Microsoft is turning off the XP tap, but there’s no need to panic. PAUL WALLBANK
By Paul Wallbank
As of this morning Microsoft and the major PC manufacturers will be no longer selling Windows XP. While the older operating system will be available through smaller outlets, it’s going to get increasingly harder to find.
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For most Windows users this isn’t a problem. Microsoft will be supporting Windows XP until 2014 with service packs and security updates, so there’s no urgency in throwing out perfectly good machines that are doing their job.
The real problem arises if you are buying new computers for your business. This is where the choice of Windows systems is important.
Vista isn’t going away. Even if your business has no intention of upgrading in the near future, you will encounter suppliers, contractors and customers who are using it so you need to be aware of what works and what doesn’t.
Larger companies with their own IT departments should have tested Vista by now with their standard operating environments (SOEs) to identify what applications have problems and how to work around any issues.
Knowing what works and having an idea of the costs of migrating to Vista enables managers and owners to identify when the return will justify the investment of moving to the new operating system.
For smaller businesses it’s not so straightforward. Most buy new systems when they need them. So the first time they find out their accounting software or printers won’t work with Vista is when they run the machine for the first time.
Fortunately Microsoft has made available a Vista upgrade adviser tool designed to run on an existing system that will identify potential problems with hardware and software. This is a free download from Microsoft’s website.
The upgrade adviser can be run on a computer that you don’t intend to upgrade. It compares what you are running on the system against a list of hardware and software and tells you what will be fine, what needs an upgrade and what it thinks won’t run.
Microsoft’s list isn’t exhaustive and there are almost certainly many software packages that aren’t on its database, so it is still important to contact the suppliers of your important software to confirm it will run on a Vista system.
If you don’t want to move to Vista there are still some choices. Smaller computer shops will still be able to supply systems with Windows XP until the start of 2009. This is probably going to be a much needed lifeline for some smaller outlets.
Those who prefer buying big name brands still have an option to get XP through Microsoft’s “downgrade rights” program. This allows buyers of Vista’s Business or Ultimate versions a license to run XP on the new systems. Of course this requires the additional time of uninstalling Vista.
Overall Vista hasn’t had a great reception because the new features in it do not justify the price and hassle of upgrading from XP. But if you are buying new computers that meet Vista’s hardware requirements then the new system is a delight to use.
Adding a Vista system to existing networks shouldn’t be too painful for most businesses. Where there are potential problems, a bit of planning and checking before buying will make sure your new systems will be a valuable and useful tool in your enterprise.
Paul Wallbank is Australia’s most heard computer commentator. For the last 10 years he has been the resident computer expert on ABC Local Radio and has written five computer books. Paul founded and built up a national IT support company, PC Rescue and has a free help website at IT Queries. Today he spends most of his time consulting and advising community and business groups on getting the most from their technology.
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David Christian writes: A very helpful and informative article. Many thanks.