The countdown clock is ticking. On April 9, Microsoft will no longer support its popular – and what some people are calling “ancient”! – Windows XP operating system.
How do I know if I have Windows XP?
This video makes it easy to check whether your computer is running XP, Vista or Windows 7.
What does the end of XP mean?
If you’re one of the 30 percent of PC users still using XP, chances are you saw no reason to learn a new operating system or spend money on something you didn’t need. You like XP and it works for you. The good news is that come April 9 your computer will still work just as it always has. However, there are several very good reasons to stop using XP very soon:
Security Microsoft will stop issuing automatic security updates for XP. So for example, when a new virus starts spreading, your computer will not be protected from it if you are still running XP. Since the whole world seems to be talking about the vulnerability of XP to scammers come April 9, there’s a good chance that scammers will be working on special XP-targeted viruses. If you do anything on the Internet that involves passwords, personal information and especially credit cards, you’re at risk.
More security You might no longer receive updates for your anti-virus software – though the major companies have said they’ll continue to offer updates for a while.
Tech support Microsoft will no longer provide technical support for Windows XP.
Compatibility There will be no more software updates for XP. As your browser (for example, Internet Explorer or Firefox) is updated, eventually it will stop playing nicely with your computer system and you’ll notice things slowing down (your computer might already be slow because it’s an old model).
Apps and peripherals Over time, some applications and peripherals like printers will no longer be compatible with Windows XP.
Can I just upgrade to the new version of Windows?
Maybe – but probably not.
Let’s look at the operating systems that have come since XP.
- First came Vista. Everyone hated it. It was clunky and hard to use. Skip that one
- After Vista, Microsoft came out with Windows 7. Everyone liked it. It is somewhat different than XP and you’ll have to get used to some new things.
- The latest system is Windows 8 – not very popular, though not as bad as Vista. Some people are sticking with Windows 7, waiting for Microsoft to release Windows 9, so they can just skip over 8.
The bad news is, most older computers – many of the ones running XP – don’t meet the technical requirements for installing Windows 7 or 8. That means buying a new computer.
So, what should I do?
It depends on how you use your computer, how comfortable you are with the idea of learning something new and how much you want to spend. Whatever your situation is, there’s no easy solution besides taking a chance and sticking with XP.
A Windows 7 PC If you think you want to continue using a computer rather than switching to a tablet (see below), consider buying an older PC with Windows 7 installed. The learning curve is fairly low after XP, and these computers are relatively inexpensive compared to a newer one running Windows 8. You can still find Windows 7 machines at Best Buy for under $500.
A deal on a Windows 8 PC If you decide to go for a Windows 8 PC, you might still be able to take advantage of $100 discounts and 90 days of free phone support (ie: “How do I use this?”) from Microsoft. Click here.
A Mac If you want to try something new and are ready to spend more, think about buying an Apple computer. Macs are famous for being fairly intuitive – although if you have been using a PC for a while there’s a lot to unlearn – and they have some fun features. The Apple store provides free classes.
A Chromebook The least expensive option is a Chromebook, Google’s web-based laptop. “Web-based” means the computer pretty much only works when it’s online, and most of your document storage is in the cloud. (Click here to read more about the cloud.) If you’re curious, head to your local electronics store and play with a Toshiba NB15t, which sells for around $299 and has had some good reviews.
A tablet If you use your computer mainly to read and write email, surf the web, play games and Skype, it’s definitely worth thinking about switching to a tablet. You can read about tablets for “technophobes” on Senior Planet and also read our Tech Tip on choosing between tablet and computer.
Still not sure? Watch this Wall Street Journal video about “How to Survive the Windows XPiration Date.”