What to do about Office 2003

Some advice on what to do about Office 2003 and Windows XP on the 8 April expiry.

Office 2003

Office 2003 won’t stop working on 8 April 2014. There’ll be no more security updates or patches, but the software will continue to work.

All past Windows XP patches and service packs will continue to be available past 8 April 2014.

You can reinstall your Office 2003 on Windows 7 and Windows 8. Office 2003 isn’t officially supported on Windows 8 but plenty of Office-Watch.com readers tell us they use it without trouble.

Realistically, it’s time to move on from Office 2003. Get yourself a copy of Office 2010 or Office 2013 which will support the new document formats (now well established) among many other changes over the last decade.

If you really can’t stand the ribbon interface then try menu add-ins like UBit Menu.

Though past service packs and updates for Windows XP and Office 2003 will continue to be available we suggest you download the most recent service packs now.


Windows XP

Windows XP won’t die, become dangerous or magically turn into a pumpkin on 8 April. Antivirus protection with the free and effective Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) will continue to be updated until 2015. There’s no need to pay for extra protection beyond Microsoft Security Essentials.

All past Windows XP patches and service packs will continue to be available past 8 April 2014. In other words, Windows Update will continue to get any past patches applicable. But after 8 April, Microsoft won’t be making any more security updates.

There’s plenty of companies, not just Microsoft, preying on the fear, uncertainty and doubt around the ‘end’ of Windows XP to make money. We’ve not seen anything advertised (like anti-virus software etc.) that

Microsoft and many commentators are saying that it’s time to switch from Windows XP. That’s good but narrow advice. It ignores the very real cost in time, money and trouble that moving from Window XP involves. You have to pay for the operating system. Spend time installing which usually means totally reinstalling Windows, then all programs and data. Sometimes you’ll have to pay for upgraded software to go with the newer Windows. At worst, you’ll have to pay for more memory or a new computer as well. All these costs are ignored by Microsoft.

We suggest you start considering a move from Windows XP over the next few months. In many cases, getting a new computer is probably the easiest path compared with trying to get Windows 7 or Windows 8 to work on old hardware.

It’s possible to upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8 (don’t bother with Windows Vista). The fundamental technology of Windows 8 is sound and we’ve been using it happily for a long time now. True,Windows 8 has the annoying Start Menu but that can be bypassed (Windows 8.1 for Microsoft Office users). Once you get past that poorly conceived Modern interface and apps, the familiar desktop is there similar to Windows 7, Vista and XP.

If you buy the expensive Windows 8 Professional, it includes ‘downgrade’ rights to install Windows 7 Professional instead. But cheaper versions of Windows 8 don’t allow that.

Officially, Windows 7 is no longer sold retail but in practice some retailers might have stock. You can buy the plain packaging ‘OEM System Builder’ version of Windows 7 from Amazon and other retailers.

Whatever version of Windows 7 or 8 you buy, you can NOT directly upgrade from Windows XP. You have to copy all your data then install Windows 7/8 on the main drive (erasing the contents) then reinstall all programs and restore all the data.

If you have software that needs Windows XP, consider using a virtual machine to run that software within Windows 7 or Windows 8. More expensive versions of Windows 7 come with ‘XP mode’ which is really a Windows XP virtual machine. Some versions of Windows 8 include Hyper/V, Microsoft virtual machine technology. Windows 8.1 for Microsoft Office users has a chapter devoted to step-by-step help with using Hyper/V and making a Windows XP virtual machine.