My new look

I’ve updated to a newer version of WordPress, which works better with tablets and phones. It comes with a nice new look –  you’ll find the old posts by looking at the links to the left (or at the bottom if you’re using a narrow screen such as on a tablet or phone).

I think, in due course, this will become my main website.

Go back to my old website.

Windows XP and Microsoft Security Essentials

Now that support for Windows XP has ended, it has started to show a notice when it loads.

Windows XP EOS Notice

This can be disable by ticking the box shown.  For most home users, the end of support for XP is not a big issue, see my earlier post on End of support for Windows XP.

Microsoft are using the word “support” to mean a very specific thing: “this product will no longer be developed, no new features will be added and no existing flaws will be fixed”. So what you have now is what you’ll always have. It will continue to work and you’re entitled to use it.

As far as Windows XP goes, that’s fair enough.

Microsoft have also ended support for their anti-virus product Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) on XP. Again this means the product won’t be further developed, but it will continue to work. In addition, Microsoft has said they they will continue to provide “signature updates” for MSE until 14th July 2015, so it will continue to detect new viruses and other malware until then. This is fine for most people, and when 14th July 2015 rolls around, there may well be good replacements available for MSE from other vendors.

Of course, if the virus was exploiting an underlying flaw in XP or MSE, Microsoft won’t fix that flaw. But most of the malware I see doesn’t exploit underlying flaws, so it’s not a major problem. It’s certainly not the biggest security risk users face.

So given all this, Microsoft’s warnings are technically true, but not nearly as calamitous as the sound. Additionally, MSE is now permanently red, says “your PC is at risk”, and shows a pop-up in the notification area when you start Windows:

Click for bigger version

The main page of MSE repeats the warning:

MSE Warning

Although technically true (aren’t all PCs at risk all the time anyway … your house could catch fire at any time and destroy your PC) this doesn’t mean what most normal people would think it means, and they should not worry. Note it also says that the virus and spyware definitions are up-to-date, which is fine. If you look at the Update tab you can see the date of the virus detection files (in this case created by Microsoft on 9 April at 22:03and collected by this copy of MSE on 10 April at 04:56):

Click for bigger version

So Microsoft is indeed continuing to provide virus detection updates to their “unsupported” product.

Of course, Windows XP is an old operating system, usually running on an old PC, and users will want to move to something faster and more modern in due course. The best way to move forward for most people will be to buy a new PC, which will come with either Windows 7 or Windows 8 (both are still widely available, Windows 7 has not been discontinued). For most of my users, Windows 7 is a far better choice than Windows 8 (which is very different and has not been well received). There is no doubt that Windows 7 is a better, more secure operating system that Windows XP, so users should certainly consider upgrading, but there’s no need to rush into it just because support for XP has ended.

End of support for Windows XP

I’ve had a lot of calls from customers who’ve heard that they won’t be able to use Windows XP after next week. Some have seen this message from Microsoft Security Essentials (when running on Windows XP):

MSE message

This is not as serious as it sounds.

Here are the facts:

1. Microsoft’s support for Windows XP ends on Tuesday 8th April 2014.

This has very little practical effect for most home users. Windows XP will still go on working after April 8th, but any new faults discover in it won’t be fixed. So what – Ford stopped making the Ford Escort in 2002, but we didn’t have to stop driving it.  Same with XP – it’ll be the same next week as it is this week. If you’re happy with it, you can go on using it.

2. Microsoft support for Microsoft Security Essential on Windows XP stops on the same date, so any faults in the program won’t be fixed. However, Microsoft will continue to update it with knowledge of any new malware (viruses etc) until 15th July 2015, so there’s no immediate need to panic. You won’t be able to download the XP version of Microsoft Security Essentials after next week (at least not from Microsoft) but if you have it already it will continue to work and protect your PC until July 2015.

After July 2015, you might have to find another anti-virus product for XP. There will no doubt be plenty to choose from.

Here’s the Microsoft announcement (from Microsoft’s Technet):

Microsoft announcement

In short, don’t worry. You can keep on using everything quite happily until well into 2015, and take stock then.

The Microsoft warnings are quite scary, but also quite misleading. They say “Support for this operating system is ending. When this occurs Microsoft Security Essentials will no longer be supported and your PC might be unprotected. To make sure your PC stays protected, click on the link below to see our end-of-support guidance for operating systems.” Microsoft want you to move on to Windows 8 (of course they do) but for many people Windows 7 is a better option (and is still being sold), but in any case there’s no rush.

Thanks to this article in Softpedia, from where I borrowed one of the screenshots.