All good things must eventually come to an end. Microsoft will not provide system and security updates for Windows XP after April 8, 2014. On that date the venerable Windows XP will become an official orphan. If you have not done so already, read Microsoft's statement here.
Windows XP users can sit around moaning and groaning but it will do no good since Microsoft seems bound and determined to go through with it even though the world-wide installed user base is still over 25% of all PC users. That adds up to quite a lot of people Microsoft is abandoning.
Perhaps, at least, some sort of paid support would have been in order. But that's a subject for another time. The reality is that Microsoft's support for Windows XP is really ending this time around.
So, since Microsoft will cease support of Windows XP OS (operating system), should anyone continue to use this operating system after that date?
*There will be no official security updates available for XP after this date.
*There will be few or no new programs written for a defunct OS.
*There will not be continuing support for new software and technologies. Many newer programs you may wish to use might not have the system resources run properly.
Of course there are thousands of legacy programs you could continue to use if you choose to. And yes, there will probably be all kinds of system cracks available on the internet - if you're inclined to trust them. There will also likely be all kinds of work-arounds to provide security - for a while - if they work at all.
If you are unable to update to a more modern operating system or bound and determined to continue using Windows XP anyway you should really read this article from CNET.
The part about using a third-party internet browser instead of Internet Explorer is particularly important. Ditching Java, Flash and Adobe Reader is also a very good idea. However staying off the internet or limiting your exposure online is certainly more safe.
Whatever you do, don't dare get on the internet without a good antivirus suite, running and updated, on your Windows XP PC - if you don't, you may as well send out invitations to hackers.
A PC with Windows XP installed will, of course, continue to boot and run as it always has but I certainly would not want to trust it for very long while surfing the internet. If you continue to use it then my recommendation would be to disconnect the PC from the internet entirely - for safety's sake.
Hackers will have a field day infecting Windows XP PCs with malware as the latest security updates become outdated and are no longer effective.
In general, XP will eventually fade away as the last user upgrades to a newer OS or gets a new PC. The choice you must eventually make is whether to get a new PC or install a new OS on your present PC hardware if you wish to continue to use it to access the internet.
The bottom line is...
You will have three choices:
When you come to the realization that it is a bad idea to continue with Windows XP you can:
Get a new computer:
If you opt for a new PC see my file How to buy a Cheap PC.
Upgrade to Windows 7:
If you wish to upgrade to Windows 7 you should first check to be sure your PC is capable of running this more resource-hungry operating system. See this Microsoft page to find out.
Be aware that these specifications are the minimum. If your PC just qualifies then your system may just barely limp along. Of course adding additional RAM may help. But if your processor is marginal you may need to turn off some system features - such as Aero and search indexing as well as avoiding multiple user accounts.
Also don't forget that Windows 7 is not free.
Install or try-out a free open source operating system:
Do you have good PC hardware that that is not capable (or just barely capable) of running Windows 7 that you hate to simply throw away? Then consider installing an open-source Linux operating system. There will be a learning curve but your old PC will probably run faster after installation.
Unless you need to run software that has no linux equavalent this is a viable option to continue using your older PC until it wears out.
There are many versions of Linux available but two that stand out are Ubuntu and LXLE. Both versions are similar to Windows in appearance. The graphical user interfaces are attractive and very functional. Both are secure and will be supported with updates for years to come.
For more information:
LXLE - Lubuntu Extra Life Extension LXLE is for low-resource PCs - great for most systems older than 5 or 6 years.
Ubuntu is one of the more popular and stable linux operating systems. Any PC that is capable of running Windows 7 will run Ubuntu quite well.
Both are completly free to download & install and are available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions.
Before downloading a 64-bit version be sure your PC is 64-bit capable.
Go to the Control Panel, then switch to classic view, then choose System. If you have a 64bit capable PC this window will plainly say so. If there is no system type information showing then you have 32bit.
Download the version compatible with your PC's hardware and create an installation disk - a DVD (DVD+ or DVD- disk) or a USB flash drive (2GB or larger) will do.
If you use a DVD most PCs already have software installed to create a bootable disk from an ISO file - if not download ImgBurn from SoftPedia. (Be sure to decline any extra software if offered during install.)
If you use a Flash Drive download a small and efficient program called Rufus to create a bootable Flash Drive containing the Linux installer ISO. Rufus does not require installation - just download and use!
I recommend that after creating the linux install disk you just insert it and boot your PC. Start tappping the F12 key while the PC is booting and choose your boot disk. (Either DVD or USB - whichever you created,)
You will be able to run linux from the disk to evaluate it to decide whether you like it or not without affecting your Windows XP installation.
It is also possible to install linux along with Windows XP to create a dual boot PC - but that install does not always go as planned. I would not advise doing that unless you are familiar with linux terminal commands. It is somewhat easier to dual boot Linux with Windows Vista and Windows 7.
If you choose to install linux as the sole operating system.
Before installing any new operating system be sure to back up your personal data!
What's really good about Linux Operating Systems?
Linux operating systems will not run Windows programs natively. So if you have a program written for Windows that you simply must run you can only do so through emulating software.
Linux installers are nearly hands free after answering a few simple questions and choosing your user password and time zone.
However when you have familiarized yourself with the new operating system be sure to download any available updates with the software center.
Updates will be installed automatically after download.
These are nice install options, but what's really nice about Linux is that it is immune to Windows malware. Virus, Spyware, and Adware written to invade Windows systems will not affect Linux operating systems. You won't need an antivirus program.
Great! But that's not all.
When you boot your Linux system you can choose to boot it without a user password, if you wish, and browse the web or create word processing documents without the need for a user password. But when you wish to alter the system - add or remove programs, change the look of the desktop, download updates, etc. - You must enter a user password to continue.
This means that your kids cannot change the system, remove, or add anthing without your approval.
Instant Parental Control!
Business update recommendations:
Most experts recommend Linux Mint as the perferred operating system for business desktops. Mint can run on almost any PC systems that are capable of running either Windows XP or Vista. 512KB RAM required, but 1MB RAM will allow Mint to run much smoother. See this page for more details.
Linux Mint version 18, codenamed Sarah comes in both 32 bit or 64 bit versions and both are completely free to download and use. Linux Mint is also immune to malware and spyware written for Windows systems so you don't need to spend extra money on antivirus software.
Lastly, if you think you need to securely erase and reformat the existing hard drives in your PCs see this page at Zdnet for help.