As Microsoft winds down its support for Windows XP, those who are still using the twelve-year old operating system are attempting to stretch out every last bit of life left in it. One of the problems that many have noticed is that their XP machines have slowed down significantly.
Before we take a look at why and some fixes that are available let’s be sure we are all on the same page as to the future of XP.
From Microsoft’s website we read:
Microsoft has provided support for Windows XP for the past 12 years. But now the time has come for us, along with our hardware and software partners, to invest our resources toward supporting more recent technologies so that we can continue to deliver great new experiences.
As a result, after April 8, 2014, technical assistance for Windows XP will no longer be available, including automatic updates that help protect your PC.
Just so we are clear, no matter what your position is on XP (and if you are still using it you are likely convinced it is a workhorse) there will be no more support as of the beginning of April.
Microsoft has recently announced an extension to this deadline; they will continue to provide updates to their antimalware signatures and engine for Windows XP until July 14, 2015. This extension is only intended to help organizations complete their migrations away from XP, but there will be no new Windows updates for the aging operating system.
What to do about the deadline
Regardless of this extension, there are still some things that can be done to impact the performance of your XP machines even today.
XP users have noticed significant slow downs as of late. Upon booting up it slows to a crawl with svchost.exe utilizing anywhere from 50% to 100% of your CPU time. Normal operation of the machine eventually comes back but it requires the patience of Job and today’s business environment doesn’t always allow for this kind of wait time.
What’s the reason for this slowdown? Well, with age in the computer space comes many, many updates. XP keeps getting smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror and, as a result, Windows Update can be a bit cumbersome to say the least. In short, the algorithm used to identify which patch your machine needs has more work than ever to do. Windows updates are cumulative and as the number of patches has grown over time, the list that Windows is checking against has grown significantly. The result is a much slower experience on an XP machine. Simply put, your XP machine has fallen pretty far down the line of patches, making it more difficult to ensure you’re current with the latest patch updates.
How to improve performance
So what can be done to improve performance? Currently, Microsoft says that fixing this is their “top priority”, but there is no estimated date for their next attempt at resolving this lingering issue. A quick check of the calendar and the rapidly approaching end of support date might be an indication that the words “top priority” might read well, in practice it’s a ‘not so much’. With that in mind you may want to do something yourself. You could install the Continuum agent software to do the patching for you or you can disable the Windows update completely. If you are seeing improved performance as a result of these moves then you know what is causing the slowdown. That said, you are now faced with running machines that have an OS approaching end of support life from the manufacturer. At that point, you may not have a choice but to move ahead and make the necessary adjustments.
This may be the best course of action either way. Michael Goldstein, President and CEO of LAN Infotech, a Florida based Microsoft channel partner, said in an interview that the recent extension by Microsoft has given his customer base a false sense of security and a reason to delay migrating off Windows XP. “I’d be happier if they stuck to their guns with the deadline. In reality, XP users are going to have to move off. Extending antimalware updates only solves a piece of the security puzzle,” says Goldstein. Although Microsoft has extended the deadline, Goldstein suggests that it’s better not to delay your migration off of XP, given that it’s a dying OS.
Of course, we all know that this is part of the plan that Microsoft is using to get people to move to Windows 8.1. No surprise there. What XP users are now faced with is the decision of how the will move forward.
Is this an issue for you? What are your plans moving forward? If you have customers facing this dilemma how can you help them gracefully enter the present computer age?
Not properly preparing customers is just one of many mistakes an MSP can make...
By Gretchen Hoffman