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Windows XP's Final Days: A Practical Guide

Users who shunned Vista and are clinging to XP until the release of Windows 7 can get the most out of the aging operating system by following these tips.

Windows XP's days have been numbered for a long time now. A long, long time. Just when it seemed like the end was in sight for Microsoft's flagship OS, it's had its lifespan granted one extension after another -- first due to popular demand, then due to the rise of the netbook (where XP turned out to be a far better fit than Vista).

Installing Windows 7 over Windows XP will force you to move the old OS into a subdirectory.
(click for image gallery)

Now, with Windows 7 well on the way, riding a cresting wave of positive feedback, XP looks like it's finally on its way out.

That doesn't mean everyone still using XP now is instantly going to toss it and grab up a copy of Windows 7. Historically, most people upgrade to a new version of Windows by buying a new PC, and not by picking up Windows in an off-the-shelf package.

And despite Microsoft's April 14th deadline for providing free support for Windows XP, companies still using XP will continue to do so for a while to come, especially if they have no immediate incentive to upgrade (e.g., their current PC works fine, thank you).

So what to do in the time between now and the eventual-and-probably-inevitable move to Windows 7? Protect your existing PC investment, prepare for what's next, and don't let anything derail you along the way.

Protect Your Existing PC

The first thing to do is protect your existing Windows XP installation -- keep it in top shape so that between then and now, you have as little as possible to worry about.

1. Clean up the worst of the mess. If you've been wrestling with spyware, viruses, or other annoyances, now's the time to get rid of as much of it as possible in one swoop. Depending on the level of confidence you have with doing such things, you might want to simply opt for a full system restore. Once you create a solid baseline to work from, then you can also elect to create a full-system backup as an additional safety measure.

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