Should I Worry about Support For XP Ending 4/8/2014?
For the most part, I would not worry about Microsoft stopping support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014, unless you happen to be someone who calls them for technical help on a regular basis. This is not like Y2K or some other dooms day forecast. And as long as the majority of software developers continue to create programs that run on XP you will probably be just fine for a few more years. However, don't count on being able to run many Microsoft services and/or install the newest software and peripherals for long. The fact that you will not continue to receive Windows XP updates may be a blessing in disguise (many of you know what I am talking about here). Obviously concerns about Windows XP will vary largely depending on your computer needs, usage and reasons why you are wanting to stick with Windows XP. Some of the main concerns might be for:
SECURITY SOFTWARE - At some point companies such as Symantec, McAfee and others will stop supporting Windows XP and when you eventually find that you can no longer find Security software that will run on Windows XP then it is time to start to worry, unless you don't connect your computer to the Internet and in that case, you have no problem. Put it this way, I still have a few Windows 2000 clients running Avast Antivirus and that still runs on Windows 2000. Microsoft Support for Windows 2000 ended in 2010, so I think you will be safe for few years to come. Maybe longer since there were such a large number of XP machines out there.
WINDOWS UPDATES AND PATCHES - Updates and patches for Windows XP will stop in April of 2014 which means that if someone discovers a security issue or problem with XP, Microsoft will not be sending out an update to fix the problem. Since many users find Windows updates to be a real pain and often can lead to greater problems, this may be a good thing. Kidding aside, I would not be real concerned about this. Just make sure you have a good security software installed and scan your computer for malware regularly(which we all should be doing anyway).
BASE SOFTWARE - The biggest concern would be the compatibility of the software that you run every day. If you use specialty programs such as Quicken, Quickbooks, Act! and others that you upgrade on a regular basis, then the concern would be for how long will they continue supporting XP. If you are like some clients I have that are still perfectly happy running Quicken 2004 and have no intention of upgrading then again, no worry. So as long as you have no plans to upgrade your software or install new software, then these original programs will continue to run long after Microsoft discontinues support for XP.
ONLINE SERVICES - The same concerns apply to any online services that you may currently use or plain to use in the future. Services such as Automatic backup like Carbonite, CrashPlan and Mozy will at some point stop support for XP but I don't think this will be for several more years. Online services such as Office 365 from Microsoft will not work, so as long as you don't have plans for these, then again no worries.
INTERNET BROWSING - For some reason Microsoft thought it was smart to already discontinue updating Internet Explorer for Windows XP and you may have already noticed that many websites are warning you that they no longer support Internet Explorer 8 which is the last version that Microsoft put out for XP. However, this is Microsoft's loss because there are far better browsers available from Mozilla and Google that are current and compatible with Windows XP. So until such time that you can no longer find any browsers for XP, there is nothing to worry about. Note: If you are using Windows XP, I would recommend installing Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox and use it as your default browser.
HARDWARE - Eventually, Hardware manufacturers will stop supporting XP which will mean that if you need to replace a printer or something, you may not be able to find one that has Windows XP drivers. This is not the case as yet but at some point this will start to happen. If you plan to purchase a smart phone or Tablet and want to sync it to your computer then you might start running into issues with their hardware and software compatibility with XP at some point.
One Other Thought - One thing that I would probably recommend for some, depending on your situation, is to maybe consider upgrading to Windows 7 or purchasing a Windows 7 computer while you can still get them. Microsoft Support for Windows 7 does not end until January 14, 2020. Who knows how long you will still be able to order business computers with Windows 7 from Dell and others. But this move would give you many more years of compatibility. Personally, I would still stay away from Windows 8 if you like using a keyboard and mouse, but maybe Windows 9 will be the one to wait for.
The Bottom line - If you have a Windows XP computer that is running fine and you use it for basic computing, don't upgrade your software or want to install the latest and greatest on it, then you can probably continue using it for another 5 years. But if you are a more advanced user that has many programs that you update on a regular basis, need to install new hardware such as phones, scanners and printers in the future and use or plan to use many new online services such as automatic backup and file synchronization. Then you will need to keep an eye on who is dropping support for XP and when. I have not run into any real problems as yet???
The last figures I saw somewhere indicated that a whopping 37% of all PC's are still running Windows XP. So I am guessing that there will certainly be a large number of XP computers still out there after 2014. Hey, I still have many Windows ME, 2000, 98 and 95 computers that continue to work just fine. I don't use them for any Internet access and do not install any new software on them.
Your biggest concern with a Windows XP computer at this point should be backing up your data. The likelihood of a hard drive failure on a computer that is more than a few years old is very high.
The good news is as the percentage of users declines on Windows XP, maybe the virus and malware creators will stop supporting XP too?
FYI - Microsoft is dropping support for Office 2003 on April 8, 2014 too.
Best of Luck!