Linux Mint or Ubuntu. That's a cost-friendly option, but it means that you will spend time getting to know the new system, and that you can't keep most of the programs that you ran on XP. Note that there is Wine and other programs that support running Windows software.
  2. If your hardware can run a  newer version of Windows, you should pick Windows 7 or Windows 8. Windows 7 requires less getting used to time, but support for it will end three years before support for Windows 8 ends.
  3. Windows 8 has a two-tiered interface and is optimized for touch, but most of this can be ignored or mitigated by installing third-party programs such as Classic Shell. I have been running Windows 8 on one of my PCs and it works out just fine that way.

Selecting Windows 7 or Windows 8 comes down to personal preference. Windows 8's advantage is that you get three additional years of support, while Windows 7 feels more like a successor of XP.

I would not wait for Windows 9, as all we know right now about the operating system is based on speculation.

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Responses to Should you upgrade Windows XP right now, or wait for Windows 9?

  1. sky March 9, 2014 at 10:08 am #

    "Windows 7 Service Pack 1 support ends on January 14, 2010"
    Martin, i think that you made typing error ;-)

  2. Lindsay March 9, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    You could hit up ebay for an unbundled OEM copy of Windows 7 courtesy of your good countrymen and women, for the measly sum of US$50.

    Alternatively, you could simply ensure you've got competent security software. There's not much wrong with WinXP if you're using it on older hardware that doesn't need later versions for optimum performance (e.g. modern SSDs).

  3. Nebulus March 9, 2014 at 11:06 am #

    For me, the situation is simple: I run XP, I am perfectly capable to secure it even after its end of life and I am not willing to give up using it. I have a pretty good system that is perfectly capable of running Win7 but for now I see no reason for an upgrade; I'm sure this will happen in the future, because the new hardware will require more than XP and new software will support Win7 or above only, but that time has not yet come.

  4. Oxa March 9, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    I'm with Nebulus. I'm waiting for Windows 9. I practice safe browsing, have good security software, and back up often, so I'm not too concerned about X's safety.. Although we don't know anything about 9, it won't be worse than 8. Given 8's reputation, failure to sell, and MS's moves in the right direction with 8.1, 9 is likely to be much better than 8.

  5. RG March 9, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

    I think it is dangerous to downplay the importance of patch Tuesdays. People should not stick to XP, it is close to 13 years old, time to let it go... for anything else you like.

    EDIT: The upgrade advisor linked is not XP compatible as far as I know.

    • Oxa March 9, 2014 at 3:01 pm #

      1. Spending $100 on a new OS is a waste of money, IMHO. It's better spent toward a new computer.
      2. Any new computer will come with 8. I don't want to be stuck with that OS for 5-6 years.
      Rock, meet hard place.

      • RG March 9, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

        I agree about new computer. But I don't think the percentage of XP era hardware that will pass any compatibility test is high at all, wouldn't be surprised if it's not even 10%. not matter of simply RAM or other things that can be added.

  6. FM March 9, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

    People who use Windows XP probably have a PC with low specs. I would reccomend Lubuntu instead of Ubuntu or Mint, as Lubuntu is focused on creating an extremely lightweight OS (lighter than XP). It is also completely compatible with Ubuntu and is very similar to Windows, making the change easier.

  7. Joe March 9, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    In response to RG. I have a Compaq, laptop, that is 7 years old. The original OS was vista. A terrible OS. I upgraded to XP and it immediately went into the slowest mode possible. When Win8 came out I bought the pro version. It was the best investment I ever made for this "old" laptop. The speed is great. No stalls or hiccups and the actual size of Win 8 is smaller than XP.

    • Womble March 9, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

      Win 8 footprint is not smaller than XP, maybe you didn't quite mean it that way...not sure.

    • RG March 9, 2014 at 7:07 pm #

      My point wasn't about slow or fast, just pure compatibility with things like bios features to motherboard support getting in the way. If that laptop was made/bought when XP came out you would be less likely to even finish the 8 install.

  8. Wookie March 9, 2014 at 8:41 pm #

    Problem is to find a legal copy of Win 7 to substitute XP. I've been trying to buy Win7 licenses on microsoft.com for a few days and I've been unable to. The only thing I can find is Win 8 which I'm definitely not installing. Thus, I'm left with only 3 options:

    1) Buy overpriced Windows 7 DVDs on a computer store where they sell at the same price as win8.
    2) Buy shady and dubious Win 7 copies on ebay.
    3) Cross to the dark side and install illegal copies.

    It's sad that MS is pushing potential customers into piracy by making purchases so darn difficult.

    • Rodriguezasr March 15, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

      I purchased legal win 7 download with product key sent via email for $89.00 march 7, 2014. Comes with step by step upgrading procedure via email. I'm already running windows 7 on a Compaq presario SR1303wm windows xp. I had previously upgraded the processor, ram memory, and graphics. The only issue I encountered was my upgraded graphics were ATI radeon 9250 AGP 4x/8x 256 mb. Windows 7 is not compatible with ATI drivers. You will get a message about windows has experienced a shut down problem and to replace your graphics card. You can go back to the original VGA card that came with the pc and you can use the pc, but won't have enough video memory to stream netflix, etc without having freezing problems and buffering constantly. It works fine browsing internet and email and so forth. So I purchased EVGA geforce 6200 AGP 8x 512 mb for $45.00. This will solve my problem. I can still use my desktop PC with ATI card, but when you try to shut down the PC it just shuts down and restart automatically. Will not shut down unless you push and hold start up/ shut down button. Just push button again when you want to start the PC again. That's why I'm getting EVGA graphics. NVIDIA drivers are compatible and free downloading from evga.com/support is available. Just need to get latest driver. I hope this helps all of you trying to go from xp to win especially on an old PC.

      • Rodriguezasr March 15, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

        I had also upgraded the hard drive to 1tb.

  9. Ron March 9, 2014 at 9:46 pm #

    Vista will run like crap with only 1 gig of RAM, especially with an Atom processor. I state this from experience with my wife's computer; I had to up the RAM to 2 gigs, and while that is more than acceptable, it still isn't great. There really is no reason to use Vista since Win7 is better and uses less of the computer's resources.

    • Sleeping March 10, 2014 at 1:37 am #

      I think the only reason is licence: If you have bought one with your PC and don't want to install a pirated version of Windows 7 you're stuck with it if you think buying Windows 7 is worth the money

  10. Xmetalfanx March 10, 2014 at 6:35 am #

    I have an older computer that I use as my secondary PC and not always am I using MS's OS's on it. Right now it has XP and I am NOT upgrading that and am not scared about anything. I do have to admit if it was the same PC and I was advicing a business... well I would have been telling them they should upgrade for awhile now. IF (I know this would never happen) MS gave me a free license to Windows 7 (not 8) to upgrade it, I would. I have heard from a ton of users that if it's a tablet... Windows8 makes sense... on a laptop muchless my case (old desktop) it DOESN'T

    I know people aren't (and shouldn't if your a new user) go "cold turkey" ..heck i have tried TONS of Linux distros, and even I still run Microsoft products. All I am saying is people should take a "peak" at Linux. I know its not perfect and it does have it's hiccups (Some Linux fans that sound like me, say "there are no problems with Linux...etc etc") ... I admit its not perfect.

    One of the biggest issues is that many users is the idea that all Linux distros are command line only and two hard to learn. While one comes to mine (not hard, but its NOT FOR NEWBIES) is Arch Linux.

    My suggestions for newbies and somewhat experienced users alike: Linux Mint, Linux Mint Debian Edition, Debian, Zorin (I like this one .. very good for newbies) are all good choices. MS is forcing different chances on users and the good part about Linux is (example) if you want to customize something the only thing that is standing in your way is learning HOW to do it.. .not IF YOUR allowed to do it.

    Check out "Linux reviews" on Youtube (I talk to a few of them) and you can watch video tours on each distro before you even download it.

    ALso you can pick may live distros (all of those I just recommended are live distros) ... put them on a CD/DVD/Flash drive and you can see what they are like without even installing anything. "Dont like that distro?" .. no problem ... format the flash drive and try another ... or pop in another dvd/cd and burn a different distro.

    MS is not "the devil" to me (I admit despite having current registry issues... ) I like WIndows 7. WIth MS's Trackrecord, I'd advice people at home to wait for windows 9 OR if the PC is strong enough for it.. Get Windows 7, but not 8

  11. Piter March 10, 2014 at 10:08 am #

    Windows 8.x has significant demands on the CPU: PAE, NX or XD, SSE2 and graphics card with support WDDM.

  12. InterestedBystander March 10, 2014 at 4:45 pm #

    A slight tweak on the Linux suggestion: install Puppy Linux or Porteus (my personal fave) on a thumb drive. Both are optimized for this method, and both are easy (IMHO) for most users to get around in. Use Puppy or Porteus to connect to the Internet, and leave XP on your hard drive for the non-Internet applications you need -- spreadsheets, word processing, database, programming, off-line games, photo processing, whatever.

    Just remember, the minute you use Win XP to go online you will expose yourself to any vulnerabilities that have been discovered after the end of MS updates.

  13. Blue March 10, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

    My experience with Wine on Ubuntu was an interesting one. It was GREAT that it could run Windows programs, but there was a limit to what it could run. Windows programs that install desktop shortcuts, it allowed them to be placed on the desktop for easy access. But I never figured out how to use their text editor to make shortcuts for any other program.

    Programs that installed context menu items would run but the context menu would not appear in the Ubuntu context menu nor could I figure out how to do it. And finally just about any program that doesn't require an install disk can run in Ubuntu under Wine. I have older Windows programs that I need to run but won't work in Windows 7 or 8 in compatibility mode. They wouldn't install in Ubuntu either... ie: CorelDraw version 5 to 7, require to be installed from CD/DVD. But simpler programs that we download or copy to the hard drive can be installed from the directory they were put in.

    Like Android's Google Play store, or iPhone's version, Ubuntu has an online cache of downloadable programs, many for free. When it came to trying out games, it was quite limiting and all games looked like they were written for a DOS environment with 64 colour graphics and simple bleep-bleep-blop type sounds with the exception of one.

    The one game that was an amazing experience that rivaled Windows games was, "0 A.D" (zero not capital letter O). It could even run on a 1G RAM Ubuntu setup, but I noticed I had to shut down all effects and even music so the game would not crash. 0 A.D. is a open source project designed to run in Linux, Windows and even Leopard. When I got my Windows 7 components back from the shop and rebuilt my machine, I installed 0 A.D for Windows and it runs exactly the same, only I have 16G RAM and a 2G RAM video card as the difference but the game played the same.

    In summary though Ubuntu was a lot of fun, it was like learning a whole new language and it pretty much can do anything we can do in Windows only it does them in a different way. It had it's own built in video player, picture viewer, music player and three MS Office type components (Word, Excel, Power Point) that can even read MS Office files. Through Wine we can even run WMP v9 but not 11.

  14. InterestedBystander March 10, 2014 at 8:13 pm #

    Linux has its strengths and weaknesses. I think gaming is one of the weaker aspects of Linux, just as security is one of the strongest. The old bugbears of the operating system -- that it's difficult to install, and has trouble recognizing hardware -- are almost completely irrelevant now. Most of the distributions I've tried have a graphical installer similar to Windows, and take only 5 to 15 minutes to install. And hardware recognition wasn't a problem.

    Interesting to hear your experiences with the Windows emulator, WINE. I've been on Ubuntu for a couple of years now, and I haven't had a need to use Windows programs, so it's unknown territory to me.

  15. Peter March 10, 2014 at 10:29 pm #

    I have a friend who is facing this very problem. He has an older tower computer that's not quite powerful enough to run newer versions of Windows with acceptable performance. However, his computer has been well maintained and runs XP perfectly well, and he's not ready (in terms of time, finances, and hassle) to replace it. He's probably going to keep running XP with third-party anti-malware after end-of-support (8 April 2012) and keep his fingers crossed. However, he has excellent OS and data backup systems and a laptop running Windows 7, should worse come to worse.

    I have a six-year-old laptop -- initially running a "downgraded" install of Windows XP in lieu of Windows Vista and subsequently upgraded to Windows 7 a couple of years ago -- and I've been very happy with it. Most new laptops no longer seem to offer Windows 7 and OEM system utilities for Windows 7 as original, official OEM installs, and I'm *so* reluctant to deal with Windows 8 that I've actually done some fairly intricate and involved internal repairs to my laptop on my own in order to keep it working rather than buy a new one. (Computer manufacturers who are blaming Windows 8 for the ~10% drop in non-tablet computer sales might be on to something.) But I see the writing on the wall: Microsoft doesn't want to repeat XP's long, new-cash-starved life cycle and instead wants to force its users into a shorter, company-mandated upgrade cycle, with each upgrade of Windows requiring upgraded hardware to run it. This planned obsolescence strategy isn't nearly as egregious as Apple's, but it's still more constraining than I'm happy with, so I'm looking at Linux.

    I've run Linux before -- PCLinuxOS with the KDE desktop environment on an older laptop that XP wouldn't run stably on -- and the learning curve was very manageable, even gentle, for an experienced XP user. In fact, I'd say that PCLOS's one-stop-shopping updates with no rebooting (ever!) made for a considerably more hassle-free computing experience than XP did.

    The problem was that OpenOffice (and its various forks) just weren't as sophisticated, debugged, optimized, and polished as Microsoft Office was, and its learning curve was in fact moderately steep for an MS Office user with ingrained habits. (That being said, the new ribbon interface on MS Office 2010 et seq. *also* presents a moderately steep learning curve for MS Office users with ingrained habits. Also, I'm old enough to remember that the Excel bug where double-click-to-fit column widths were a tad too narrow and printed ##### on printouts instead of the actual cell contents persisted for a good 10 years, through several versions of the program! I also fondly remember the Word bug where timed autosaves that occurred during spell checks completely wiped out all section formatting, a bug that went undiagnosed, unacknowledged, and unremedied by Microsoft for many months. I used to produce lengthy, complex, multi-section reports in Word, so this was a particular favorite of mine -- one responsible for several hair-pulling, desk-pounding all-nighters to meet deadlines.)

    Yes, I've read that some versions of MS Office can be installed and will run reasonably well on WINE. Other versions apparently can't and won't, even in Crossweaver's payware implementation of WINE, Crossover. And even if I did succeed in installing and using one version of Office, I would not count on being able to update or upgrade it with happy results. I would not rely on MS Office as an ongoing, mission-critical app in Linux.

    So I'm forcing myself to get used to the latest release of LibreOffice. Although it still seems to be buggier and less optimized than MS Office, it has come a long way in terms of sophistication. Moreover, a lot of government entities outside the US have switched to it, so there's grounds for hoping that it will continue to improve. And once I'm comfortable and proficient with LibreOffice, I think I'm going to feel pretty comfortable ditching Microsoft entirely and switching to Linux when end-of-support for Windows 7 arrives or my laptop craps out, whichever comes first. (If Microsoft wants to keep me using its OEM-bundled Windows system, Windows 9 or higher had better be mind-blowingly good and not saddle me with pointless interface changes and needless learning curves. And even then, the planned obsolescence window will be in the back of my mind.)

    The major remaining problem for Linux seems to be that some hardware manufacturers don't release Linux drivers for their products, or Linux drivers that are as good or as timely as their Windows drivers, or even enough information for third-party coders to write good drivers for them. I have a feeling equal driver support might not happen without some very serious threats from government antitrust authorities, and for that I expect we'll have to look to the EU.

    • Peter March 10, 2014 at 11:52 pm #

      Corrigendum: End-of-support for Windows XP is 8 April 2014, not 2012, obviously...

  16. Helder Santos Estrada March 11, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

    In my opinion now is the time for companies do a migration to Linux and abandon the Windows. Windows 8 is terrible for non-touch pcs and will redude the productivity of companies.

  17. Swarup March 12, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

    Personally I'll wait for Windows 9 or jump to Ubuntu or upgrade to Win 7.
    I think Windows 8 is not very friendly as Win XP or Win7 but if you are using touch screen then Win8 is very easy to use.

    • Dave March 12, 2014 at 6:23 pm #

      completely agree with you

    • Mike Hall March 14, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

      A 3rd party start menu easily fixes Windows 8 and makes it as easy to use as Windows 7, Vista, XP et al.

      I have been running Windows 8 + Start8 since day one and have never owned a touch screen..

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