DuckDuckGo is a nice option for track-free searches, but if you still want to use Google without giving over all your data, Searchonymous is the easiest way to make it happen. Install this Firefox extension and you’re good to go. You can now stay signed into your Google account while searching, without Google or the NSA knowing that it’s you. Here’s how it works, according to the developer:
When installed no tracking cookies are sent to Google while searching. This is done by blocking certain Google cookies (such as the PREF-ID) or generating randomized ones (which are worthless for tracking). Other cookies that just contain your search preferences will be allowed, so your preferences are preserved.
You will stay logged in on other Google services such as Youtube or Gmail. It also removes ads and clutter from the Google main page that is normally shown when cookies are disabled.”
The bonus of Searchonymous is that the ads you normally see in Google results are now gone! It doesn’t always work, but you’ll usually get an ad-free experience.
BONUS: If you want to get rid of the banner ads, flashy ads, and just about any ad, install the FireFox extension Adblock Plus.
With the end of Windows XP support fast approaching – April 8th, 2014 – users that haven’t migrated to a newer Operating System will face security risks, support challenges and increased costs.
According to Net Applications, Windows XP still has some 29% of the market share, 3 times that of Windows 8 (!), while Windows 7 adoption has risen to a healthy 47.5%.
We have been fielding a lot of questions regarding the end of XP, and have summarized some of the more frequent questions like:
How does this “End of Support” affect me? Will I still be able to Activate my copy of Windows XP after April 2014? Will my computer just stop working? What are my options?
Let’s tackle some of these questions head on:
Summary of Windows XP End of Support – End of Life
The end of extended support for Windows XP (and Office 2003) is scheduled for April 08, 2014.
All new systems are shipping with Windows 8 (or if you’ve been following the enormous marketing push by HP, the “back by popular demand”, Windows 7), so if you’ve bought a computer since mid 2008, this article shouldn’t apply to you.
Here is the Time Line
- December 31, 2001: Windows XP released.
- June 30, 2008: Retail of Windows XP ends.
- April 01, 2011: The final month that Microsoft allowed new PC sales to have direct installations of Windows XP (Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc., had special dispensation to sell XP for Business accounts).
- April 08, 2014: End of Support for Windows XP. Only very critical security flaws that are identified will be patched. No more general patches will be released for the OS to fix functional or security related issues. At this point, users are in an official “use-at-your-own-risk” state.
- January 14, 2020: The final month that customers on Windows 7 will have “downgrade rights” to move back to Windows XP. Microsoft extended this date as a courtesy to business customers who have definite business requirements for the OS.
What Happens to my computer on April 08, 2014?
Not a lot, really. Your computer will still turn on. It will still load your programs. It will still be as good or as bad as it was on April 07, 2014.
No [new] limitations will be imposed on your computer.
However, no new security patches from Microsoft will be released.
The most immediate concern has more to do with 3rd party vendors. After April 08, 2014, software and hardware manufacturers may choose to moth ball support for users running Windows XP. That new video camera you just bought may not be XP compatible. Why? Because it costs a lot to develop and maintain support for an operating system. And it doesn’t make financial sense to support a legacy OS that has a declining user base.
I doubt Norton and McAfee and ESET and Logitech and Canon etc. will simply pull their XP software but it is UNKNOWN if they will support XP on their latest offerings.
So the list of compatibility issues start to rise.
Getting new hardware and software to play nice with your old XP machine might become more trouble than it’s worth.
Activating Windows XP after April 08, 2014
You will still be able to activate Windows XP after April 08, 2014.
According to PCWorld: “The end of Windows XP support will not affect activation, but rather security updates and phone/online technical support.”
If you need to set up a new system running Windows XP, you will still be able to legally activate their machine to take advantage of all the remaining patches being released for XP.
Downloading Existing Patches and Service Packs after April 08, 2014
Microsoft will keep hosting all existing patches and service packs released up until April 08, 2014, but no new updates will be released after this date.
I have no doubt that that hackers and malware writers will take full advantage of all remaining XP users once continued support of XP is discontinued.
It will be critical for Windows XP users to keep on top of their antivirus packages to ensure they are limiting is their exposure to threats (although this is true for all users of all Operating Systems).
What are my options?
Your available options really depend on WHY you are using Windows XP and what your needs require.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Windows XP. Until recently, one of our primary systems for design was running Windows XP. I’ve held out for as long as I could before phasing out XP.
So why do you use Windows XP? Generally you will fall into one of the following responses.
Response One: My computer came with Windows XP; I’ve been using it ever since.
If this is the case, and you are a residential consumer, then your computer is 6+ years old. Chances are, your system is approaching it’s end-of-life from a hardware perspective. See our article on failed hard drives.
While I hesitate in painting every XP system with the same brush, I would respectfully suggest that the writing is on the wall. It may be time to Replace Old Computers To Improve Productivity & The Bottom Line. See our somewhat-dated-but-still-mostly-relevant article on buying a new computer. In only very rare circumstances would an XP machine be a solid candidate for an upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8. It is more cost effective to replace the computer.
However, if you are 100% happy with your computer, its performance, and its compatibility, and are OK with assuming the increased risk of a non-supported system, then by all means, keep your system up and running. You may want to consider a pre-emptive hard drive replacement and, of course, ensure you backups are 100%.
Response Two: I have software that will only run on a Windows XP machine. I cannot switch to anything else.
This may be true and I certainly would have to review the specifics. You may benefit from running XP in a virtual environment. Microsoft XP Mode has solved most of the scenarios where I have encountered such a requirement.
Alternatively, if you are making the switch to a Mac, then you can run Windows XP in Parallels.
If neither of these solutions work for you, then I would strongly advise downgrading the role your Windows XP machine plays in your work environment. Many of the security risks disappear completely if you simply disconnect that Windows XP machine from the internet.
We’ve done just this at some of our sites where specialized software running a complex setup simply could not be transferred / re-setup in a virtual environment. The solution was simple: turn the computer into a dedicated workstation that ONLY runs that specialized software. With no access to the internet and no new software or hardware needing to be installed, we have reduced the risk to the business and ensured continued operations for the foreseeable future. And the cost was virtually non-existent.
Response Three: I don’t have the money to buy a new computer.
In which case, you can certainly carry on with your aging XP machine, but be aware, the risks increase after April 08, 2014.
I do NOT want to join the fear mongering that prevails in the various tech articles, but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the very real threat that having a non-patched system represents.
“Windows XP infection rate may jump 66% after patches end in April”, says Tim Rains, director of Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing group and as reported in computerworld.com.
This represents a financial risk, so you may want to factor that virus removal bill into your budget before deciding you cannot afford a new system.
Response Four: I hear Windows 8 is hard to adjust to… I don’t want to learn a new Operating System.
Windows 8 has some pretty hard-to-adjust-to-quirks. I certainly cannot say it is my favorite OS. I find myself working around the Operating System in an attempt to achieve the same, simple things that I used to access easily in previous iterations of Windows.
So a few points: You can add back in the Start Button with Classic Shell or IObit’s Start Menu 8, and you can “disable” the Windows 8 Metro tiles.
That should be enough to get most people comfortable with Windows 8 as you are now essentially running Windows 7.
If that doesn’t cut it for you, you can most definitely still buy computers with Windows 7. Check out Dell and Lenovo. You may have to opt for a more powerful Business system, but that hardly impacts the cost of the new system.
As always, you can buy a book to help get you acclimated. I like the “Teach Yourself Visually…” series. They are available from your local library, Amazon, Chapters, etc. (on the Coast, Talewind Books keeps a good selection).
“I still don’t want to adapt to a new system!”
Well, suck it up buttercup, you are going to have to learn something new at some point in the near future. Whether that be Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 9, Chrome, or Mac OS X, you will have to adjust.
Regardless of your situation, I encourage you to contact us to discuss your needs, your concerns, and your options.
As always, we strive to provide real-world solutions that are tailored to fit our client’s needs.
If you have further questions that were not addressed in this article, please let us know (email us, call us, or use the feedback form below) and we will be sure to help.
So what do you think? Have you switched from Windows XP to a different OS? What was your experience? Share your thoughts on the demise of Windows XP.
A new website (http://hunterhomeworks.com/) for home builder and renovations expert Shane Hunter and Hunter Home Works has now been launched.
This is a very simple layout with a lot of flexibility under the hood.
The site is user friendly, clean and lightweight, is mobile ready, and gives a fresh, responsive experience and features:
- flexible CMS controls allow for dynamic content to be generated with little effort
- takes advantage of powerful Search Engine Optimization techniques
- has a fresh, modern look that is user friendly, mobile friendly, and is responsive
- easy updating of image galleries and projects allows for continual evolution of the site
- custom logo and branding by Top Shelf Creative
The new site can be viewed at http://hunterhomeworks.com/.