For the past twelve years, Windows XP has been the most recognizable face of desktop computers, but on April 8th, Microsoft finally pulled the plug on the popular operating system. If you’re still using Windows XP, your computer will still work, but there’s some important things you should know.

What does End of Support mean?

As of April 8th, Microsoft will no longer be releasing security patches through Windows Update for XP. This means that as more security vulnerabilities are discovered, the operating system will become increasingly vulnerable to exploits and malware.

Support has also ended for Internet Explorer 8, Outlook Express and Office 2003 and Office XP. If for any reason you’re still using Windows XP, you should find alternatives to these programs as they will only become more vulnerable as well.

Microsoft Security Essentials is no longer available for download on XP machines, though computers that already have it will continue to receive updates for at least another year.

So what should you do if you’re still using Windows XP? The short answer is to upgrade and there’s a lot of ways to do so.

Replace Your Computer

For many computers running Windows XP, they’re old enough that you’d be better off replacing the computer entirely. Modern computers have never been more affordable and with desktops, laptops and tablets, there’s something for everyone. For most users, we’d recommend going with a system running Windows 7- it’s similar to Windows XP and will be supported for years to come. More tech-savvy users might prefer Windows 8.1, Microsoft has updated the OS and addressed most of the concerns raised by critics but it can still be a culture shock for XP veterans with the new layout.

Our own Tech Shop keeps a variety of new and refurbished computers with Windows 7 and 8 available. We can even help move all of your files over to the new PC as well! You can check out the computers we have in stockĀ at our online store.

Upgrade Your Computer

If your computer is new enough, then it may make sense to upgrade it rather than replacing it entirely. Microsoft released the Windows Upgrade Assistant, a free tool thatĀ can tell if your computer meets the upgrade requirements. If the only issue is memory or drive space, both are typically easy to increase.

Unfortunately Windows 7 is no longer available at retail, meaning if you want to stay with Windows, you’ll need to upgrade to 8.1 which usually costs around $120. You’ll want to back up your data before upgrading though, as Windows 8.1 requires a clean install from XP.

If you’re looking for a change of pace from Windows, or just something a little less expensive, there’s Apple’s OS X or the open source Linux operating system. OS X Snow Leopard is only $20 and can upgrade to the latest edition, Maverick for free. And while Macs aren’t immune to infections, they aren’t targeted as much as Windows systems. Linux is completely free, but there are a lot of different versions out there and they can be difficult to adjust to. The major downside with both of these options is that most Windows software won’t run on either but alternatives are available.

Protect Your Current Computer

If you simply can’t get away from Windows XP, there are steps you can take to protect yourself but to be clear, this is only a temporary solution. You absolutely shouldn’t run Windows XP if you can help it.

If you don’t have Microsoft Security Essentials, you’ll need to make sure you have an antivirus program with a valid subscription. That expired McAfee trial isn’t doing a thing to protect your computer. AVG 2014 Free Edition will continue to support Windows XP for the foreseeable future, but it may slow down older systems. It also wouldn’t hurt to run an antimalware program alongside it, like Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free.

Internet Explorer 8 is the most recent version available on XP and as we’ve covered, it’s no longer being updated. Switch to a more secure browser like Chrome or Firefox, both of which will continue to be updated for XP for the foreseeable future. Also be sure to keep Adobe and Java up to date, as both of these programs release frequent security updates. Or better yet, uninstall them completely, if you can afford to use your computer without them.

If you’re still using Outlook Express, switch to a web-based email, like GMail or Yahoo. Keeping your email in the browser means never having to worry about the hassle of transferring your account between computers and programs. Or if you can’t live without a desktop email program, upgrade to a modern version of Office, or check out eM Client– an excellent free email program that looks remarkably similar to Outlook.

Again, we can’t stress this enough: Windows XP has reached the end of support and you should move away from it as quickly as possible. But there’s no need to panic- we’re here to help! Drop by any of our three locations, call, or email and we can help find the best solution for your needs.