Windows XP vs Windows 7 wrt application support and security.
March 5, 2010 10:14 PM   Subscribe

Win7 RC trial is at an end. Do I go back to Windows XP, or pop for a copy of Windows 7? More after the fold...

I use Linux extensively at work and at home, but I do like to keep a Windows partition so I can play games and use those (rare) pieces of software I haven't found alternatives for.

I've been using the Windows 7 x64 Release Candidate, which has recently expired. I like it fine, but if I want to continue using it, I'll have to purchase a copy, which would be difficult right now. I have my old Windows XP Pro (32 bit) sitting around, so I could reinstall it, but I want the hive mind's advice before doing so.

Realistically, how much more use can I squeeze out of Windows XP Pro if my main uses of it are for World of Warcraft, several Steam games (mostly the HL series, CS:S and Portal), and Adobe CS4? A year? Two? I've been unable to find any information about Blizzard or Valve phasing out XP support, but I know the party's going to come to an end at some point, and I was hoping someone had some reasonable estimates as to when that might be.

My other concern is security. I'm confused as to when I'll stop receiving security updates for XP Pro. I understand that security updates will continue to be distributed for XP Pro through 2014, but I don't know if that's for everyone, or for, say, companies with some kind of long term support arrangement with Microsoft. If I'm not among those receiving security updates, am I running much of a risk in spite of having a firewall, good AV software, and not installing/running sketchy software or visiting strange websites?

Summary: What is the application support and security outlook like for Windows XP Pro over the next 2-3 years? Must I bite the bullet and buy Windows 7?
posted by jingzuo to Technology (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sorry I can't answer your direct question, but have you considered running XP inside of Virtualbox in Linux? That's what I do for CS4 and some other software, and the security problem is pretty much addressed with that...I do my web browsing on the Linux side anyway.

I also run Vista Business and Windows 7 this way. My Win7 install expired too. I probably will buy a license at some point, but not right now. I'd rather spend the money on new peripherals for the Linux box and other hobbies. Win7 is pretty nice though.

Another fact of life is that Wine/Crossover are getting MUCH better at running Windows applications over time. You might look into that approach as well.

I really doubt Adobe are going to support XP any longer than they have to. But then again, maybe that's why the next version of the suite seems pretty minor; they might still be giving their Windows XP userbase time to migrate. A lot of organizations are pretty stuck on XP for the time being.
posted by circular at 10:39 PM on March 5, 2010

I don't know about the games, but Adobe products are certainly not going to stop running on Windows XP anytime soon. Adobe's money comes from sales to businesses, and a lot of businesses will be running Windows XP for years and years to come because it serves their needs just fine and buying the hardware and software to deploy Windows 7 is expensive.
posted by gum at 10:41 PM on March 5, 2010

circular: I've had acceptable performance from Adobe CS3 running on XP in Virtualbox (or qemu, I forget which), and CS4 would probably be the same. I don't think games would work as well, however, because I don't think they could get access to my graphics hardware through the virtual machine. I could be wrong about that, though.

WINE is great these days. I believe that WoW runs well on it, but AFAIK the Steam games won't. I just looked up Crossover, and they explicitly mention that it runs Steam games. Cool! Thanks for the suggestion.

gum: True enough, and I was less worried about the Adobe suite. I'll be using CS4 for ages, I'm sure, and Adobe probably won't drop XP until their next major version of the suite.
posted by jingzuo at 11:04 PM on March 5, 2010

Given that your needs are limited to games, I'd just stick with windows xp and then upgrade in the future when support runs out and/or you buy some games that won't work in xp. You'll get a good two years of support out of xp, it's doubtful that non-xp games will come any time soon and by that time the cost of 7 will have dropped (or 8 will be out).

If you use windows as your primary operating system then I'd recommend going for 7 though.
posted by mr_silver at 1:59 AM on March 6, 2010

The Windows 7 RC won’t completely expire until June 1, 2010. What will happen from now on until that date is your computer will shut itself down and restart every two hours. If you're smart about saving your work and you don't mind the interruptions, there's no reason why you can't continue to use Win7 until then.

As far as other companies phasing out XP support, that ain't gonna happen anytime soon. XP is still in wide use and many customers aren't willing to fork out money for a new OS, especially in the middle of a recession. If they phased out XP, they'd be cutting off their collective noses to spite their face. Also, Microsoft historically has been very generous, imo, for continuing to support its older OS, not just to its business customers, but to regular users as well. Just look at Windows 2000: Microsoft is still releasing patches and updates for that OS and it's 2010!

Summary: What is the application support and security outlook like for Windows XP Pro over the next 2-3 years?

Realistically, I'd say you're going to be totally fine sticking with XP Pro for at least the next 5 years ... probably much longer though, if history is any indication.

If you want to buy Windows 7, keep your eyes peeled for hot deals as the "real" expiration date nears. I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft tosses some out to avoid losing so many of their potential new customers.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 3:43 AM on March 6, 2010

Correction: XP's official end of support will be on April 8, 2014, so 4 years then.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 3:52 AM on March 6, 2010

I don't think games would work as well, however, because I don't think they could get access to my graphics hardware through the virtual machine. I could be wrong about that, though.

3D graphics acceleration has been available in VirtualBox for a while now. I use it to play a few games, so it might be worth a try in your case. But I think that Crossover is probably your best bet there anyway, since IIRC VirtualBox uses Wine's D3D code for DirectX stuff anyway...
posted by circular at 10:02 AM on March 6, 2010

Official source for XP lifecycle dates. You will continue to recieve security updates via Windows Update through 4/8/2014 for XP service pack 3.
posted by Diddly at 12:22 PM on March 6, 2010

Thanks, folks. Sounds like XP will be viable for me for a while.
posted by jingzuo at 10:01 PM on March 6, 2010

If you game, you should strongly consider sticking with Windows 7, as with Windows XP, you won't be able to use DirectX10 or 11. Even if your games support DX9, you won't get the full experience that you would with DX10.

If you're a student, your school may have a subscription to MSDNAA, through which you can get a copy of Windows 7 for free. Even if they don't, you qualify for The Ultimate Steal, through which you can get Windows 7 for $65.
posted by !Jim at 12:21 AM on March 7, 2010

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