Windows XP is Dead!

By Steve McEvoy, Technology Consultant

Microsoft is discontinuing support for Windows XP and Office 2003 on April 8, 2014.

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
If you don’t have a PC with either of these products in your office, then stop reading and go do something more fun. If you DO have a PC with Windows XP in your office you may end up having new risks you didn’t plan on and you should read this article through.

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?
Two reasons:

  • Microsoft has been upfront about it for years; they generally only support a product for 10 years and time is up.
  • Microsoft is a business and they want you to dump your 10 year old computers and go get new ones with a new version of Windows on it (increasing their sales).

WHAT IMPACT DOES THIS HAVE ON YOUR PRACTICE?
Once Microsoft stops supporting XP you may have new risks in your Practice:
Your Practice Management software may no longer be supported or work
You will potentially be vulnerable to new security weaknesses discovered
You will potentially be vulnerable to new viruses exploiting security weaknesses

Some Practice Management software companies (Ortho2 for example) are using this as an opportunity to stop supporting their products on Windows XP as well. They are doing this for three logical reasons:

They only want their software running on computers that are kept up to date and patched.
They want you to get rid of those old PC and run their software on newer PCs that will make their software work better.

They want you to get rid of those old PCs that are probably less reliable than a new PC, and thus reduce the load on their support center.

Based on their notice – if you are an Ortho2 user they expect you to replace your XP operating systems and Office 2003 software before April 2014. This might mean reloading existing PCs with new software (upgrading from XP to Windows 7 requires reloading the whole PC), or much more likely purchasing new PCs to replace the old ones.

So far I only know of Ortho2 taking a hard line with requiring all its clients to upgrade before the April 2014 deadline, but I wouldn’t be surprised if other vendors start making the same noises.

WHAT ABOUT MY X-RAY PC?
Many X-ray systems in Practices today are run on only Windows XP (typically older digital Pan/Ceph units, iCats, etc.). I’ve seen whole Practices that are all Windows 7 except for one PC, the X-ray PC. The reason being is that the software they use was designed for XP and may not be compatible with Windows 7. If it is available it may not be free and it may be a huge PITA to change the software out.

So what should you do if you have an X-Ray machine running Windows XP? I would ask your X-Ray machine vendor if the existing machine can be run on a Windows 7 PC.

If Yes:
Does it require new software?

  • If Yes – ask about the details (costs, implementation process, etc.)
  • If No –This is the path to follow.

Can the software run on 64-bit Windows 7?

  • If Yes – this is the path to follow.
  • If No – 32-bit Windows 7 compatible is OK and the path to follow.

If No:
What suggestion might they have for getting off Windows XP? If none, now you know you’ll have to make do with the existing XP machine and potential risk.

WHAT ELSE MIGHT BE AFFECTED?
I can think of several other situations that changing out the old XP PC might be problematic. For example, if you run the old Televox HouseCalls system with a special card to make nightly phone calls, you’ll have no supported option for migrating.

WHAT ABOUT OFFICE 2003?
Microsoft is dropping support for Office 2003 at the same time for the same reasons. It won’t stop working, but they are stopping patches for it as well. Ortho2 says they won’t be supporting their products with it anymore either. I would agree that it’s time to start planning upgrades for this. Office 2003 isn’t even compatible with Microsoft Exchange 2013 or Office 365 Cloud, so it’s time to upgrade to Office 2013.

CONCLUSION
Other situations will exist. You need to start talking about this transition with your IT person and finding out if there are solutions.

Ultimately I don’t think it will be a big deal to have just one XP box remaining in the network if needed. Apply all the updates that are available to it, keep a current antivirus program on it, and do your best with it. Start planning what you can to replace it eventually. If the PC dies for other reasons, you’ll be back in the same situation

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