In just under five months, Microsoft will end support for Windows XP – and running XP after 8 April carries significant security risks. Yet many UK government offices are still relying on the 12-year-old operating system, which means that the race is on to migrate government machines to a modern operating system like Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 before support ends.

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about the challenges that come with upgrading from Windows XP. But application compatibility continues to be one of the most misunderstood areas. Part of the problem is that most organisations don’t know which programs they have installed on their system – and which ones their employees really use, says Marina Stedman, marketing director Centrix Software, a Microsoft partner.

If an organisation just tries to count the number of apps installed on its machines, it’s liable to overestimate how many programs it needs, which can make migration efforts more difficult and costly, says Stedman. Centrix has found that 80% of the applications installed on a computer are never used -- and when looking solely at programs that aren’t compatible with modern operating systems, that figure can jump as high as 95%.

Even figuring out exactly how many programs are installed on a system can be challenging without help. The Glasgow City Council originally thought their system of 11,500 endpoints had 2,000 apps -- but Centrix found 6,700. Of course, many of those apps were redundant or useless. Centrix found that council computers had 40 different versions of Adobe Acrobat, 83 versions of Abobe reader and more than 50 versions of compression utilities such as WinZip Some organisations try to get around this by surveying workers about the apps that are essential to their jobs. These surveys can be misleading, however, since employees are liable to forget about apps that indispensable in a few circumstances, but seldom used. Centrix’s WorkSpace iQ solution was able to help the city council rationalize its total app list down to less than 1,000 programs.

By understanding its workers’ app usage, the council can better allocate resources and manage the upgrade more efficiently, shaving as much as 9 months off the process. Not only does this information ease Windows migrations, it provides valuable insight into which apps are most useful to workers, which can help prioritize future software acquisitions and lower support costs. Most importantly, it means that the council’s migration from Windows XP won’t be delayed by an application no one actually uses, allowing the council to avoid serious security problems or long-term support costs once XP support ends.

Learn more about Windows XP migration with Centrix.