Windows XP Logo

Still running Windows XP? Microsoft ends all support for the aging operating system on April 8, 2014. This doesn’t mean that your computer won’t start on April 9, but it does mean that you will be at increased risk and should upgrade your computer. The sooner the better.

All Microsoft products have a life cycle and XP is simply coming to the end of its useful and supported life. Computer technology has changed an awful lot in the past 12 years and newer operating systems take advantage of the newer capabilities. But a major part of software operating systems is the support—the constant fixes and patches that keep it running smoothly, incorporate new device drivers and provide updates that protect your computer from hackers and malware. That support is an important safeguard for you, and XP’s ends in two weeks.

The bottom line is that Microsoft isn’t going to fix those things anymore. Even new hardware, or upgraded software for existing hardware like printers, may become problematic. Software engineers aren’t going to write code to make things work for your computer anymore.

Windows 7 is the closest in looks and function to XP, but Microsoft has a lot invested in pushing you toward Windows 8. Windows 8, however, requires support for some technology that probably didn’t exist when you bought that shiny new XP machine. Microsoft has a list of system requirements and a small software download that will check your machine for compatibility. Windows 8 is built for touchscreens and blends a tablet environment with the desktop environment you are used to. It is a major, and perhaps jarring, change from XP.

Windows 7 is still available, and the system requirements are a bit less than Windows 8. Microsoft has made the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor available again. Install this and it will scan your computer and devices for compatibility. Microsoft has provided a tutorial to help you.

Either option can be a bit complex. Microsoft refers to them as “clean” installations, meaning that your files and programs aren’t preserved. You’ll need to make sure that you have all of your pictures, documents, files, music etc., backed up to a separate disk or storage device. You’ll also have to reinstall all of your programs and software, so dig out those codes.

Microsoft is offering a carrot for stragglers who have yet to upgrade. Purchase a selected PC or Surface Pro from the Microsoft Store and get a $100 instant savings, 90 days of free support, and free data transfer. This offer is only good until June 15, 2014.