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Which Browser Is Most Secure on an Old Windows XP System?

A tiny percentage of people still use Windows XP, even though support for it ended all the way back in 2014. While you should make every effort to jump from this ancient Windows version as soon as you can, if you still have to use the platform for some reason, you might wonder which web browsers for Windows XP still work.

Even when Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP, most popular software continued to support it for some time. That’s no longer the case, as no modern browsers for Windows XP exist now. Let’s take a look at every major web browser to see what the best browser for Windows XP users is.

Stop Using Internet Explorer for Windows XP

internet explorer 8 not supported on Windows XP

The most recent version of Internet Explorer available on Windows XP is Internet Explorer 8. IE 8 is wildly outdated, and Microsoft hasn’t supported it since the end of Windows XP’s life.

Not only is IE 8 already an outdated browser without modern features and performance, but it hasn’t received any security patches since April 2014 either. Even if you have to use Windows XP for some reason, you shouldn’t use Internet Explorer anymore.

Most modern websites will let you know that they don’t work properly—or at all—with IE 8. And of course, Microsoft wants you to upgrade to Windows 10 and use Microsoft Edge.

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. They provide a different interface but are vulnerable to the same security bugs as Internet Explorer.

Don’t Use Google Chrome on Windows XP Either

Google Chrome on Windows XP Not Supported

While Chrome supported Windows XP past April 2014, the popular browser’s time on the aged OS is up as well. Google dropped Chrome support for Windows 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 90.

Of course, this last version of Chrome will still continue to work. You can’t use any of the newest features of Chrome, however. More importantly, this outdated copy of Chrome won’t receive security updates.

Chrome 49 from April 2016 is better than IE 8 from 2014, 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.

Firefox on Windows XP Is Insecure Too

Firefox Windows XP Unsupported

Firefox was a supported browser on Windows XP for longer than Chrome, but Firefox’s time on Windows XP has reached its end too. Mozilla’s end of life date for Firefox on Windows XP was June 2018.

Firefox users on Windows XP were automatically 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.

Thus, Firefox 52.9.0esr is the final edition of Firefox to hit Windows XP. It won’t see any future updates, including security patches. Again, using an XP browser that was last updated in June 2018 is better than one last patched in April 2016, but both are insecure.

What About Opera for Windows XP?

Opera running on Windows XP

While Opera doesn’t enjoy as big of a market share as Chrome or Firefox, it provides a great alternative to Chrome. It’s available on Windows XP, but is it still supported?

In 2016, the Opera team confirmed that Opera 36 is the final version of the browser available for Windows XP (the current version is 76 as of this writing). Since Opera is now based on Chrome, Opera 36 conforms to Chrome 49.

Opera has claimed that it will still update XP users with security patches from newer versions. However, there seems to be no sign that this is still the case, so you should consider Opera 36 an outdated browser.

Because of this, we recommend that you avoid Opera as well. Its latest version is years old and there’s no indication that it still gets security patches. You also won’t be able to enjoy the coolest Opera features on Windows XP.

Other Notable Windows XP Browsers

We’ve covered the major browsers, but what about lesser-known options that might support Windows XP?

Though it might seem obvious, for completion’s sake we should mention two silly-sounding choices. First, though Safari was once available for Windows, Apple discontinued it long ago. If you still somehow have Safari installed on Windows XP, you shouldn’t use it as it’s extremely outdated and insecure.

Second, Microsoft’s replacement for Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, is not available for Windows XP. Even though the new Chromium-based edition of Edge is available on macOS and mobile devices, there’s no way to use Edge on Windows XP.

Most alternative browsers have dropped support for Windows XP as well. Pale Moon, a Firefox fork, dropped support for XP in 2016. Slimjet, a lesser-known but speedy browser, currently offers version 30 for modern platforms but only supports version 10 for XP users. Only version 1.0 of Vivaldi supports Windows XP.

Maxthon is one other browser for Windows XP that enjoyed support for some time. However, it’s also left XP users behind as the newest version supported on Windows XP is from 2017.

Maxthon Windows XP

While you might not be familiar with this Chinese browser, it packs a lot of handy features like a night mode, built-in screenshot tool, and a notebook. However, it’s still unsupported for Windows XP users.

You may find other fringe browsers that still support Windows XP. However, you should avoid these. Little-known browsers with small teams behind them offer less guarantee of security or quality, and it’s nearly impossible to call a browser on an ancient operating system truly secure anyway.

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 tasks, don’t use it for everything—open it only to use that specific website. For everything else, use another browser.

You can also install the IE Tab Chrome extension, which lets you render pages using IE inside 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. However, this tool is not free and still requires using an outdated version of Chrome for Windows XP.

You could also try changing your user agent to trick a site into thinking that you’re using IE. However, this won’t work for sites that actually require you to use Internet Explorer.

What Is the Best Browser for Windows XP?

Unfortunately, the Windows XP browser scene is essentially dead. You have no real options:

  • Internet Explorer is completely dead and you should avoid it at all costs.
  • Chrome’s latest browser for Windows XP is from April 2016, so you shouldn’t use that either.
  • Firefox dropped support for Windows XP in June 2018.
  • Opera has been silent about supposed XP security patch support and hasn’t updated its XP browser for years either.
  • Maxthon hasn’t received an update for Windows XP since September 2017.

If you really have to use Windows XP, Firefox is the “most secure” XP browser since it was updated most recently. However, this doesn’t mean it’s a good option.

You are not safe running Windows XP because the OS hasn’t received security patches since April 2014. Make every effort to upgrade to a modern operating system as soon as you can. Once you move, you can still recreate some of the Windows XP experience on your new platform.

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