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Windows XP was first released in August 2001, but Microsoft is officially pulling the plug on its support services on Tuesday. AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
Time is running out

Still have Windows XP on your computer? Here's what you should do

With support for XP ending on Tuesday, 8th April, what actions can you take?

CHANCES ARE MANY of you are aware of Microsoft ending support for Windows XP for good on Tuesday.

For those who aren’t, what this means there will be no more updates, bug fixes, security updates or technical support provided for it from Tuesday onwards.

This mightn’t seem like a big deal now, but the longer you rely on it, the greater chances your computer has of being compromised.

If you still have Windows XP (or you know someone who does) and you haven’t done anything to address this, there are a few ways to get around it temporarily.

Short-term solutions

Grab every available update
If you haven’t already, make sure you have every update available for XP now. While this doesn’t protect you from possible exploits further down the line, it does give you the best possible level of protection you can expect until you upgrade properly.

Change browsers
If you’re relying on Internet Explorer, it’s best to drop it and use another browser instead as Microsoft isn’t providing any more security patches for it.

Instead, Chrome and Firefox are better alternatives and more secure. Google says it will support XP until April 2015 while Firefox hasn’t announced (yet) when it will be ending support so either one is a good choice.

Search Engine Stock Mozilla's has yet to announce when it will stop supporting Firefox on Windows XP. Edward Smith / EMPICS Entertainment Edward Smith / EMPICS Entertainment / EMPICS Entertainment

Check your anti-virus software
While no substitute for upgrading, it’s likely you have one anti-virus software installed on your computer so it’s best to check if it still supports XP. Many are continuing to support the platform so make sure the anti-virus software you’re using is still being updated, as one is useless to you if it’s not keeping up to speed with threats.

Don’t use an admin account
If on the off-chance you do use Windows XP and you end up with a problem, you can limit the damage by using a non-admin account from now on.

While malware or viruses can still infect your computer, you at least prevent it from gaining access to the most important programs and files on it.

Keep it offline
For a fool-proof method, just avoid connecting to the web entirely. For those who have smartphones or tablets, this will be easier to manage while you save up for an upgrade, or an updated computer. Just make sure you scan any external hard-drives or USB sticks on your machine first before you use them.

Long-term solutions

Upgrade to Windows 7 or 8.1
One of the easier solution will be to upgrade your operating system to a newer version of Windows. The latest update for Windows version 8.1 has introduced a number of small features which makes it easier for keyboard and mouse users to use, which is a good thing since Windows 8 was originally designed with touchscreens in mind.

It has a much steeper learning curve than previous versions of Windows, but once you have an open mind  - and the latest changes made to 8.1 help matters a little – it’s probably the better version to opt for.

Microsoft Build Conference Windows 8.1 updates were revealed at Microsoft's developer conference BUILD earlier this week. AP Photo / Eric Risberg AP Photo / Eric Risberg / Eric Risberg

However, the problem behind this is if your machine is old enough to be running XP, then it probably isn’t powerful enough to run Windows 8.1, unless you’ve upgraded parts of your computer.

Alternatively – although it will require a bit of digging to get an official paid version – is to upgrade to Windows 7 instead. It’s shares a lot of similarities to Windows XP and so the learning curve is far easier.

To find out if your computer has the required specs for using Windows 8, Microsoft has created Windows Upgrade Assistant, which will find out for you.

Change your operating system
If you have a working knowledge of computers and you don’t want to change your computer or upgrade Windows, then changing your operating system could be the solution you’re looking for.

One of the best (free) versions out there is Ubuntu Linux, which is useful for those who aren’t reliant on Microsoft products and whose current system doesn’t quite meet the requirements for Windows 7 or 8. Although it’s strongly recommended you try out the tour first and read up on it before you commit to it.


Upgrade your computer/laptop

The easiest option by far, although it’s unlikely you will be able to afford to purchase one on a whim.

Depending on your laptop usage, laptops like the Samsung Chromebook (handy for those who are entirely reliant on the web), the Dell Inspiron 15 (for those who want a decent mid-range laptop), or Apple’s 13″ MacBook Pro (for those with money to burn) are good investments.

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