Dropbox is ending support for Windows XP

Soon you won't be able to use Dropbox on Windows XP

Dropbox

Bad news Windows XP fans. If you haven't already heard, Dropbox is ending support for Windows XP, and the two-stage process starts Sunday, June 26, 2016. On that date, which is two days after this writing, the XP-compatible Dropbox for Windows program will no longer be available for download. Other versions of Windows will still be able to download Dropbox including Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, and Windows 10.

XP users, however, won't be able to download and install Dropbox. Considering there aren't that many people looking to do fresh installs of Dropbox on XP these days this probably isn't a big deal.

But that's not all Dropbox is doing on Sunday. The company will also prevent XP users from creating new accounts using the program, or from signing in to Dropbox for Windows XP with an existing account. In other words, even if you could download Dropbox from the company or a third-party site like FileHippo it wouldn't do you any good.

If you're already using Dropbox on Windows XP you should be fine as long as you don't sign out of the program, which people rarely do.

However, that will only get you so far. The second phase of Dropbox's XP plan begins Monday, August 29, 2016. On that date, Dropbox will automatically sign out everyone using the Dropbox desktop program on Windows XP machines worldwide.

When that happens you won't have access to Dropbox via Windows Explorer the way you do now. And at that point, Dropbox on Windows XP will be useless.

What about my files?

While Dropbox on XP will cease to work, your account won't be canceled nor will any of your files disappear. You'll still be able to access them via Dropbox.com or by using the Dropbox app on a smartphone, tablet, or on a PC running Windows Vista or higher.

If you want to run Dropbox on your PC after that date you'll have to upgrade your operating system to something Dropbox supports. At this writing that includes Windows Vista and up, Ubuntu Linux 10.04 or higher, and Fedora Linux 19 or higher. Dropbox also supports Mac OS X, but you cannot install Apple's operating system on a Windows PC.

Why is this happening?

There are really three reasons for Dropbox giving up on Windows XP. The first is that Microsoft no longer supports XP and hasn't for more than two years. In April 2009, Microsoft put Windows XP on what it calls extended support. When software goes into the extended support phase it means Microsoft only releases security updates for it; new features or improvements are out.

After nearly five years, Microsoft ceased extended support for XP in 2014. That meant any existing security holes in XP would not be patched--and so far newly discovered security weaknesses in XP haven't been fixed.

The second reason Dropbox wants to give up on XP is that supporting an older operating system prevents the company from more easily releasing new features.

Windows XP was first released on October 25, 2001. That is ancient in computing terms. Just think about XP's age for a second.

When XP was first released the iPhone was about six years away, Google was a new website, and Hotmail was the most popular free email service. Windows XP is simply from a different era of computing.

Not only would XP make it hard for Dropbox back to release new features, but issues of security and general efficiency would also make support for XP unrealistic. 

Of course, development of new features and lack of support for Microsoft would count for nothing if Windows XP was still wildly popular. That is not the case, however.

XP accounted for about 28 percent of desktop users worldwide at the time Microsoft ended support for the operating system.

At this writing, XP is hovering around 10 percent of users worldwide and dropping.

That's still a good chunk of users, but it's clear XP usage is only going to decrease in the coming months and years.

Dropbox isn't the only important software that recently ceased support for XP. In April 2016, Google released Chrome version 50 without Windows XP compatibility. Chrome supported XP for an extra two years after Microsoft stopped releasing security patches for the operating system.

What can I do?

As I mentioned earlier, you have a few choices for holding on to Dropbox. If you must stick with Windows XP then you will have to upload and download files by visiting Dropbox.com in your web browser. There is no other option unless a third-party developer comes along with a replacement.

Your other choice is to upgrade to a newer version of Windows. Unless you've got some Windows Vista or Windows 7 installation discs sitting around the house, however, that means you'll have to upgrade to Windows 10.

The system requirements for Windows 10 aren't that daunting. They include a processor of 1GHz or faster, 1 GB of RAM for the 32-bit version or 2GB for the 64-bit version, 16GB hard drive space for the 32-bit OS, or 20GB for Windows 10 64-bit. On top of that you need a graphics card capable of DirectX 9 and a minimum display resolution of 800-by-600. If you are going with the 64-bit version your processor will also need to support some technical features that you can read about here

Despite the modest system requirements the reality is most Windows XP users are better off buying a new PC. Using Windows 10 on a PC with minimum specifications would be pretty slow and likely a frustrating experience.

Nevertheless, if you want to see if your PC meets Windows 10's system requirements, click Start and then right-click on My Computer. Then in the context menu that opens select Properties. A new window will open telling you how much RAM you have and what your processor is.

If you need to know how much space your hard drive has just go to Start > My Computer. In the window that opens hover over your hard drive (listed under "Hard Disk Drives") to see the total amount of space you have available.

Just remember that if your PC meets all the requirements for Windows 10, which honestly it probably won't, then you'll have to back-up all your important personal files to an external hard drive before you install the new operating system on your PC.

If Windows 10 won't run on your PC or you just can't get a new PC right now, another alternative is to install a Linux-based operating system. Linux is an alternative OS to Windows that some people use on older machines to give them new life once their version of Windows has run its course.

However, I wouldn't recommend doing this alone unless you're already comfortable installing Windows without assistance. To use Dropbox on a Linux machine your best choice is to install Ubuntu Linux or one of its derivatives such as Xubuntu. For more information on installing Linux on an old Windows machine check out About's tutorial on installing Xubuntu.