Whitwick & District U3A - Computing tip September 2013
Users of Windows XP may be aware that support for this operating system finishes in April next year despite it currently being used on 37% of PCs worldwide. This does not mean that it will stop working, but does mean that Microsoft will not be issuing any security updates after this time. This is potentially more serious than it sounds. Since many of the security fixes that Microsoft issue affect more than one version of Windows, this means that hackers will effectively get additional clues or signposts as to ways to attack users of XP by examining updates issued for other versions of Windows such as Vista or Windows 7.
What are your options? Probably not a good idea to ignore it, and using techniques such as virtualisation  are beyond most users (even if they have heard of it!). If your existing PC is adequate then you could update it to Windows 7 or Windows 8. Microsoft have downloadable advisers  which will check if your PC will work with either of these.It is currently much cheaper (about £60 on Amazon) to update to Windows 8 Pro, although this may not be around for much longer. Do note that for either of these upgrades you will need to re-install all your programs.
Alternatively if your PC is getting rather long in the tooth, then you may wish to purchase a new one. If you want a Windows 7 machine you will probably need to look in the business section of your chosen supplier, as Windows 8 is what is currently offered to the general public. Windows 7 looks and works in a pretty similar way to XP, so there is not much difficulty in getting used to it.
Windows 8 has had a very guarded response from the technical press. They like the fact that it is quicker to start and more secure, but many people find the initial user interface (originally termed the Metro interface by Microsoft) horribly confusing. Those people who use tablets or smartphones, may find it a bit easier. Microsoft are bringing out Windows 8.1 (probably in October) and this should be available as a free upgrade to Windows 8. It does address some, but not all, of the problems people have encountered. There are a number of (mainly free) products  that will make Windows 8 work like Windows 7, and many people have found this to be their easiest route. Indeed some PC suppliers have bundled such programs with their PCs and laptops.
Of course, there are other possibilities - you might decide to try Linux or swap to an Apple product or an Android tablet.
Microsoft have published the end of support dates for various products, the most relevant are:
Win XP April 2014
Office 2003 April 2014
Win Vista April 2017
Office 2007 April 2017
Win 7 Jan 2020
Office 2010 Oct 2020
Win 8 Jan 2023
Office 2013 April 2023
3 Upgrading from XP cannot be done in situ, you have to do a fresh install. Unless you already keep all of your data, including things like email, on a separate drive, then it is essential that you backup all your data before upgrading. It is also very wise to download any new versions of drivers for your graphics card etc. Finally make sure you have to hand the installation disks and product keys for all your programs. Note the upgrade advisor should warn you about programs that might not work with the newer version of Windows.
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