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If you decide to keep Windows XP

After 12 and a half years, Microsoft’s support for Windows XP – its most popular operating system – has ended. But millions still use it – as many as one in four PC users by some accounts. What happens now that Microsoft has washed its hands of XP and you haven’t upgraded to a new computer or new operating system? Don’t panic… you can still find help.

Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft, meaning there will be no more patches or tech help from Microsoft. But your PC still works, it’s just unsupported…sort of like having your car go out of warranty after 50,000 miles.

xplogoTo understand your options, start with this special webpage from Microsoft. Also check out this XP Question and Answer page. But understand: Microsoft wants you to buy Windows 8 to replace XP. And if you have an older computer, it probably will not work. So that may also mean a new PC.

If you decide to keep XP and your old computer, sites like the Tech Support Guy can help. Free, run all by volunteers, it lets you ask questions and get help. There’s a whole area devoted just to Windows XP issues.

But what about protection from hackers and viruses? Microsoft will provide virus protection for XP through its  Security Essentials program for one more year but private antivirus companies like AVG and  Kaspersky Lab will also continue to provide virus and malware protection for Windows XP machines.

Make no mistake, with Microsoft not supporting XP, hackers will be targeting the operating system like never before. It’s important that if you keep running it, you practice safe computing and be very careful about downloading or clicking on links you get in email.

Mike is a veteran journalist whose video "PC Mike" reports have been distributed weekly to all 215 NBC-TV stations since 1994, making him one of the most experienced tech reporters in the country. His tech stories and videos have appeared on MSNBC, CNBC, the Today Show, The New York Times, USA Today and in numerous national newspapers and magazines. In addition to the PC Mike tech blog, he also publishes the Roadtreking.com RV Travel Blog in which he travels North America in an RV reporting about interesting people and places.