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How To Safely Use Windows XP After Microsoft Ends Support

Windows XP
Windows XP | Source

My church has several computers that now run Windows XP. But that operating system (OS) lost all support from Microsoft on April 8, 2014.

Without regular security updates, WinXP machines have become much more vulnerable to being hacked. So, we are left with the choice of either sticking with WinXP, upgrading to a newer version of Windows, or selecting a different OS altogether.

Upgrading to Windows 7 or 8.1 is simply not an option for our small church. Our vintage (read old) computers are perfectly adequate for our purposes. But none of the new Windows versions will run on them, and buying new hardware is just not something our budget will permit at this time.

So, I’ve been investigating what alternatives we have that will allow us to continue running our applications without costing us more money. There seem to be only two realistic possibilities:

  1. Continue to run Windows XP even though Microsoft no longer supports it. This involves learning how to live with a greatly expanded vulnerability to malware (viruses and the like) and hacking.
  2. Switch to a free and well supported open source operating system such as Ubuntu Linux. Doing this would require that our volunteers learn new ways of doing things that won’t be nearly as convenient as they are used to.

After doing a lot of research, I’ve developed a plan that mostly involves sticking with WinXP, but that also relies to a small extent on the use of Ubuntu for performing critical web-based functions.

Types of attacks

There are two major ways in which criminals attempt to victimize computer users. One is the “phishing” attack in which the aim is to trick the user into providing sensitive data, such as passwords and logons, or personal information like a bank account PIN or a Social Security number. This type of “social engineering” attack probably won’t change much now that WinXP is no longer supported, since the point of vulnerability is actually the person rather than the technology.

My concern is mostly with how a hacker may try to insert malware (viruses, trojan horses and the like) onto our computers. Once that aim is achieved, an attacker has effectively gained total control of the system without the user having any idea what’s going on. And that’s where a WinXP machine that is no longer receiving security updates becomes extremely vulnerable.

Source

The dangers of continuing to use WinXP after Microsoft's withdrawal of support

The headline in a Time Magazine article says it all concerning what computer security experts expect now that Microsoft support of Windows XP has ended: Windows XP to Become a Hacker’s Dream in 2014.

The reason for that dire prediction is that since the end-of-support date, Microsoft no longer provides security updates to fix the vulnerabilities that, even after more than a dozen years of use, are still being regularly found in WinXP.

In fact, experts expect that Microsoft itself will inadvertently contribute to hackers discovering previously unknown WinXP vulnerabilities. Windows 7 and 8.1 both use a large amount of code inherited from WinXP. When security updates to these new versions of Windows are released, hackers will reverse engineer them to understand the vulnerabilities they are intended to fix, and then check to see if the same vulnerabilities exist in WinXP.

Hacker!
Hacker! | Source

Zero-Day forever!

That leads to what the experts call the zero-day forever scenario. “Zero-day” refers to the time between the discovery of a point of attack, and the time when a fix is released for it. With WinXP support now ended, vulnerabilities will continue to be found, but no fixes for them will ever be forthcoming. So, hackers will continue to gleefully exploit those openings for as long as long as WinXP remains in widespread use.

This is why experts are almost unanimous in their advice that if at all possible, users should migrate from WinXP to one of the newer Windows systems.

But for those of us for whom migrating along the Windows upgrade path is not a viable option, I believe there are steps we can take to minimize our exposure to the hacker disaster WinXP’s loss of support could bring on.

Here is what we are doing to make the computers in our church more secure.

1. Make sure that all the apps we use are fully up to date

Now that Microsoft support has ended, no upgrades to WinXP itself will be available. That makes it more important than ever that supporting applications that help keep the operating system secure be kept up to date.

Microsoft Security Essentials and the Malicious Software Removal Tool

Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) is a free app designed to provide real-time protection against malware getting onto your PC. The Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) is a free utility that checks for malware that may already be installed on your computer and helps remove it.

Microsoft will continue to update MSE and MSRT until July 2015. MSRT can still be downloaded and used. However, if you don’t already have MSE, you can’t get it! When Microsoft ended their WinXP support, they also removed the download links for MSE. But if you do have MSE, you can continue to use it.

Upgrade other apps

Any apps that will continue to be used on your WinXP system should be upgraded and kept up to date for as long as WinXP-compatible updates are available. But be prepared for app vendors to begin dropping XP support as time goes on.

A contrarian view of WinXP's demise

You might want to check out a free program, Secunia Software Inspector, which helps to identify apps that need to be upgraded and provides links to upgrade sites.

Where possible, replace Microsoft apps with open source equivalents

With the end of WinXP support, apps like Microsoft’s Media Player that are installed with the operating system or with the Internet Explorer browser may no longer receive upgrades. We are using free, open source equivalents such as the VLC media player.

Keep antivirus software up to date

Use of effective antivirus software is the critical first line of defense in maintaining WinXP security. Since out-of-date antivirus software is essentially worthless, keeping these programs up to date is an absolute necessity.

A number of vendors of free antivirus software have announced their continued support of WinXP. AVG and Avast, for example, have promised to continue their support for at least two more years.

Check out this list of anti-virus software that will continue to be available for WinXP.

2. Use only Google’s Chrome (or Mozilla’s Firefox) as the web browser

The number one avenue by which hackers attempt to get their malware onto WinXP systems is through the web browser. A browser with inadequate security makes a computer vulnerable to what are called “drive-by downloads” in which the malicious software is installed and executed just by visiting an infected website. The user may be totally unaware that the download even took place.

The most secure web browser currently is Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 10. But IE-10 is not an option since the latest version supported on WinXP is IE-8, which falls well short in its security capabilities.

Google Chrome
Google Chrome | Source

How do you rate the Chrome browser?

3.5 out of 5 stars from 22 ratings of Google Chrome

At this point, Google’s Chrome has the reputation of being the most secure browser available for WinXP, with Mozilla’s Firefox a close second. Internet security reporter Brian Krebs recently posted the results of analysts’ findings regarding an exploit kit (software sold on the underground market for use by hackers in victimizing unsuspecting PC users) called Styx:

One very interesting pattern I observed in poking at this exploit pack — and others recently — is the decreasing prevalence or complete absence of reported infections from Google Chrome users, and to a lesser extent users of recent versions of Mozilla Firefox.

This Styx installation reports installing malware on systems of just a handful of Firefox users, and against not a single Chrome user. In fact, the author of this kit freely states in a Q&A from an underground forum sales thread that his kit doesn’t even work against Chrome.

(emphasis added)

Google has committed to continuing to support WinXP at least until July, 2015, while Mozilla states that they have no plans at this time to end Firefox WinXP support.

3. Use Gmail for email

Microsoft email products like Outlook or Outlook Express lost their support at the same time as WinXP and should no longer be used. Our church has settled on Gmail, Google’s free online email service, as our standard.

We chose Gmail because it benefits from all the technological muscle Google can bring to bear on the issue of email security. The malware scanning in Gmail is extremely thorough, universally applied on both the body and attachments (including photographs) of emails, and constantly updated with the best anti-malware techniques available.

Using Gmail allows all that great anti-malware filtering to take place before a malicious email ever even gets downloaded to our PCs.

4. Disable vulnerable browser plugins like Java, Flash Player, and Adobe Reader

Java is used extensively by websites to display their content. But it is well known for harboring many security vulnerabilities. Both Chrome and Firefox now disable Java by default, requiring a user to make an explicit decision to allow it to run on trusted websites.

Source

Because of the security vulnerabilities in Adobe’s Flash Video player and its Reader app for viewing pdf files, the Chrome browser now has these capabilities built in, so that the Flash and Reader add-ons are no longer necessary to perform these functions.

Experts recommend that even if you never use these browser plugins or add-ons you uninstall them to reduce the number of possible openings your PC presents to an attacker. Just by being present on your computer they put it at risk.

5. Use both hardware and software firewalls

According to Microsoft, “The most effective and important first step you can take to help protect your computer is to turn on a firewall.”

A firewall functions like a security officer guarding each entrance and exit of the premises, and determining who can go in and out. So, the firewall serves to restrict which outside sources can gain access to the computer over the internet, and what information the computer can send out.

Computer system firewalls are implemented both in hardware and software, and ideally both should be employed.

Our church’s internal network includes a router with a built-in hardware firewall. In addition, we will also employ a software firewall. Since WinXP’s built-in firewall became unsupported when WinXP did, we are installing the ZoneAlarm free version as our software firewall.

6. Keep vital documents in the cloud on Dropbox

Our systems are all connected with free Dropbox cloud network accounts [see How To Use Dropbox as a Free Cloud Network for a Small Church]. Documents saved to the Dropbox folder on any of the machines are automatically synched on every other machine in our network, and also stored in the “cloud.”

This provides several advantages. First, all documents are available on any church computer. Second, because documents are saved not only locally, but also on Dropbox’s servers, they are automatically backed up with no additional effort on our part. And Dropbox keeps several previous versions of each file, allowing recovery if a file is corrupted.

We access the Dropbox folder on our systems as just another drive – in our case, the N: drive. By making sure to save critical documents or files only to that drive, we should be able to recover even if one or more of our computers is compromised.

If you are interested in Dropbox, you can open a free account here.

7. Allow users to log in only under a non-Administrator account

In WinXP, accounts with Administrator privileges have access to everything on the computer. That means that malware executed under an Administrator account has unrestricted access, and can do maximum damage. The accounts used on a daily basis by users or even administrators should not have Administrative privileges.

Here are the procedures we will observe:

  • Each account will require a password in order to log in.
  • The accounts under which the bulk of users log in will not have Administrator privileges.
  • Even administrators will do most of their work logged in as a regular user. Administrator accounts will be used only for functions that truly require those privileges.
  • Administrator accounts will not carry a name that indicates they are Administrator accounts. Hackers look for accounts with that name, and then use various methods to attempt to determine the password. You might also set up a dummy account bearing the Administrator name to deflect potential intruders from the real one. An added advantage of that is that any attempt to access the dummy account can serve as an alert that the computer is being targeted for intrusion. Further information on doing this can be found at Suggested Best Practices for Securing Windows.

8. Use application and web site whitelisting

WinXP supports application whitelisting, which allows only specified applications to run on the computer. No others, including downloaded malware, will be allowed to execute.

Similarly, browser whitelisting allows a user to access only pre-approved websites. Both Chrome and Firefox have add-ons for whitelisting.

Does continuing to use Windows XP make sense?

See results

Since our church computers are expected to run only a limited list of applications, we will set up our application whitelists to restrict our machines to running only those applications. We will also identify a set of websites that might reasonably be accessed for church business, and restrict our browsers to only that list.

When general web browsing is required, as it sometimes is, it will be done by logging in under Ubuntu.

Here are some resources for more information regarding whitelisting.

Defending Windows with Application Whitelisting

National Security Agency: Application Whitelisting using Software Restriction Policies

Microsoft: Using Software Restriction Policies to Protect Against Unauthorized Software

Whitelist for Chrome

9. Train users in safe web practices

To operate safely with WinXP’s post-support vulnerabilities, users will have to be much more careful in their use of the internet. Here are some practices we will train our users to observe.

  • No recreational web surfing on church computers, and no surfing to unknown websites. This will be enforced through website whitelisting. (Unrestricted web surfing can be done by logging in under Ubuntu rather than WinXP).
  • Always heed browser warnings about possibly malicious or infected websites!
  • Never download anything! And never click on upgrade requests – report them to the System Administrator.
  • Never use WinXP for sensitive activities like banking. Such functions will be done only under Ubuntu.
  • No loading of files from home with USB memory sticks (or floppies).
  • No accessing of personal social media, including Facebook and Twitter.
  • Never enable Java, Flash, etc, even if the browser asks.

Eventually WinXP will have to be replaced

In reality, we know that all these measures are stopgaps. Even though millions of computers around the world continue to use WinXP, it is well into the process of becoming extinct. In two or three years, vendors of critical software applications, like browsers and anti-malware apps, can be expected to finally follow Microsoft’s lead and drop WinXP support altogether.

So, we will take advantage of the techniques outlined above to get a few more years of grace. But at the same time, we’ll be planning for the day when nothing we can do will keep WinXP viable as our operating system of choice.

© 2014 Ronald E. Franklin

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58 comments

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 2 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

I recently had my computer up and die, and I wound up deciding to replace it with a used Vista tower. It seemed like the right thing to do because the OS had died, and it was my birthday. I'd not have replaced it otherwise, as I was perfectly happy with Xp.

Mostly, I wanted to thank you for such a well done and extensive article about a topic which a lot of people are going to want and need information for. CHEERS!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

A great reference guide you have created here. Very thoughtful of you to share what most likely you prepared for the volunteers at your church. Highly appreciated. Thank you.


fatlosswomen profile image

fatlosswomen 2 years ago from San Diego

I am not convinced with the plan you just outlined. I still suggest you to switch from WinXP to Ubuntu if you can't afford the costs of new hardware and OS. Doing this might require the volunteers to make some extra efforts in order to get themselves familiar with the new system. However, this little effort will ensure the greater safety.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks much, Wesman. You're right that many people need info on XP losing Microsoft support. I think there are probably millions of XP users who are still blissfully unaware of what April 8 portends.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thank you, MsDora. Yes, I thought all the research I was forced to do might be helpful to others. I hope it is.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, fatlosswomen. Part of our issue, which I think may be shared by a lot of small organizations that use XP, is that we have some critical custom applications that don't run under UNIX. The same is true of some drivers. For example, our copier, which doubles as a system printer, doesn't have UNIX print drivers available. So it's more than just a user training issue for us. Thanks for reading and commenting.


PWalker281 2 years ago

This very timely, Ron. Thanks for sharing. I'm going to have to make some decisions soon, but your suggestions will help in the interim. I was told by the company that fixed my computer to upgrade to Windows 7 which is what I hope to do at some point. Voted up and useful.


cmoneyspinner1tf profile image

cmoneyspinner1tf 2 years ago from Austin, Texas

OK bro! Sounds like a plan. Let's do this!!!


heidithorne profile image

heidithorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

It's always such a tough decision to choose between upgrading hardware AND software OR using workarounds and strategies like you've outlined here. I got forced into upgrading last fall when my 2008 hard drive crashed. I found it was just as cheap to either replace the drive or buy a whole new computer. Thanks for sharing your tips for those who are on the fence or are faced with having to deal with the issue!


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, Patrice. Win7 is what I use on my own PC. Just be aware that Microsoft no longer sells it at retail (it still can be bought pre-installed on new PCs), and Microsoft will end Win7 support in 2020.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, Treathyl. Thanks for sharing the hub on your blog. I looked at it, and it's great! I very much appreciate it.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, Heidi. I'm considering buying a new PC with Win 8.1 for my wife. But I think the next step for the church PCs will be Ubuntu. Then we won't any longer be held hostage to Microsoft's product cycles.


Jesusvu 2 years ago from USA

I like your article it was well written. I wrote one about Windows XP today as well. One Linux distro that I recommend for older PCs is called PuppyLinux and its light weight. It can run from a liveCD or being installed. It requires 256MB RAM and 200MB hard drive space.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, Jesusvu. I hadn't heard about PuppyLinux - I'll have to check it out. I've installed Lubuntu, which is also light weight, on an old laptop and it's working fine so far.


PhoenixV profile image

PhoenixV 2 years ago from USA

Excellent Hub and Congratulations on it being a winning hub, it is great. I did not know Microsoft was ending support and that is personally bad news. I am currently using Home Premium and I liked XP so much better. XP was quite a bit more user friendly in my opinion and I was hoping to get it on a computer again.

From OS's to even websites, very few of the new things being advanced today is better than the older editions. Windows XP was great and I thought Firefox 3. 2-6 were great, but for some reason they think we need Windows 88 on and on and Firefox 212 ad infinitum versions. It never ends and everyone has to keep relearning each of these new versions and I have yet to see an improvement if not a step backwards, I am going to bookmark your hub for later in case I need it.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, PhoenixV. There are millions of satisfied XP users, plus other millions that, to Microsoft's regret, have refused to buy Windows 8, who agree with you that all technological change is not necessarily progress!


luvtoowrite profile image

luvtoowrite 2 years ago from Chicago, IL

I always did like Windows XP. It really is a shame that Microsoft will not update any longer. Your hub actually contains useful information, no matter what operating system one uses. I am guilty of not updating my computer. I guess I will have to break this bad habit. Thanks for giving the heads up.


PWalker281 2 years ago

Oh wow, that's good to know, Ron. Then I hope they upgrade Windows 8 because I was told every other version of Windows is the good one; that's why he recommended Windows 7 and why XP has lasted so long.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, luvtoowrite. A lot of people (millions) still like XP!


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi Damien. Welcome to HP! I think there are vast numbers of people, like yourself, who haven't even heard about what's about to happen to their beloved WinXP computers. Many are probably only dimly aware that Microsoft has been providing weekly security updates all along, and won't even notice when they cease. Until, that is, some nasty malware hits their machine. It's a bad situation. Thanks for reading and commenting.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Patrice, Windows 9 is already in the works. Hopefully you, and a lot of us, will be able to hang on with WinXP until then.


joer4x4 profile image

joer4x4 2 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

XP has been a hackers dream ever since it arrived and so is 8. Windows 9 will be no different.

The truth is no one can protect you like you can. Anything on the web is suspect. The cloud has promised over and over again your data is secure and safe. Yet over and over sites have been hacked left and right.

If you are serious about protecting your data keep it off the cloud, keep it backed up and keep it off line where only you can get to it. If you keep personal information on you parishioners you owe them that much since you decided to take that responsibility.

Keep in mind open source will eventually drop support for XP too as they have with older MS operating systems. Open source moves on too.

Keep in mind the reason you need virus and malware protection. That reason is because you choose MS. Mail services like Gmail do not need this extra layer of protection for themselves, the need it because the mail will be downloaded to an MS system that will get infected.

If a white listed site is hacked you will get infected as well. A well known good site is suspect to any type of infection at any time.

Now Dropbox claims it was never hacked and that may be true. They blamed it on their own doing. However in my experience, good programmers just don't make those kind of mistakes.

I see Chome shows up more than Firefox on CERT listing but I dumped Chome when Google said they would not fix the problem where another user can see your passwords. Although I think they finally did fix it after many complaints. Firefox has some very good security addons.

It's a nice short term 6-12 month plan. You have thought it out well.

As I have always asked: Are you really that concerned? Look at it this way to understand. Would you pay someone to make you vulnerable and to do more work than you should have to? You might answer - of course not! But that is exactly the fix your in now and will be in the future so long as you pay the pony.

PS... there is far better firewall and virus software out there for free.

Good luck and wish you the best.


searchinsany profile image

searchinsany 2 years ago from UK

This is a well presented article and full of useful information, thank you for sharing. Voted up.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, joer4x4. I think I detect in your comment a definite point of view regarding Microsoft! I appreciate you taking the time to write.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, searchinsany. I'm glad you found it helpful.


Venkatachari M profile image

Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

Thanks for sharing your ideas with us. I use XP and does not like to shift to any other version as I am fond of this. Now I can securely continue with the help of your guidelines. Thanks a lot.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, Venkatachari M. WinXP will be more vulnerable than ever, but hopefully we can minimize the risks by being proactive and vigilant.


Thomas Swan profile image

Thomas Swan 2 years ago from New Zealand

I just installed Fedora 20 Linux on my old XP laptop yesterday. It was much easier to install and update than I expected. I just saved the image to a boot disk, and it practically installed itself when I loaded it. I was expecting most of the upgrades to be done using annoying terminal commands like "make" and "make install" with all the usual errors, but linux seems to have come a long way since my days of frustration. All of the vital installations like flash player, codecs and drivers could be done via "rpm" files that extracted and installed themselves like window programs, or by typing "yum install (program_name)" in a terminal. There were even programs like "Easy Life" that selected the necessary codecs for me. Furthermore, there was a Gnome Tweak Tool that allowed me to customize my desktop extensively. I was very happy with it. Linux seems to be quite easy to use these days.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, Thomas. I agree that Linux has a lot going for it these days. In some ways it's more usable than Windows, though IMO it lags in others. Actually during my engineering career I was a UNIX SysAdmin for a time - and hated every second of it! (Just slight exxageration). It's much better now. Thanks for reading and commenting.


TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

TIMETRAVELER2 2 years ago

You have convinced me to upgrade both of my computers to a newer Windows application, but I do so under extreme duress. I love XP and feel it is the best program Microsoft ever created...I do not understand why they are making this change and leaving so many people vulnerable. Many have no clue about this issue, and even if they did, they would have problems employing the fixes for it. This is an outstanding article that I will be sharing. Voted up and useful.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, TIMETRAVELER2. Actually I can understand Microsoft's motivation. They have to keep moving the technology or competitors will blow them away. So they need people to buy their newest Windows (now 8.1). They get no additional revenue from WinXP users, but spend money to keep it upgraded. So, to me, it's just a fact of life that they need to push people away from XP. But it's hard on users!


janshares profile image

janshares 2 years ago from Washington, DC

OMG, RonElFran. I had to stop reading at number six at Dropbox. I'm so overwhelmed and concerned because I'm so not savvy about such things. This was an excellent and informative hub. I will definitely have to follow through with some of these strongly recommended directives. Although my updates are current, I feel pretty vulnerable when it comes to malware after said date. The first thing I will do is check out MSE and MSRT. Thank you very much for this free tutorial, voted up and useful.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, janshares. I'm glad this info is helpful to you. I think a lot of WinXP users still have no idea of what's coming and how vulnerable they may soon be. But with knowledge, preparation and vigilance I think we have a reasonable chance of staying safe online.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

Oh, boy. I use FaceBook extensively; I play games there, as well as stay in touch with family. I notice you did not mention "shockwave" as a dangerous plug-in. ... But it does seem vulnerable to crashing every now and then; the game will present a blank screen with the message, "shockwave has crashed."

This has been true ever since before the abandonment of XP by Microsoft.

I also browse all over the 'net doing research for my articles. However, I am now using Firefox almost exclusively...since I've started having trouble with my computer, Chrome does not want to load or work. It crashes and locks things up to the point of having to hard-crash the whole computer! Firefox crashes once or twice a day ("Firefox is not responding"), but it reboots just fine once shut down and re-initiated.

However, my computer is not wanting to boot up without multiple tries, error message screens, 'blue' screens, and so forth, so I imagine I am even more 'at risk,' because my current only option to have the machine continue to work seems to be to just leave it on 24/7, shutting down only my monitor overnight.

We do have a (supposed) firewall within the machines with our anti-virus program, and also in the modem from our ISP... I can only hope it's enough.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, DzyMsLizzy. I'm going to refer you to my answer to your comment on my "Why Lubuntu Is A Good Alternative To Replace Windows XP" hub. Give Lubuntu/Wubi a try! You should be able to do all the things you mention without getting deep into the technical weeds of Linux.

Meanwhile, it looks like your XP setup could use a general cleanup. There are a number of free apps that can help with that. If you google "xp cleanup" that should get you started. Have you done a system wide scan with your anti-virus? (I assume it's fully up to date). You may also want to check out a free program called Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, which is widely recommended for ferreting out malware that may be hiding on your system. I downloaded it from CNET.

Honestly, all of this will take a some time and investigation. But I do believe there's real hope for you to get past these frustrating hangups with your system. So, don't despair!


Thomas Swan profile image

Thomas Swan 2 years ago from New Zealand

Just to update on my situation, after switching to Fedora Linux I encountered some problems with internet connectivity and a ridiculous update that caused my computer to stop recognizing my own screen monitor lol. I won't be using Fedora again! I switched immediately to Ubuntu and it works like a dream. Better than XP IMO. When switching to Ubuntu (or any linux OS), go on the web and search in google for "things to do after installing ubuntu". Go through all the guides you can find, and spend a couple of hours installing the various bits of software they recommend (like flash, skype, codecs, etc). It really helps and is kinda therapeutic cos it's like you're getting something for free... which you are! lol


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, Thomas. I haven't really looked at Fedora, and with your experience I don't feel any need to do so! Ubuntu and its derivatives seem to be the most appropriate for XP refugees like me. Thanks for bringing us up to date.


Venkatachari M profile image

Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

I downloaded Avast antivirus for my Windows XP and it is working good as far as I experience it.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, Venkatachari M. So far I've not seen that there's been any epidemic of malware hitting XP machines. Hopefully your use of Avast will keep it that way for you! Thanks for commenting.


Thomas Swan profile image

Thomas Swan 2 years ago from New Zealand

I tried Avast free on my laptop (when it had XP) and it annoyed the heck out of me. It was OK for the first few days, then it kept giving me more and more notifications on startup to buy this or download that. I wouldn't recommend AVG either. It was a nightmare getting it off my desktop computer when I wanted to uninstall it. It was behaving like a malicious program itself!... leaving files on my computer, or refusing to open properly. After that, I tried Bitdefender, but that created a conflict with another program. Eventually, I settled on Avira. It doesn't give me annoying popup notifcations (much), it downloads updates quietly and easily, and it runs in the background in much the same way. After a month or so, it gets my thumbs up!


Venkatachari M profile image

Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

Hi, Ronald E. Franklin, I too had no problem. But somebody advised me to instal Avast free as only a precaution. So I got it. But I do not see any problem with it as Mr. Thomas Swan reports. It gives you notifications which should not be a problem to you. You can ignore the popups and they will automatically disappear after some seconds. You simply need to setup in your settings to automatically update the updates. Every time you open the computer, it updates automatically in the background within a minute. I think anybody can afford so much of time and patience.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thomas, I understand your frustration with AVG. We continue to use it, but it has become more intrusive with various "offers" and trying to install toolbar additions lately. So far it hasn't gotten frustrating enough to drive me to spend the time finding an acceptable alternative and installing it on all our machines. I've concluded that when a product is free, we can expect some annoyances. As with any other downloads, the key is remaining vigilant before clicking.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, Venkatachari M. I've not used Avast, but expect it has its own pros and cons, just like AVG. Thanks for your input about it.


Thomas Swan profile image

Thomas Swan 2 years ago from New Zealand

Yea, that's the reason I got rid of AVG. I had it for years, but it started getting more much annoying with the "offers". I lost patience entirely when a random popup offer caused one of my games to crash. When I tried to uninstall it, it was like it didn't want to uninstall itself. I had to reinstall before uninstalling. That's when I tried Avast and found it was just as bad. Avira seems to be ok though. Runs smoother, fewer offers... I hardly notice it's there. That's for my desktop though. With Ubuntu linux on my laptop, I don't need anything :)


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

I have one additional question about one of your recommendations, and that is the use of "cloud" backups.

According to my husband, who used to work in the computer industry, ANYTHING and EVERYTHING you put "out there" on the internet IS subject to being hacked, and therefore, he does not trust and will not use "cloud" applications. It therefore seems safer to backup onto an external hard drive, (which I do) so your content stays safe inside your own home where no prying eyes can have access. Would you not agree?


Venkatachari M profile image

Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

Do you mean Google Drive and Cloud are vulnerable to attacks? Am I to worry then?


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

DzyMsLizzy, I think the answer to your question has to do with what types of data you are backing up. In the case of our church, the data we back up with Dropbox is not sensitive, and doesn't include bank or financial data. I'd be astounded if anyone took the trouble to try to ferret it out, and wouldn't care if they did. Our biggest vulnerability is loss of data, not that somebody might steal it. I would think that’s true for most people: the data they need to protect from theft is a small amount compared to the amount they need to protect from loss. After all, how many hackers are really interested in getting access to your photos of Aunt Hattie? So, I’d recommend just keeping sensitive data on your computer, but for the majority, online backup should be fine.


Venkatachari M profile image

Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

XP is going well even now without any problem.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Venkatachari M: You're right, I've not noticed significant problems yet.


Thomas Swan profile image

Thomas Swan 2 years ago from New Zealand

Just wanted to retract my earlier recommendation for Avira. For god's sakes don't download it! What a nightmare I had. The popup notifications I wasn't getting started appearing more and more frequently. Eventually I ran out of patience and tried to remove it. Uninstalling the program proved even more difficult than it was for AVG (another terrible choice). It had put things in my registry to reassert itself constantly on my computer. I had to use some kind of special registry uninstaller program for it. The whole process took me two hours. Avira and AVG are worse than viruses because they think they have a right to compromise your PC in that way. Removing them is more difficult than removing a virus. In the end I just went with MS Security Essentials. It may not be perfect, but I'm a careful person, and if I think my computer is running a little too slow, I do a scan with Malwarebytes or SuperAntiSpyware... which have served me well for years. MSSE also doesn't give popups of course.


SheilaMilne profile image

SheilaMilne 2 years ago from Kent, UK

Well, this is something that has been on my mind for several months now, and I'm relieved to find I follow almost all the precautions you suggest. But I could do better, most especially as far as backing up is concerned. So thank you for this extremely helpful article.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, Sheila. I'm glad this has been helpful.


J_R_Monnier profile image

J_R_Monnier 22 months ago from NATIONAL CITY, MI

Hello Ron and thanks for the tips! I would just like to say, WinXP was microsoft's last good operating system. I had researched linux OS's for a month before I had to switch. I decided that I wasn't going to go back to windows because I felt like they had played a dirty trick on me. My sister has a laptop with windows 8.1 on it and I just plain don't like it. So anyway, I researched linux for a month, then it took me a month to figure out how to get it into my computer. I started with ubuntu and ran that for a while, but eventually I ended trying a bunch of different linux OS's and finally found LinuxLite 2.2, which I am very happy with. It's close to WinXP with some minor differences and works really well on my old pc, although the minimum RAM requirement is 512MB and I have 503MB (couple of dead cells) but it still works great for me.

Goodluck with your pc's and God bless!


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 22 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, J_R_Monnier. I agree with you about WinXP. From a usability standpoint, it hits a sweet spot Microsoft has yet to match in later versions. I do look forward to seeing what Windows 10 looks like. Hopefully they've learned from their travails with Win8. I'm glad you found a good alternative. Thanks for reading and sharing.


adevwriting profile image

adevwriting 13 months ago from United Countries of the World

This is really useful information for people who are still using Windows XP. My preference is Windows 7. Sharing on Facebook and Google+


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 11 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

adevwriting, I'm glad it's useful for you. Thanks for sharing it.


Matt 7 days ago

true


Matt 7 days ago

Just set my dad up with XP on his old laptop while i agree it is older and it is pretty rubbish if poorly setup

and it is because the default settings are no where near what you expect for today.

windows xp lacks a built in antivirus so I installed Avast free.

XP lacks good firewall like windows 7. Comodo takes care of that its free and and i turned off the windows firewll before that.

Malwarebytes works with Avast just in case anything tries to slip through the net but i'm more than sure it'll be fine! malwarebytes is free.

ccleaner xp isn't good a keeping itself clean advanced features in ccleaner take care of that. ccleaner is free.

Iobit Smart Defrag in xp disk defrag, you can't schedule as and when the Defrag will take place i.e date and time. smart defrag is free and will let you do that and you can now carry out defrags like you can with windows 7 and above.

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