MS extends XP’s life: How to keep the old OS running

Despite a new version of Windows that’s actually gotten positive reviews, most companies are holding on to XP — and running it on increasingly older machines. Here’s how to keep things running smoothly until you’re ready to upgrade.

At Microsoft’s recent Worldwide Partner Conference 2010 in Washington, D.C., corporate vice president Tammi Reller revealed some statistics about the company’s corporate customers:

  1. 74% of business PCs are still running XP, and
  2. the average work computer is 4.4 years old, which is the highest number Microsoft has seen in over a decade.

Bottom line: Companies don’t appear ready to upgrade either their operating systems or PCs right now.

That fact may have something to do with Microsoft’s recent announcement that customers will be allowed to downgrade to XP on new PCs until 2020. Previously, downgrade rights were set to expire in 2011.

However, most businesses likely won’t keep running the old OS for the next 10 years — currently, support for XP is scheduled to end in 2014. But Microsoft’s move could indicate IT plans on sticking with XP for as long as possible.

If that’s your goal, here are some steps you can take to keep the old OS and your old PCs running smoothly until you upgrade:

  1. Upgrade to SP3, if you haven’t already. That’s an imperative, as support for SP2 ended this week.
  2. Remove unused software. Users tend to behave like pack rats when it comes to applications. That means it’s up to IT to clean house every now and then.
  3. Rearrange assets, for example, by giving the oldest PCs to users who run the simplest applications, and new models to folks who need more computing power.
  4. Clean the registry to remove errors that accumulate over time.
  5. Keep anti-virus and anti-spyware software up-to-date.

Have any tips for extending the life of an old machine running XP? Share them in the comments section below.

  • Tim

    Turning off all the menu fades/visual effects and turning off the Luna theme will give the system a much snappier feel. Regular defrags will help. Reducing web browser cache to 8MB’s or less will also help. The larger number of files on disk, the slower the system will run. It doesn’t so much matter how much space is used. Internet cache can rack up a large number of files in a hurry. Obviously there’s also the cleaning out of unused files: old user profiles, temp files, log files, etc.

    Another thing you can do is to upgrade the disk subsystem. Buy a SATA card and a new drive and most users will feel like they have a new machine. Usually this can be done for about $100 per machine. The other hardware related thing is to make sure the system has enough RAM for what it’s doing. I’d start at 1 GB and work from there.

  • If this is a corporate environment and an exchange server is present, decrease the size of the users mailbox, decrease the size will improve performance. Also removing programs from auto start will increase speed. If you have room add a secondary drive for redundancy, just in case something goes wrong with XP.

  • Rudy

    If your computer, OS, or applications do what you want them to do then why blow good money in the WinTel merry go round. I’m still using Windows 98 on dedicated machines that serve low power users such as typists, library book indexes, terminal data entry, etc. Just don’t connect to the internet with Win98 machines that can’t rum modern Anti virus, etc. protections. A networked secretarial pool could be protected by a modern PC set up as a gate keeper to scan all traffic and reach out to scan local HDD’s. Unplug or remove user FDD’s, ODD and USB ports and put locks on the PS cabinets (remember those?) to prevent users from bringing in home cultivated bugs, viruses etc.