Tuesday, 12 November 2013

When Windows XP Dies

Microsoft are ending support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. But with so many people still using Windows XP, 12 years after its release, (37% of all computers according to one report) what can they do when support ends?

The nice simple option is upgrade to Windows 7. Backup all your documents and files to an external device (USB thumb drive or external hard drive) and install Windows 7. There are possibilities to upgrade but the people I have spoke to upgrading from XP to 7 have said it is not worth it and just to install Windows 7 as a completely new Operating System. Then after it is installed and updated (put aside at least an hour) you can then transfer your files back into Windows 7, and start installing all your software again. At the time of writing this Windows 7 was selling for around $80, and support for Windows 7 will continue until January 14, 2020.

I didn't suggest upgrading to Windows 8 purely because the people I know that got it with new machines eventually just downgraded to Windows 7. It is an option though, just do the research.

The other option is forget Windows and go with Linux.

I know a few people reading this will instantly be thinking: "Linux? I don't want to learn programming the computer I just want to use it. All those commands through the terminal scare the shit out of me." Good news - Linux today can be used without ever touching the terminal. Some things are easier in the terminal, but nowadays Linux can be tweaked, adjusted, and fixed with GUI tools just like you are used to.

Which distribution do you go with? I have no clue. This question is a loaded question. Ask anyone who has used Linux which distribution is the best and chances are they will say the one they are using. If they don't why are they using it more to the point?

The real question should be: Which distribution is the best for someone who has never used Linux and is switching from Windows XP?

The answer to that question is somewhat easier. But there are still choices.

ZorinOS (http://zorin-os.com/), currently on version 7, by default is set to look and feel like Windows. It even has an option to make it look like, and behave like, Windows XP. And with the software center you'll be able to find all those programs you had in Windows.

Ubuntu (http://www.ubuntu.com/), using the long-term support release of 12.04, will look and feel nothing like Windows. The default GUI, called Unity, is a sidebar. This can be changed. I hated Unity when it first came out but after using it for a few months I hated having to work on Windows machines. That is personal preference though. The biggest reason to switch to Ubuntu, when switching from Windows XP, is the Ubuntu community. It is massive, and chances are that what you want to do, or fix, has already been done or fixed by someone.

Linux Mint (http://linuxmint.com/), which is a derivative of Ubuntu. It uses a more familiar desktop environment as default which will please Windows users making the switch. It has the reliability of Ubuntu and as such also has the same resources when needing advice or answers.

Fedora (http://fedoraproject.org/), currently on version 19, by default comes with the Gnome desktop which will appeal to Windows users. Fedora is a well polished Linux distribution. I know a few people that switched from Windows to Fedora and have not looked back.

That is just 4 possibilities, the actual possibilities is an almost endless list. The good thing is that almost all Linux distributions come with the option of downloading a live version. Whether it is a live CD/DVD/USB you start your PC and boot from the live version. Try it out and if you don't like it you just reboot and Windows XP is still there. Find one you like and you can usually install it. You want to get really adventurous most of the Linux installations offer the choice of installing alongside Windows. So you can have the best of both worlds.

Or, and this is really just a way-out-there option, you could install Linux then within Linux run a virtual machine running Windows XP. That way if you can't find the right software in Linux you can run Windows without ever leaving Linux.

Overall the best bet, if you want to switch, is to try something out via a live medium and find what works best for you. Everyone has their own opinion about what is the best Linux distribution, but ultimately only you will know what you like.

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