Still using Windows XP? Then stop using Microsoft’s Web browser

A word to the stubborn ones among you who refuse to ditch Windows XP: You take a big risk clinging to a 12-year-old computer operating system after Tuesday.

Windows XP logoHowever, there’s one thing you can do to minimize that risk: Stop using Microsoft’s own Web browser, Internet Explorer, because the browser contains open paths for hackers to compromise the OS.

Microsoft ended free support for Windows XP on April 8, meaning the company no longer tweaks the OS, fixes it, or ensures protection against evolving security risks unless devotees pay for it. The cost is around $200 per PC for the first year and slides upward in succeeding years.

But Tuesday, the company released a series of security updates for its newer Windows systems that hackers could analyze and compare against XP to find flaws in the older system.

Microsoft also will release security updates for the IE browser; however, end of support tends to be comprehensive and means those fixes probably won’t make it to IE browsers run on XP, either.

Switching to a non-Microsoft browser lessens the chance of a hacker peering through the Web into XP.

Analyst estimates vary on how many PCs in the United States still run XP, but the average seems to be 13 percent. Among the die-hard users are numerous local, state, and federal agencies; financial institutions; public utilities; and media outlets.

Why cling to an OS that predates much of the modern Web? Cost is a prime reason. Microsoft nudged XP’s lifespan further down the calendar in large part because of a lukewarm reception to successor Windows Vista, which was too robust to run on most XP computers. The Vista replacement, Windows 7, received generally better reviews, but it debuted in 2009 when America’s economy was in the tank and businesses inflicted severe cuts in their own expenses, infrastructure upgrades among them.


David Sheets is a freelance writer and editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Defending the First Amendment and promoting open government are more crucial now than ever. Join SPJ's fight for the public’s right to know — either as an SPJ Supporter or a professional, student or retired journalist.


Twitter Facebook Google Plus RSS Instagram Pinterest Pinterest LinkedIn

© Society of Professional Journalists. All rights reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789 | Contact SPJ Headquarters | Employment Opportunities | Advertise with SPJ