XP's Fate in a Vista World

Help Letting Go of Windows XP

It seems like only yesterday we were installing Windows XP. Upgrading to a new operating system, even when you're giving your PC new capabilities and new tools, usually involves a new interface and requires some adjustment.

Even if Windows Vista is running on your newest system, it's likely a few Windows XP systems are humming along in your home or office. Here are some guidelines for tranquil cohabitation by operating systems.

Easing the Transition

Can I make Vista look like an older version of Windows?

Yes indeed. Right-click the Start button, select Properties, and choose Classic Start Menu to get a Start menu that's composed primarily of cascading menus that lead to programs. Right-click the desktop, select Personalize, and double-click Theme to choose the Windows Classic theme, which does away with much of Vista's slickness (and gives you a Start button labeled "Start"). Take both of these steps, and Vista will have a decidedly old-school, Windows 2000-like flavor. What Vista doesn't seem to have is a way to make its Start menu behavior and other aspects of the OS behave more the way they do in Windows XP.

What Happens to XP Now?

Does the release of Vista mean that Microsoft will cut off support for Windows XP, as it did for Windows 98 and other old OSs?

Not immediately, no. But it's a safe bet that, as Vista becomes the dominant flavor of Windows, Microsoft will eventually discontinue Windows XP support. In fact, the company stopped supporting Windows XP Service Pack 1, along with Windows 98 and Windows Me, in October 2006. If Microsoft were to end Windows XP SP2 support after the same number of years of support, SP2 users would be covered until sometime in 2010.

Microsoft typically makes an announcement when it begins to phase out support for aging products, as it did with this schedule for Windows 98, Me, and XP SP1. The software vendor gives users both a timeline and options for upgrade. Even after discontinuing traditional technical support, some assistance remains available online.

Will Microsoft stop providing security patches and bug fixes for XP?

No, though the fact that it recently announced a delay until 2008 of the planned Windows XP Service Pack 3 suggests that improving XP is no longer the company's highest priority.

Now that Vista is out, will new applications require it? If I stick with Windows XP, will I be unable to get any new software?

Past Windows transitions give us hope that most applications will be available in Windows XP-friendly editions for quite awhile--after all, millions and millions of people will continue to use XP for years to come--but a gradual transition to Vista will occur over the next few years. Cutting-edge games will make the earliest transition to the new OS, since DirectX 10 (the new version of Microsoft's APIs for game programmers) will be Vista-only.

Next: Get acquainted with Aero.

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