266,000 NZ PCs left stranded as Microsoft cuts Windows XP support

Windows XP machiines could lock up, run slow, or be invaded by malware after today, company warns.

UPDATE April 8: Microsoft has today dropped support for its Windows XP software worldwide (although some large organisations willing to pay more will continue to get support until January 2016).

In New Zealand, it estimates 266,000 PCs still run on XP. Of those, approximately 45% or 117,000 are business PCs, Microsoft says.

“While PCs running Windows XP will continue to work, no more security updates or technical support means that consumers and companies still running XP are now vulnerable to harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software which can steal or damage valuable information," says Microsoft NZ director of marketing and operations Frazer Scott.

Customers who are unsure of what version of Windows they are using, Microsoft has developed a website amirunningxp.com that can automatically tell if a PC runs Windows XP or a newer version of Windows like Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1. If the site detects Windows XP, it provides guidance on how to upgrade, Mr Scott says.

XP is 12 years old, but has been sold by some PC makers as recently as five years ago, Institute of IT Professionals CEO Paul Matthews notes.

Most PCs running XP will be too slow and old to run the latest version of Windows.  

Mr Matthews says those who're put in the position of having to buy a whole new computer should look at their options beyond Windows 8, too.

"Those with very basic needs, such as just email and internet use, might also find Chromebooks or tablets suitable rather than a whole new desktop or full-strength laptop. Those with more in-depth needs should consider both PC and Mac options," he told NBR.

If you do find yourself stranded on XP, make sure your security software is up today, that you have the most recent version of XP and - especially - that you have working backups of all your files.

See more on the XP debate below.

One month from kill date, Microsoft says 300,000 PCs in NZ still run Windows XP - and face 'very real risks'

March 3: As the kill-date nears for the 12-year-old Windows XP, Microsoft estimates 300,000 PCs in NZ are running on the 13-year-old operating system software.

Of those, around 45% are business PCs, a rep for Microsoft tells NBR.

In its last update, in November last year, the company said 377,000 PCs were still running XP. 

After several last-minute stays-of-execution, Microsoft says it will be curtains for real on April 8 next year (or almost curtains, large corporate customers will be able to pay for patches).

After April 8, 2014, no more security fixes will be released for the ancient but still popular OS. That means Windows XP PCs will be vulnerable to malware, Microsoft says.

This morning, the company intensified its warnings.

According to Frazer Scott, director of marketing & operations at Microsoft NZ, the dangers of continuing to use XP beyond April 8 2014 are very real, and the risks should not be underestimated.

Mr Scott says those still using Windows XP beyond 8th of April may need to deal with issues such as:

  • Spyware accessing personal information from your PC including passwords and other private material
  • Constantly being re-directed to malicious websites
  • Sending or receiving spam emails
  • The loss of valuable data stored on your PC: photos, videos, documents, emails
  • PCs running slowly or being locked out altogether
  • Banking transactions could be compromised
  • For businesses, sensitive company data may be exposed, customer and supplier records lost, and finance and tax information could be destroyed

Although clearly still popular with its business customers, Microsoft says XP has done its dash.

Microsoft NZ Windows Business Group Manager Dean Edwards says the operating system was designed for a different world. It can't handle today's security and data privacy expectations. He adds that a lot of software - he gives the examples of Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft's own Office 2013 - cannot be installed on a PC running Windows XP.

Microsoft has set up a website to help people make the transition to its new Windows 8 (some corporates are angling for the older Windows 7).

Still, for some organisations it's going to be wrenching. As your NBR reporter moves around his community, from the local primary school to Bunnings Warehouse, XP is everywhere. 

READ ALSO: NZers left stranded on Windows XP next month could have Consumer Guarantees Act case - IITP CEO

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