After April 8, users of Windows XP operating system will no longer receive security patches, application updates or any kind of support from Microsoft.
The end of support for Windows XP doesn't mean that Windows Update will suddenly stop working. It simply means that no new Windows updates will appear. Windows XP machines will be more vulnerable to malware than ever before, and users' personal and financial information will be at greater risk of compromise by identity thieves.
"The main thing consumers have to worry about is that every month, there are [new] vulnerabilities found in Windows," said Wes Miller, research vice president at Directions on Microsoft, an information-technology consulting firm in Kirkland, Wash. "New exploits generally are made to take advantage of those vulnerabilities.
People use Windows XP for some reasons absolutely, such as to run specialized software not available for later versions of Windows, or perhaps because they can't afford a new PC. If you're sticking with Windows XP, take several precautionary steps as below.
If your PC meets the minimum system requirements: a 1-GHz processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM (for a 32-bit system) or 2 gigs (for 64-bit) and 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit) of storage, you can download Windows 8.1 for $119.99 or 8.1 Pro for $199.99. Meanwhile, make sure you install the proper Windows 8.1 software, either the 32-bit or 64-bit installation disc.
If you're committed to staying in the Windows world because of software requirements or just sticking with what you know, updating to Windows 7 looks and behaves like Windows XP and it's also cheaper.
To gain benefits from modern hardware: more secure and better, you can buy a new computer. If you're not a serious gamer or plan on engaging in heavy-duty video editing, you can find halfway decent Windows laptop typically starting in the $300 range. Of course, you can spend a lot more for a system equipped with high-resolution touch-screens and state-of-the-art specs.
Moving to Mac is an option, too. It seems a particularly radical move after all your years with Windows XP. It's more expensive. Apple's MacBook Air laptop, for example, starts at $999.
The death of Windows XP doesn't have to be a black hole for you. With the proper preparation and options, you can enjoy your PC as usual.
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