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Posts Tagged ‘Windows XP’


Windows 10 Free Upgrade Window Comes to an End

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

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Those “Upgrade to Windows 10” notifications seem to be showing up everywhere, even in the middle of a weather forecast on Iowa television. What would’ve otherwise been an embarrassing interruption turned into a watercooler moment that anyone who used Windows 7 and 8 over the previous year can relate to (check out the clip on YouTube).

Despite being an annoyance, those alerts are serving an urgent purpose now: Microsoft has announced that they are discontinuing the free Windows 10 upgrade offer on July 29, 2016.

The good news? Those pesky alerts are going to stop bothering hold-outs. The bad news? If you hold out any longer on your upgrade, you won’t be able to do so for free.

Advice for Windows 7 Users

We previously recommended that Windows 7 users should wait as long as possible to upgrade to Windows 10 to give Microsoft more time to iron out launch issues. With the free upgrade window coming to a close, however, those of you who planned to upgrade eventually should consider biting the bullet.

There are still valid reasons to hold off, if you prefer. Windows 10 is new and still receiving major post-release updates, whereas Windows 7 is mature and exceptionally stable/secure. Windows 7 remains an excellent operating system, and you’re going to be fine if you ignore the upgrade. Moreover, Microsoft will continue to support Windows 7 with security updates until January 14, 2020. So if you’re planning to replace your computer between now and then, you’ll move on to Windows 10 without incurring extra costs anyway.

On the other hand, if you’re planning on keeping your Windows 7 devices for more than four years, you’re likely better off upgrading now to avoid the fees. Upgrading after the free period may be cost-prohibitive for your IT infrastructure, so now is the best time to make the transition.

Oh, and one more thing: If you’re sticking with Windows 7, do yourself a favor and install the “Never 10” program to cut off those pesky alerts prior to July 29th.

Advice for Windows 8.1 Users

Windows 8.1 users have little reason to pass on the free update. The much-maligned operating system doesn’t offer any usability benefits over Windows 10 and doesn’t share Windows 7’s usability perks, so moving up makes practical sense. Additionally, IT departments are extremely unlikely to support Windows 8.1 as a standard. Microsoft plans to support Windows 8.1 until January 10, 2023, which puts the “end-of-life” date beyond the expected lifespan of any system currently running it.

Advice for Windows XP and Vista Users

Microsoft has already ceased support for XP, and Vista’s end-of-life date is on the horizon: April 11, 2017. Once the support period is over, using these operating systems is a substantial security risk. Unfortunately, these operating systems are not grandfathered in like Windows 7 and 8, so an upgrade to Windows 10 won’t be free in any case.

Windows 10 has the same requirements as Windows 7—so if you’re going to upgrade, either option will work as long as the computer’s hardware can handle it. However, XP and Vista users with older hardware are probably better off putting the $120 upgrade fee towards a newer device.

Not sure which operating system is right for you? Get in touch, and we’ll help you out.

New Ransomware Good Reminder to Practice Thorough Data Backup

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

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A new combination of a sophisticated password-stealing Trojan, powerful exploit kit, and content-encrypting ransomware is making its way around the Internet infecting Windows users. If it hits your business, you’re looking at a considerable loss of time and finances.

It’s estimated that businesses worldwide spent around $491 billion in 2014 managing the blowback from data breaches and malware infections. Making sure your business is ready to minimize the amount of damage a ransomware attack can do is the best course of action for dealing with cyber threats like these.

Ransomware Refresher

Ransomware has taken system-disabling malware to a whole new level by trying to extort money in exchange for returning control.

Ransomware that employs data encryption programs like Cryptolocker and CryptoWall uses a complex encoding algorithm that locks off important data on the computer—so removing the ransomware will not restore the data.

In many cases, paying the $24 to $600+ demanded to decrypt the information ends up being practical, because restoring the lost data would end up costing more. However, it is possible that even after you’ve paid the ransom the hackers will not restore access to your system. So pay at your own risk.

Kicking You When You’re Down

The new malware fusion doesn’t just lock a user out of their computer or try to steal login credentials; it does both, and tries to use some of that stolen information to hijack websites the user has admin access to (and propagate itself across more systems). According to PCWorld, the new disastrous malware mix uses the “Angler” exploit kit, the credential-stealing “Pony” Trojan, and the “CryptoWall 4” ransomware. If any of your business’s computers are hit with this malware campaign, you’ll have to deal with compromised account login information, possible FTP and SSH website access breaches, and all the data on the infected computer is as good as lost. So you’re not only looking at the expenses for changing passwords, locking down websites, and replacing lost information, but also the dozens of hours redoing lost work.

The Best Defense

Even though malware finds new ways to compromise systems, it is still a best security practice to keep your antivirus and system software up to date to protect your information. However, keeping everything updated can be problem for some companies, as vital software may not work correctly following an update. Additionally, businesses should avoid using computers running old, outdated operating systems like Windows XP that are no longer receiving security updates.

Making sure your important information is also saved in off-device storage (like an external hard drive or on a cloud service backup) is one of the best things your business can do to minimize the amount of damage caused by a system-disabling malware attack. If the system is infected, the backed up data will still be up to date—and instead of losing months of work, you’re looking at a few hours or days instead. Moving work to cloud-based applications with online storage is another good way to prevent loss from malware. If an employee’s computer gets hit with ransomware, any work they’ve been storing or working on through a cloud service is still safe and secure.

Need advice on backing up your data? Get in touch with a local MSP today.