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A closer look at your Windows XP investment

Tony Bradley | March 26, 2014
Some users are balking at being "forced" to spend more money to upgrade, but they've already received a remarkable ROI on XP.

Nothing lasts forever. We expect that we'll get years of use out of our cars, refrigerators, and mattresses but that eventually they'll need to be replaced, usually with newer, better models. We've now reached that point with Windows XP PCs.

But as the clock winds down on Windows XP support, there is a growing clamor from many Windows XP users. They're pretty sure Microsoft is just trying to squeeze money out of them by "forcing" them to upgrade their operating system or buy a whole new PC.

To be fair, Microsoft isn't forcing anyone to do anything. It's making a business decision to stop investing resources to support an OS that is over a decade old. Windows XP users can continue to use the OS, but it will require additional security tools to protect it, and it will very much be at their own risk. However, the fact that some people are still using an OS that was superseded years ago and haven't made any effort to upgrade or prepare for this moment is not Microsoft's fault.

Consider a refrigerator. I think most people would agree it's an expensive but necessary appliance. If your refrigerator dies today and it's not still under warranty, you'll have to spend anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars to replace it.

Assuming your refrigerator is more than a few years old, you probably won't blame the manufacturer or claim that the need to replace it is just a blatant money grab on their part. Hopefully, you were aware that this day would come, and you had been setting aside money in preparation.

The same thing is true for a PC. It might be a monitor that stops working or a hard drive that crashes. Or it may be that the operating system you're using is no longer supported by the developer, as will soon be the case with Windows XP. Whatever the reason, you should understand that it's inevitable and plan to invest more money in your PC when that day comes.

In December of 2001--a couple months after the launch of Windows XP--there was a variety of middle-of-the-road desktop PCs available with the new operating system. You could buy a Compaq Presario with a 1.5GHz Celeron processor, 256Mb of RAM, and a 20GB hard drive for $570 from Best Buy. For $1000, you could choose the Compaq Presario with a 1.5GHz Pentium 4 processor, 512Mb of RAM, and a 40GB hard drive.

Those machines are so old it's unlikely many of them are still in use, and if they are, it's likely thanks to substantial upgrades. But if someone is still using an original Windows XP PC from 2001, that would mean they've gotten more than 12 years of use out of it, so an initial investment of $570 equates to less than $50 per year.


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