Some of you don't want to say goodbye to Windows XP any more than you wanted to retire the Atari. But support ends on April 8: We break down your best upgrade options.
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Stick it out with Windows XP
As of February, Windows XP still accounted for about half a billion PC users. No one -- not even Microsoft -- thinks all of those people are going to upgrade in time.
Even after the service termination deadline, many people will continue to depend on XP. If your PCs don't use a public Internet connection and are dedicated to only one or two apps, you might not need continued Microsoft support. Upgrading old PCs to newer operating systems can come with their own problems.
But what if you do intend to stick with XP, and continue web browsing, email, social media, and other Internet-reliant activities? What are the risks?
There are several schools of thought, few of them encouraging. Experts believe Windows XP isn't all that secure right now, and that it will inevitably grow less so over time. Some speculate hackers are stockpiling zero-day vulnerabilities, waiting until April 9 to wreak havoc. No smoking-gun evidence of such plots has emerged -- but think about it: If you were a criminal sitting on a bunch of unknown exploits, when would you act? Now, when Microsoft is still on guard? Or in a few weeks, when XP will be a sitting duck?
Some XP diehards point out that the most apocalyptic predictions come from Microsoft and security vendors; that is, people who are selling something. These holdouts reason they can keep using the Internet as long as they take necessary precautions, such as installing malware protection, using Chrome instead of Internet Explorer, and disabling Java and Adobe Flash. Although this will decrease the risks, it doesn't guarantee safety.
Continued XP usage is like driving an old car, says Gartner analyst Michael Silver: It requires diligent maintenance, doesn't offer some of the benefits of new options, and might stop working at any time. It's a fair analogy, but if your old car breaks down, your worst-case scenario is probably walking a few miles. If your XP security fails, your social security number, credit card information, and other sensitive data might be at risk.
If you're unnerved by the prospect of constantly monitoring your system's security, you might be better off with a new operating system.