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.

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