If you haven’t yet heard the dire warnings, listen up. Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP after Tuesday, April 8th. That not only means no technical support, it also means no updates, bug fixes and — more important — security fixes.
You’ve been warned
Murphy did say that there will be other companies that will continue to provide updated anti-malware tools, “but if the operating system isn’t being patched that means that the PC, even with up-to-date virus checkers, won’t be secure.”
Bad guys know it even if users don’t
While I’m sure there are still plenty of people who don’t know about the end of XP support, you better believe that the hacker community is well aware that the deadline has come and gone. We can expect numerous “zero day” exploits against XP by those who know that any XP user is a sitting duck.
Unfortunately all of the good options – especially the best one — will cost you money. One option is to buy an upgrade to Windows 7, assuming your PC is new and powerful enough to work with that operating system. If you’re going to do that, Murphy recommends that you first back up all your data an do a clean install, which means you’ll also have to re-install all your software. Personally, if I were going to do this, I would also re-format the hard drive to clean out all the gunk that has inevitably accumulated over the years.
For those that can’t upgrade or just want a more modern machine, it’s time to go PC shopping. The easiest machines to find will have Windows 8.1 which, of course, is what Microsoft wants you to use. But be warned that the Windows 8.1 user interface is quite a bit different so there will be a learning curve and — if you’re like me — you might not even like it all that much. Another option is to buy a Macintosh if you’re inclined to switch. You might find the transition of XP to Mac as easy — or even easier — than going to Windows 8.1. You can also look for a machine with Windows 7. Some PC companies will provide you with Windows 7.
Or you could stay with XP. But if you do, I recommend that you not connect it to the Internet so you’re not vulnerable to online attacks.
What to do with an “obsolete” Windows XP machine
It’s unlikely you can sell it and I would not give it to a school, church or other non-profit unless they are truly equipped to do something useful with it. The last thing they needs is a virus-prone dinosaur. Organizations in the business of dealing with old things — like Goodwill — do know what to do with old machines.
Another option is to reformat (erase) the hard drive and replace Windows with a version of Linux. There are several free versions and many will work just fine on an old machine designed for Windows XP.
If you decide to dispose of it, please recycle it properly. There are a lot of metals and other things in old PCs that are harmful to the earth.
This post first appeared on Forbes.com