It's been going on close to 13 years—but for Windows XP, the party's over. Today marks the end of Microsoft's support for the most popular version of its operating system, after one of the longest support periods ever offered for a version of Windows.
If you've got an XP computer that you're still using, it will still work on April 9. But you should stop using it immediately. That's because Microsoft will no longer provide security updates on XP systems, leaving those computers vulnerable to hackers, viruses, and other security risks. That's a risk you shouldn't take.
Technical assistance will also end, as will driver updates for hardware. Anti-malware updates for Microsoft Security Essentials will continue for a while, although you'll no longer be able to download it on XP if you don’t already have it. But they won’t do much good without access to regular security updates.
The same, by the way, applies to Office 2003—support ends today.
Not sure whether you're running Windows XP? Go to amirunningxp.com to find out (try it even if you know you aren't using XP, just for fun!). Or you can click Windows' Start button, then Run. Type "winver" (without the quotation marks) and press Enter. Finally, you should also be seeing a pop-up that says support for XP ends on April 8.
I’m an XP user—what should I do?
Upgrade your PC to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, or buy a new computer. That first option could be problematic, since you're likely to be using an older computer that might not meet all the requirements of Windows 7 and 8.1. To see whether that’s the case with your PC, check out the Windows Upgrade Assistant.
Even if you meet the requirements, our advice is to replace your computer if it's more than four years old.
Back up all your files onto an external hard drive or to an online storage space such as Dropbox or OneDrive, before you get rid of your old computer. That includes not only documents and spreadsheets, but your photos, videos, data files, e-books, bookmarks, music, databases such as personal finance information, and any other personal data.
Move your data to your new PC. You can do it free using Microsoft's data-transfer tool. This tool will move your data—but not your programs. Moving your programs will entail a bit more time. If you have all the installation disks and their product keys, you can simply reinstall them onto your new computer. But this can take hours. If you want to get everything moved in one shot, use Laplink PC Mover to transfer all your files, data, and programs to the new computer. It's been discounted to $24 specifically for the Windows XP transition.
The last step is wiping the hard drive clean on your old PC. The best way to do that is by downloading a free program called DBAN, which wipes everything off the hard drive, including files, programs, and the operating system. For more tips on wiping data off old devices, read "Avoid ID theft and protect personal data when getting rid of a gadget."
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