Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP on April 8th, 2014. That makes sense. The operating system has been around for well over a decade and users have had plenty of time to move to Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1.
But there are still millions of people using the aging operating system — close to a third of Windows users are reportedly still running Windows XP. And if they don’t move to another operating system or install some third party security software by April 8th, they could present a major target for developers of malware.
That’s because when official support for Windows XP ends, Microsoft won’t even be pushing security updates to existing users.
Update: Microsoft has changed its tune. The company will continue to offer security updates through Microsoft Security Essentials and the company’s enterprise security applications through July 14th, 2015.
Not only does that mean users won’t be able to download any software patches through Windows Update, but Microsoft’s anti-malware app Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows XP won’t download any new updates after that date.
PC Pro says that makes Windows XP a ticking time bomb. Not only will Windows XP not receive updates… but newer versions of Windows will. That means if Microsoft discovers a vulnerability in Windows 7, for instance, and releases an update to patch that vulnerability, it’ll be almost like Microsoft is giving attackers an instruction manual for hacking the unpatched Windows XP, which contains much of the same code as later versions of the operating system.
Of course, just because Microsoft is dropping support for Windows XP doesn’t mean everyone else is… AVG, Avira, Avast!, Comodo, ZoneAlarm, and others continue to offer free anti-virus and other anti-malware software which will continue to work with Windows XP for the foreseeable future.