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Lamentations of a Windows XP and Server 2003 Lover

Woe unto us who try to hang on too dearly to the past for we shall experience the darkness that is to come. OK, so a great prophet I'm not, but my prophetic words ring true when we tarry too long in the complacence of our old, tired operating systems. But, know this: Even if you do hang onto your old operating systems for a bit too long, there's no impending apocalypse awaiting you – at least not in the short term.

Whether it's Y2K, Android security, or Windows XP's end of life, someone always predicts tragedy. When nothing happens, those end-of-timers are nowhere to be found. Don't get me wrong here though, there are dangers in tempting fate by using outdated software that can't be patched, but it's not all doom and gloom either.

For example, if you install and use a firewall application, a regularly updated antivirus program, and anti-malware software, your system is pretty well protected and will continue to be so. However, we all know from recent history that keeping your systems up to date with the latest patches might have little to no effect on preventing vulnerabilities. Think Heartbleed here.

If Heartbleed taught us anything, it's that we're fooling ourselves if we believe that just because an operating system still has that new operating system smell, it's more secure than an old one. Sometimes, the problem has nothing to do with the operating system at all.

You've heard the expression, "If it's not broke, don't fix it." My version is, "If it's not broke, don't break it." That goes for operating systems as well as it goes for anything else. Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 are excellent systems. They still work. They're still capable. They work great as virtual machines. There's very little reason to kick them to the curb, as far as I'm concerned – new security vulnerabilities aside, that is. But, as I mentioned, you can deter most of the vulnerabilities by taking preventative measures.

Everyone wants something new; a new car, a new computer, a new pair of shoes, or a new operating system. There's nothing necessarily wrong with new, except for new expense, new bugs, new vulnerabilities, new hooks that you aren't ready for, and new ways that users can break things. Sometimes, however, you'll spend more money repairing something old than you would if you'd just bought new. There's no single right answer for every purpose.

For some of you, Windows XP and Server 2003 will serve you well for several more years, while others of you discarded it long ago for something "better." Those of us who stick with outdated things too long are often labeled as "anachronistic" at best and "stuck in the past" or "afraid to change" at worst. Some of these accusations might be true, but there's also something to be said for those of us who are frugal and who preserve that which works over instability and more cost.

I suppose that to some, I am a bit anachronistic or stuck in the past with my film cameras, my analog watch, and my outdated (and soon to be outdated) operating systems. I lamented my loss of Windows NT 3.51. I pined for Windows NT 4.0. I did not, however, mourn for Windows 2000, and Vista remains all but unmentionable to this day. However, Windows XP and Server 2003 are special. It's harder to say goodbye to them. They don't seem old. They don't feel outdated. They still feel useful and vibrant. I'm not ready to let them pass.

Wise words that tell me that "… there is a time to keep and a time to throw away…". I believe these words to be true today and no more or less so than when dealing with operating systems or for any software. If you need to upgrade, do so without guilt or lament. If you need to retain a few old stragglers within your keep, don't allow the doomsdayers to prevent you from doing so.

Ken Hess * ADMIN Senior Editor