Upgrading Your Windows XP to a Secure Operating System

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Upgrade from Windows XP - Windows 10, 8, 7 Operating Systems

Windows XP is an operating system that was introduced in 2001 by Microsoft. It was released a year after Windows ME and is still the most successful operating system to date.

No matter how many years have passed people can’t seem to give up on this old operating system.

The reason why?

Well, it was made for all users, meaning it made it easier for users to scan, import images, and browse the web, but best of all was the new Microsoft office that was released for it.

As the years have unfolded, Microsoft has been busy making new products such as Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10.

However:

The unfortunate thing, in my opinion, is that with Microsoft’s new Windows versions has come the decision to change to a new user interface, which has made it difficult for users to move on to the newer versions.

This article will discuss why it's important to protect your Windows computer with the right third-party antivirus software, especially if you are adamant on sticking to Windows XP.

Moreover, I will explore why it's perhaps your best bet to upgrade to a newer Windows operating system.

Upgrade from Windows XP - Windows 10, 8, 7 Operating Systems

Windows 10, 8, 7 Operating Systems - Upgrade from Windows XP

Evolution of Windows

To gain a better understanding of why it’s important to protect your Windows PC with the best third-party antivirus providers, it’s helpful to take a look back at the evolution of Windows operating systems since the early part of the century.

Windows XP

Windows XP was a critical and commercial sensation upon its release in the early 2000s.

What made the operating system stand out is its range of multimedia facilities, an easy to navigate user interface, and better hardware support.

However, soon after the Windows XP’s release, virus and spyware threats were a growing concern, and increasingly sophisticated malware entered the scene infecting computers throughout the world.

So despite the strengths of Windows XP, security vulnerabilities were soon exposed.

Why upgrade from Windows XP - Windows XP end of support

Windows XP end of support - Why upgrade from Windows XP

Windows Vista

Windows Vista was released in 2006 in response to the security concerns that Windows XP exposed.

Vista boasted its own built-in antivirus package branded Windows Defender.

While Vista didn’t have nearly the critical reception of its predecessor, Microsoft was showing its consciousness of the need for security.

Unfortunately, Windows Defender lacked the strength to combat more vicious threats and did not meet the standards of reputable independent testing labs like AV-Test.

This highlighted the importance and need for users to opt for third party antivirus software.

Windows 7

Soon after, Windows 7 appeared on the scene in late 2009 and improved on many gaps and areas where Windows Vista fell short, but security wasn’t one of them.

Windows 7 improved on the operating system’s user interface, and it added libraries and a new file-sharing system called HomeGroup among other improvements.

Windows 8

It wasn’t until the release of Windows 8 in 2012 that Microsoft offered an updated version of Windows Defender.

This Defender offered more extensive virus protection features, but even with these improvements, it still fell short of the best antivirus software in protecting computers from vicious malware and other threats.

Windows 10

Microsoft launched Windows 10 on June 1st, 2015. A new and final operating system, it brought back many old features such as the toolbar, one drive, and Windows Defender.

It also saw the launch of new features like Cortana – a virtual assistant to help users find information, to create reminders, and even the possibility to make phone calls.

Why upgrade from Windows XP - Windows 10 Startup Menu

Windows 10 Startup Menu - Why upgrade from Windows XP

Why Upgrade?

Currently, 250 million users are still using Windows XP worldwide, but it’s time to say goodbye to it and upgrade to a new operating system.

The main reason is that more than two years ago Microsoft announced they will be dropping support for it.

This means support for Windows XP has ceased to exist for about 2 and a half years now. It’s no longer secure and I recommend upgrading as soon as possible.

Which Operating System to Choose?

User Interface

The most significant question is now which operating system to choose and how you will know that you'll like it and it'll meet your needs.

Well, since support has been canceled for Windows XP, it no longer has updates to patch security flaws and most malware writers will target the operating system, so anybody who is using it is in a bit of a pickle.

There are alternatives like Windows 7 and Windows 10, but one of the reasons that users don't want to abandon Windows XP is because the user interface has changed.

Since Windows XP was such a big hit for many years with the easy interface, the company is trying to bring back the same feeling to the newer operating systems but with new and more advanced appearances.

Here are some examples:

Why upgrade from Windows XP - Windows XP and Windows 7 start-up menus

Windows XP on the left and Windows 7 on the right

Despite the fact that Windows 7 does look a little more complex and has more attributes to it, it’s the same as Windows XP and is an excellent choice. It offers more security and more of a variety to users.

System Requirements

While new operating systems do have lots of advantages and perks to them, there is one big disadvantage to it, or rather a setback.

Old computers start to fall apart and the Central Processing Unit (CPU) gets old, and hence the system performance also starts to dwindle.

This means that it may be time for a computer upgrade or to replace parts and get to work inside the computer (Not recommended to people who have no experience).

Note: Upgrading to another operating system maybe a bad idea unless you are completely sure that your computer can run without having a slow and bad experience.

If you're not sure if the computer can handle the new operating system or want to know what type of equipment is in your computer, try Speccy.

Speccy is a free program made by Piriform, a well trusted computer management company that offers the users a chance to see what is inside their computer.

Here are the requirements for the operating systems we recommend:

Windows 7: Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor. RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit). Hard drive space: 16 GB available hard disk space. Graphics card: DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

Windows 8.1: Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster. RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit) Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit). Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver.

Windows 10: Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster. RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit). Free hard disk space: 16 GB. Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver. A Microsoft account and Internet access.

My Preferred Windows Version

To keep your home and work computers more secure you will need to make an informed decision about which antivirus software program works best for you.

Some of the best antivirus software for Windows 7 are Kaspersky Anti-Virus, Norton Security and Bitdefender Antivirus Plus.

To see profiles of individual antivirus programs and other security information and for in-depth analysis of antivirus software across all Windows formats, we invite you to read our article about the best antivirus software for PC.

Once you are sure that the requirements have been met and you are ready to upgrade to another operating system; here are some tips:

Tips On How to Upgrade

When a user upgrades to another operating system without practicing extreme caution, he/she can lose files and maybe even cause some errors on the system.

Here are tips on how to upgrade from Windows XP to a newer operating system:

  1. Finding a good and secure operating system: Many people don’t really mind what they use, and because most advanced users search for something with performance and design, Windows 10 is the to-go operating system.

    While it does have some advantages to it, it will also require a bit more to run, so an old computer may not be able to run it. If that’s an issue, then Windows 7 and 8 are excellent choices.

    They are very much like Windows 10 and perform well.

  2. Upgrading the PC: Most computers do get old and that means that the CPU starts to fall in performance, or the PC simply can’t handle higher demanding programs overall.

    This would be the time to replace some of the parts inside the computer or to get a new computer altogether.

  3. Backing up files and deleting critical information: Unfortunately, when installing a new operating system, you’ll need to do a clean installation, and therefore all information will be deleted.

    You will need to save the files, or you’ll need a backup of all the files you may need after the installation.

Backing Up Files

Why Back Up?

While most users might not worry about backing up their files when installing a new operating system, it is highly recommended.

If you decide that you do not want to back up, make sure to reconsider this choice very quickly!

When you install the new program, you will have to create a backup (explained below), and once that is done you can reinstall and/or get everything back once running the new operating system is complete.

Review all the files before upgrading because there will not be a chance to recover once you begin the installation process. Not only does this save files and information, but things can happen which lead to a crash in the operating system or an incorrect installation process.

Having the option to “back up” may be quite useful. Not only that, but it might also protect you from malicious infections. 

So let's get onto what a backup is and how to create one on your computer.

What are backups?

To explain with a simple analogy, it’s basically like a checkpoint in a game.

Let's say your computer is running safely (we assume so - if a virus is present on the machine the backup will also include the virus with it).

Later when the “player” wants to explore and get something it might cause the player to get into trouble, which in turn will revert him/her back to the checkpoint to start over. This ensures that the mistake will not occur again.

Without the checkpoint option, the “player” will not have any choice to go back and become “safe” again. 

Now there are two different kind of backups:

  1. One way is a program that makes a copy of the entire operating system and will recover everything when it was created.

    It will take more time to create this type of backup and will certainly take up more storage space on the computer or portable storage devices.
     
  2. The second option is to save personal files. This stores all the data such as word documents, photos, and some programs you may choose.

    Nothing else is stored and if an operating system failure happens or a computer failure occurs, then not all is lost.

Both options are useful. When I back up I opt for both types, and I do NOT recommend saving them on the computer hard drive but rather on a portable storage device.

The reason is that if a malicious code is released or computer failure occurs, the hard drive can be lost. If you store files separately, it means not all is lost because you have copies.

While many backup software function in the same way (the option I would recommend is Lenovo Rescue System for full coverage of the computer), the directory of the file is different for each program. It’s important for a user to understand where the file is saved. If a user misplaces the file and or “loses” it, it may cause him/her to forfeit all data.

For Lenovo Rescue System the default path is hidden and maybe difficult to find for un-experienced users. The default location is: C:\Lenovo\OneKey App\OneKey Recovery.

On the other hand, Microsoft’s default location is a bit different.

It does not allow backups on the drive currently in use by the user, meaning that the user will need to connect external devices such as a USB or a CD. However, there is an option to store it over a network.

This option works by having multiple computers connected to a home network.

What is the “best” backup option?

Once you installed a backup software, it offers the user two choices.

  1. You can create a backup and/or restore from a backup. Once the backup file is made it is hidden in the directory so malicious software will not try to corrupt or attach itself to it.
     
  2. The program also offers a bootable option. During the booting process of a computer you can click a certain key to go into recovery which then will let the user back up.

    This is mostly used for situations when the user can’t log on to the operating system. For personal file use on the other hand, then Microsoft offers the option to users already.

    However, the feature is only on available on Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10.

    To make this certain type of backup you will need to click on the start button and select control panel, once there click on system and maintenance and finally backup and restore.

You are now done and can finally begin installing a fresh copy of a new operating system.

There is no longer a need to worry about security flaws and incompatible software. You can now work stress-free and threat-free of infections with zero day malicious programs.

BUT:

Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware programs are still very important!!

Prefer to Keep Windows XP?

If you still decide to keep using Windows XP, then I recommend following some tips on how to be more secure while using an old operating system.

  1. Update anti-malware and antivirus software: Whether you are using Windows Defender or another company’s product, it’s a good idea to be updated all the time.

    While the program you may be running might be able to patch some of the security issues, it will not be able to keep secure all the time.

    Make sure to run a security scan once a day and be careful of dangerous downloads.
     
  2. Limit email use and internet use: While this may sound silly, emails are quite dangerous and are targeted more than ever. Most users get infected from them more than any other download from the internet.

    Be cautious of people masquerading as companies because they post fake URLs that steal information and download viruses to the computer.

    If you don’t need to use the internet, make sure to disconnect to be safer.

Bottom Line

Overall, security is important and having the most up to date operating system and antivirus is the key to being safe and secure while browsing the internet.

Without security updates security flaws appear and malicious databases are not updated, which leaves you vulnerable. For more information about computer security and malware removal, check out our article.

By Vlad Zhelezniak

A self-taught malware researcher and enthusiast

A student of computer engineering and computer science on a personal mission to educate every user that the internet is not completely safe and staying protected is key. He's highly experienced in malware testing and malicious take-over scripts online. Loves helping and teaching other students about online security.

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