200m computers vulnerable as Microsoft pulls plug on Windows XP

Microsoft stops support for popular operating system, but poll says more than half users will stick with it despite increased risk of viruses

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 April, 2014, 4:20am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 April, 2014, 4:20am

Microsoft stopped giving technical support for the Windows XP operating system yesterday, leaving about half the computers on the mainland more vulnerable to attack.

But the majority of mainland Windows XP users, more than 200 million, have refused to upgrade to more up-to-date software and the operating system, nearly 13 years old, will continue to be used widely in China for at least five more years, according to internet experts. Windows XP was still the most popular operating system in China as of last month with a market share of more than 47 per cent, followed by Windows 7 at less than 45 per cent, according to GlobalStats, an internet analysis company.

The China Internet Network Information Centre, the mainland's official internet infrastructure administrator, said on its website last week that more than 55 per cent of office computers in the country were still using Windows XP.

Windows 8.1, the latest software that Microsoft urges users to upgrade to, can barely be found at any workplace, the centre said.

Microsoft has warned users that if they continue to use Windows XP after the deadline their computer will still work, but could face more security risks and virus attacks.

But in an online survey conducted by the China Internet Network Information Centre last month, only about a quarter of mainland Windows XP users said they would follow Microsoft's advice on upgrading to new software.

More than 50 per cent said they would stick with XP until the system became unusable.

The reasons for staying with the operating system ranged from the additional cost of software and hardware upgrades to unfamiliarity with the new software's user interface.

Tang Wei , a senior engineer with Rising, a mainland antivirus company, said many companies and government agencies on the mainland had shrugged off Microsoft's warning. Many XP users had costly software and hardware tailor-made for the operating system; if the software was changed the entire information technology infrastructure would have to be changed, too, he said.

"If the most popular car stops production, it won't vanish from the streets overnight," Tang said. "The same can be said for Windows XP."