Windows XP continues to hold onto some popularity, even though its support ended in 2014. Whether you’re forced to use XP in a work environment or just refuse to upgrade to a newer version, it’s important to stay as safe as you can when using the old, insecure operating system (OS).
If you’re still using one of those XP computers, the best thing you can do is ditch Internet Explorer for a more modern browser. This is the main thing you can do to make your Windows XP system more secure.
Even when Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP, most popular software continued to support it for longer. That’s no longer the case, though, and now many browsers have left XP behind. Let’s take a look at every major web browser available for Windows XP to decide which is the safest to use.
Stop Using Internet Explorer Now
The most recent version of Internet Explorer available on Windows XP is Internet Explorer 8. This version is already several major versions old — modern versions of IE like Internet Explorer 11 are surprisingly good, but Internet Explorer 8 is still stuck in the stone ages and isn’t much better than the old, busted Internet Explorer 6.
Not only is IE 8 already an outdated browser without the latest features and performance improvements, it has been completely unsupported with security patches since Microsoft ended support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. If you have to use Windows XP, that’s one thing — but you shouldn’t use Internet Explorer anymore.
We’re not the only ones saying this. US-CERT, part of the US Department of Homeland Security, recommended using a browser other than Internet Explorer if you must use Windows XP. Microsoft won’t tell you to use a different browser, but they’ll definitely tell you to stop using IE on Windows XP. Microsoft would rather you upgrade to a more recent version of Windows with a newer version of IE, of course.
You should also avoid browsers that use Internet Explorer’s rendering engine. For example, old versions of Maxthon and Avant Browser act as shells around Internet Explorer, providing a different interface, but being vulnerable to the same security bugs Internet Explorer is.
Don’t Use Google Chrome Anymore
While Chrome supported Windows XP past April 2014, its time has passed. In November 2015, Google announced that it would drop support for XP in April 2016. The latest version of Google Chrome that runs on Windows XP is 49. For comparison, the current version for Windows 10 at the time of writing is 62.
Of course, this last version of Chrome will still continue to work. You won’t be able to use any of the newest features of Chrome, however. And more importantly, this outdated copy of Chrome won’t receive security updates.
Chrome 49 from April 2016 is a lot better than IE 8 from 2011, but it’s still not safe to use. It’s only a matter of time before attackers blow a huge hole into this version, and Google won’t fix it.
The Most Secure Browser: Firefox, until June 2018
Surprisingly, the Firefox situation is a bit better than Chrome’s. In October 2017, Mozilla announced that the end of life date for Firefox on Windows XP is now June 2018. Firefox users on Windows XP have automatically been upgraded to the extended support release (ESR) version. This is a slower-moving branch of Firefox that waits longer to add new features than the normal branch.
— Firefox ? (@firefox) March 11, 2015
So until June 2018, Firefox on Windows XP won’t see any feature updates, but it will receive security patches.
When you install Firefox, it will offer to import your Internet Explorer favorites to make your switch as seamless as possible.
Download: Mozilla Firefox for Windows XP
Also an Option: Opera
The latest update from the Opera team came in August 2016. This confirms that Opera 36 is the final version of the browser available for Windows XP (current version 48). Since Opera is now based on Chrome, Opera 36 conforms to Chrome 49.
However, like Firefox, Opera is still updating XP users with security patches. The announcement explained that the team added the security patches from Opera 37 back into Opera 36.
While this announcement is over a year old, Opera still doesn’t display an error when you check for updates. So it’s safe to assume that it’s still receiving security updates. However, patching an outdated version of the browser isn’t the Opera team’s first priority. So you shouldn’t expect these updates to come right away.
Download: Opera for Windows XP
We’ve covered the major browsers, but what about lesser-known options that might support Windows XP?
Though it might seem obvious, for completion we should mention two silly sounding choices. First, though Safari was once available for Windows, Apple discontinued it years ago. If you still somehow have Safari installed on Windows XP, you shouldn’t use it as it’s wildly outdated and insecure. Second, Microsoft’s replacement for Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, is only available on Windows 10. So there’s no trying that on Windows XP.
Most alternative browsers have dropped support for Windows XP as well. Pale Moon, a Firefox fork, doesn’t support XP on its latest version. Slimjet, a lesser-known but speedy browser, is currently offering version 15 for modern platforms but still supports version 10 for XP users. Vivaldi no longer supports Windows XP, either.
However, one browser still features complete support for Windows XP. Maxthon’s latest version (5.1) on Windows XP is the same as that for Windows 10. Since it was released in September 2017, that makes it the newest browser to work on XP.
While you might not be familiar with this Chinese browser (we reviewed Maxthon’s Nitro), it packs a lot of handy features like a night mode, built-in screenshot tool, and a notebook. If you don’t like Opera, Maxthon is probably your best option.
Download: Maxthon for Windows XP
But I Need Internet Explorer!
Some people still need an old version of Internet Explorer to connect to certain websites. For example, you might use an internal business website that requires an outdated version of IE. If you must use Internet Explorer for some things, don’t use it for everything — open it only to use that specific website and use another browser most of the time.
Better yet, install an IE Tab browser extension for Firefox or Chrome. Configure IE Tab to always load that old website in an Internet Explorer frame inside your browser and you won’t have to worry about opening and closing IE. Just browse with your modern browser and, when you visit the old website, it will automatically load with IE inside your modern browser.
You could also try changing your user agent to trick a site into thinking that you’re using IE first.
If you’re still using Internet Explorer 8, you should have switched to Firefox or Opera long ago. These browsers continue to support Windows XP properly, while Microsoft holds back new versions of Internet Explorer as a reward for upgrading to new versions of Windows.
Which Browser Will You Use on Windows XP?
The browser scene isn’t great on Windows XP, but at least you still have options.
Never thought it would be the internet browsers that would make windows XP computers obsolete.
— Marcooni (@Marcooni) June 29, 2016
- Internet Explorer is completely dead and you should avoid it at all costs.
- Chrome’s latest XP offering is over 18 months old — you shouldn’t use that either.
- Firefox is safe until June 2018.
- Opera’s last XP edition still receives security patches.
- Maxthon is the most current browser available for Windows XP.
Thus, if you’re still stuck using Windows XP, Maxthon provides the best combination of feature and security updates. Use Opera if you don’t like Maxthon, and get ready to jump from Firefox soon if you still use it. We should reiterate, though, that you’re not safe running Windows XP. You should make every effort to upgrade to a modern operating system as soon as you can.
Are you still using Windows XP at all? Which browser do you use on that old system? Tell us which browsers you’ve tried on XP in the comments!
Originally written by Chris Hoffman on 29 March 2014.