If your computer uses Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system or Microsoft’s Office 2003 productivity suite, and you are not prepared, you may be in for a shock in two weeks.
Next month, on April 11, 2017, Microsoft will end all support for its still widely-used Windows Vista operating system. The same goes for Office 2003 (which includes Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, etc.).
In Microsoft’s words, after that date Vista and Office will “no longer receive the following: assisted support, online content updates, software updates from Microsoft Update, or security updates to help protect your PC from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software, which can steal your personal information.”
Trust me, folks, Microsoft is not kidding around. When “all support” ends, you will be on your own.
After that, a criminal hacker’s field day will begin, just like the one that happened when Microsoft ditched support for Windows XP in 2014. New security problems will be found, but no more fixes will be possible. From then on, it will no longer be safe to put a Windows Vista computer on the Internet, or use Office 2003 in an Internet-connected setting.
That means that millions of people around the world will need to buy a new computer, or a new version of Office.
To be more precise, experts say there are about 1.5 billion active users of all flavors of Microsoft Windows, which would include Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, and so on. The experts also say that Windows Vista only represents around 1.1-1.2% of those Windows computers currently in use. Even so, that means up to 18 million computers worldwide will need to be replaced or substantially upgraded.
If you are using a Windows Vista computer, I urge you to make the change sooner, rather than later. Computer stores and I.T. people like myself are going to be very busy, because millions of people will all realize on the same day, “Oh, no, I need a new computer!” and they will all go to “the store” at the same time to buy one. My advice is to avoid the rush and prepare now.
Even so, be prepared to spend at least $600 to $700 or more on a good Windows desktop or laptop computer. My favorite off-the-shelf brands are Lenovo and Dell. I am not fond of HP, as I see too many of them break down and go in the trash. If you also need to replace an aging monitor, that will add another $150, or so.
While you can find el-cheapo computers from all manufacturers in the $3-400 range, I cannot recommend you get one. I’ve taken too many “bargain” computers apart to think they are anything other than cheap, shoddy junk. Spend a little extra on something well-built and be happier in the long run.
Computer shopping can be confusing for many people, as they don’t know what to get. For a Windows-type PC, I recommend at least an Intel i5, i7 or AMD quad-core processor; at least 8 gigabytes of RAM (memory) and a 500 gigabyte (or larger) hard drive. Everything else, like hot-shot graphics cards and fancy video options are things to be tailored to your individual situation. I buy computers for people all the time, as I have lots of practice negotiating the maze of computer options. If you don’t know what to get, ask someone who does to help you.
You may not even know if you use the Windows Vista operating system, or Office 2003. To find out, turn off your computer and then pay attention as it comes back on; it should tell you. You can also go to Control Panel and double-click the “System” icon. A window will open up, telling you which operating system you have. For Office, open an Office program like Word and click the Help (or, “?”) button.