Next week on April 8th, Microsoft will release their final set of security updates for Windows XP. For most people this means having to stop using a computer that’s still serviceable.
If you want to continue using your computer for a little while longer it is still possible but you must be very careful and change some bad habits. Here are six ways to safely use Windows XP after its end of life.
1. Run as a “Limited User”—100% of the exploits via Internet Explorer were mitigated by simply using a computer with limited user rights. If you’re using the account that you created when you first setup your computer, most likely it’s an administrator account. Malware takes advantage of those privileges to exploit your operating system.
2. Remove Flash and Java—Besides Internet Explorer, Flash and Java are the two other ways most exploits on Windows XP occur. Both of these plugins are buggy and announcements for exploits are released every week. It may seem like you’re crippling your computer but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
3. Stop using Internet Explorer—If you haven’t already, you should stop using Internet Explorer. IE9 is the latest version available on XP and it’s not up to the task. Switch to either Chrome or Firefox. These browser are getting regular security updates and should continue to work. Avoid IE at all costs!
4. Stop using Office—Microsoft Office is another avenue of that the bad guys like to use when trying to exploit your computer. Not having Office on your computer will help alleviate that major avenue of attack. I recommend Libre Office as an alternative. This will give you the ability to create and read documents.
5. Stay on the main road—Don’t go wandering off to some website you’ve never heard of because there’s a great deal on 40lb bags of marshmallows. Stick to the well-known sites. If you’re going to go exploring use a different computer, not this one. Following rabbit trails with this computer could lead to all kinds of trouble. In fact, you should limit your Internet browsing on a computer with XP.
6. Use GMail—If you’re using email on your computer through a local service provider it would be a good idea to switch to Gmail. Google scans all the incoming images, documents, and other attachments for viruses and in the case of images and documents pre-renders them for you. This prevents malware attacks from getting to you.
Bonus: Use and keep anti-virus software updated—Make sure you keep your antivirus up to date. There are several free antivirus tools out there like ClamAV, AVG, and Avast that work just as well as the big name tools.
Although I strongly recommend that you do not use Windows XP on the Internet after April 8th, I understand the need to make it last a little longer. If you follow these 6 steps you should be relatively safe online.
Of course, you need to install that final set of updates and stay aware of any other updates that Microsoft may send your way. If there is a major exploit Microsoft may consider releasing an emergency patch for XP users so keep your eyes open.
Finally, Chris from ChiRho Technology Services sent a voicemail about the option to switch to a Chromebook if you don’t want to buy a new computer. This option completely slipped my mind because I used the 1st generation Chromebooks and they were horrible. Chromebooks are an inexpensive option for people looking to save money and can’t spring for a new computer to replaced one running Windows XP.
Choosing the Right Tablet for Your Homeschool
Workshop at Faithful Heritage LEAH on April 14, 2014 at Eastport Bible Church in Eastport, NY at 7:30PM (via Skype). More details to come.
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Music for the podcast by Kevin Macleod.