Today is the fourth birthday of two of the three computers I use regularly.

I talk about the three computers I use as though that’s all there are, but of course I really use many more computers than that. Not including my SmartPhone, I also use cloud-based servers for hosting e-mail and the web sites that make up Answer Guy Central, for storage, and even for managing my appointments.

Those servers are improved so often that talking about their update schedule is almost unmeaningful. And they need to be updated; any server manager worth his salt will tell you that as our traffic grows, the Internet evolves, and components inside these heavily-used mission-critical machines just plain wear out a two-year replacement schedule is about as far as you want to push things.

And when you install new computers they come with updated operating systems.

On those two computers celebrating their birthday today, I run Windows XP. When I put those computers in service, Microsoft’s current version of Windows was Vista, and Vista was, frankly, terrible. I actually paid extra to downgrade the computers from Windows Vista to Windows XP.

Windows 7 supplanted Windows Vista a couple of years ago, and my Acer Netbook—the computer I carry with me when I’m moving around—runs Windows 7. But Windows 8 is going to be released in a few months, and now I have a problem, because I don’t intend to upgrade the two Windows XP computers to Windows 7 right now.

Windows XP Support Ending Soon

Why do I have a problem? because Microsoft is getting ready to stop supporting Windows XP.

Lest you think I’m just whining, check out this article at Neowin. Windows XP, despite being over ten years old and two three versions of Windows behind, is still being used on over 46% of all PCs.

That’s a lot of people who are now less than two years away from NEEDING TO throw their computers away and start over.

Let me be clear about why I phrase it that way.

My four-year-old computers are perfectly adequate for my needs. Aside from the operating system downgrade, when I bought them I specified the highest-end possible components, and with more and more of the work I do moving off “my” computers to The Cloud I’m pretty sure that when they’re six years old they’ll still be good enough for what I throw at them. But when support for Windows XP goes away, so will security updates. And not paying attention to that isn’t OK.

Big deal, you say. Just install Windows 8, right? Wrong. Microsoft tells me that my computers aren’t up to the task of running Windows 8.

So my computers aren’t upgradeable to the latest version of Windows, and I don’t have the option of not upgrading them. That leaves only the option of replacing them.

Maybe that isn’t such a terrible thing. Computers have become so inexpensive that I can just replace them even though there’s nothing wrong with them. That’s OK, right?

Well, no, of course not.

Take a look at this graph. It illustrates just how well one of the two four-year-olds is still running—and the more heavily-tasked one, to boot:

System Resource Graph

You can read that yourself, right? I don’t actually need to replace these computers, but Microsoft is leaving me no choice.

I’m not going to make this a customer service issue. Microsoft isn’t landing on The Answer Guy’s Verizon Wireless Customer Service Wall of Shame. Microsoft, being in the software business, needs to keep releasing new versions of Windows and it isn’t reasonable to expect them to continuing to support old versions forever. Unless almost half of all users are still using a particular old version.

Because here’s the problem:

Even if we all buy new computers to accommodate the problem Microsoft is creating by discontinuing Windows XP support, we’re still left with the various upgrade headaches that operating system changes create.

Microsoft, have you heard of Ubuntu?

I’ve told you before that while I play with Ubuntu a little bit I stick with Windows to maintain compatibility with a few programs that I like. But Windows 8 will make me have to give up a bunch of the software I like anyway, so as Ubuntu becomes better and better—and it’s already pretty darned good, and is free—I’m thinking that I might be defecting instead of buying new computers.

Is Microsoft really that stupid?

I’ve recently had a couple of discussions with Answer Guy Central readers who took exception to my position that Search Engine Optimization shouldn’t (generally) be undertaken by regular people. I’ll be sharing some of those details with you soon. But wherever your opinion falls in that debate, I think you’ll be able to see the point I’m making by comparing it to this Microsoft-induced operating system mess. Computers are too hard, and sometimes you just need to hire an expert to handle your computers.

Because real computer support isn’t always easy to come by. And it sure isn’t coming at you from Microsoft.

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