Windows XP support ends today – how to protect your PC

by , Technology Researcher Laptops 08/04/2014
XP-RIP

Microsoft’s support for Windows XP ends today, 8 April 2014. This means that there is no longer automatic software and security updates for the ageing operating system (OS).

Not being regularly prompted to install new Windows updates might not sound so bad, but it means that any PCs that continue to run the XP operating system will become more vulnerable to online security attacks and viruses over time, so putting your files and data at risk. We explain what you need to do to help keep your PC protected.

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Windows XP support ends – what will happen on 8 April?

On 8 April XP users will see a pop-up message on their desktop which includes a link to Microsoft’s end-of-support website www.windowsxp.com. This notification will reoccur on 8 May and the 8th of every month, unless disabled. On the site Microsoft provides information for its customers as well as a free file transfer tool, Laplink’s PCmover Express, to help those switching to a new PC.

Windows XP support ends notification

Can I upgrade or do I need a new computer?

No matter how you look at it, Windows XP owners will have to change to a different operating system if they plan to use their PC online. You do have a decision to make though, as you can elect to upgrade your existing machine, or buy a new system:

  • Keep your PC and upgrade its OS – you could install a new version of Windows, such as Windows 7 or 8. Some older PCs won’t be able to run Windows 8, the latest version of Windows, but Windows 7 may be suitable. Not only that but Windows 7 should be cheaper, while its design is similar to Windows XP (unlike Windows 8). Download Microsoft’s Upgrade Advisor tool to find out whether you can upgrade the version of Windows running on your computer to either Windows 7 or Windows 8.
  • Keep your PC and install a new OS – another option is to forego Windows altogether and install a version of the Linux operating system. It’s free and a version such as Linux Mint should comfortably run on older XP machines. However, installing a brand new OS can be challenging for all but advanced PC users, and Linux doesn’t have the familiar Microsoft programs that you’re used to. We recommend doing some reading and research before installing Linux, not to mention ensuring that all essential files are safely stored on backup hard drives.
  • Buy a new PC – you could find a new PC or Mac that suits you, which will be faster and support the latest software, although you’ll likely find any older XP software you have won’t install on it. If you’re PC experience begins and ends at browsing the web and sending emails then you may even find that a tablet or Chromebook may suit you instead.

Whether you choose to keep your current PC or buy a new one, you’ll want to backup your files for use on your updated, or new, PC. There are several ways to do this – you can backup files to cloud storage, or to physical formats like DVDs, USB memory and hard disk drives. Or you might use a file transfer utility such as Laplink (see below), that Microsoft is providing for free to help those moving to Windows 7 or 8.

How to transfer files with Laplink

For anyone who chooses a new Windows PC, Microsoft has teamed up with Laplink to provide a free tool to help you transfer your settings and files from XP to a new PC, as long as it runs Windows 7, 8 or 8.1. It will transfer documents, photos, music and videos – though it won’t transfer programs.

Before you begin, ensure that both PCs are on the same network. You’ll also need sufficient time as the transfer process can take 3-5 hours.

1) Download Laplink PCmover Express to your old XP machine. Install it from the downloaded file, pcmoverx_en.exe, and follow the on-screen prompts. Repeat this on your new Windows PC.

2) On the XP machine, close all unessential programs such as web browsers and music players and then open PCmover. Review the transfer tips and click Next.

xp transfer laplink-1-s

3) You should see the welcome screen. With ‘PC to PC Transfer’ selected, click Next.

xp transfer laplink-2-s

4) Select WiFi or Wired Network as the connection method, and click Next.

xp transfer laplink-3-s

5) Begin the transfer and wait for it to complete.

6) Next, open PCmover on the new PC. If you see a Windows Security Alert (User Account Control) message, select ‘Unblock’ or ‘Yes’ to run PCmover.

7) Repeat the above steps, selecting the destination PC as Windows 7/Windows 8. You will also need to complete the internet registration.

8) On the next screen, select the same connection method and click Next.

9) On the Identify Old Computer screen, select your XP PC. If it’s not listed, click Browse to locate and select it. If it’s still not listed, click ‘Re-scan’.

10) Depending on your PC, you will either see a Standard or Advanced or Customize the Transfer screen:

Standard – to transfer using default settings, select Standard and click Next.

Advanced – to choose specific drives and folders, select Advanced and click Next.

Customize – this gives you the option to review any settings that require attention before proceeding with the transfer. You can also make adjustments, including excluding any directories or files you don’t want to be transferred. Once you’re happy click Done to proceed.

xp transfer laplink-4-s

11) At the Ready to Transfer window, click Next.

xp transfer laplink-5-s

12) PCmover will begin the transfer and display the progress window. Once finished, click Finish to restart the new PC so all of the settings can take effect.

What if I use legacy software that only runs on XP?

We advise that it’s still best to make the change and would recommend against continuing to use XP. However, if you’re set on it, then it’s best to make sure all updates for XP SP3 are installed before 8 April. Next, run a good anti-virus program and switch from using Internet Explorer to a web browser that will continue to get updates, such as Google Chrome or Firefox. In a perfect world your safest bet would then be to simply unplug the PC from the internet, thereby negating any risk of online attack entirely.

More on this

How to buy the best laptop – our handy guide
Laptop, Tablet or best of both worlds? – discover the perfect device for you
Which? Tech podcast – listen in as the team explains more about the demise of XP

83 comments

Add your comments

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Hugh

Previous articles from Which have said you can’t do an upgrade (i.e. an on line computer upgrade) from XP to Windows 7 or 8, you have to do a clean install which means you have to get hold of a Windows 7 package, or disc, and do it manually.
BUT you can’t buy it from Microsoft or high street stores for whatever reason, so one of the few ways appears to be buying from Ebay, which I presume maybe second hand. For someone like me with limited computer knowledge that would be a problem, as I would not know if it was kosher or not.
So you can either reward Microsoft for their handling of this and buy a new PC with Microsoft’s latest edition installed or maybe get the highly rated Mac Mini, which is not cheap either, but allows you to keep your mouse, keyboard and screen (and I like my 19 inch screen) or buy a tablet etc…

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Derek Putley

Hugh,

As of today, at least one specialist computer parts supplier (Microdirect – in Manchester – but they do mail order) still appears to have brand new copies of Windows 7 in stock. I suspect other retailers may have it available too. If the “Upgrade Advisor” confirms that your XP PC can run Windows 7 and you want to pursue that option, then you should still be able to get hold of a copy.

One of my close relatives is a senior IT consultant. He is going with his version of the “However, if you’re set on it, then it’s best to make sure all updates for XP SP3 are installed before 8 April. Next, run a good anti-virus program and switch from using Internet Explorer to a web browser that will continue to get updates, such as Google Chrome or Firefox.” option.

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Penrhos

But what about software that will not run on Windows 7 or 8? The two key ones for me are my printer driver (best printer I’ve ever had and I can get a full set of replacement ink cartridges for £5) and Paradox. Paradox tries to run on Win7 but some parts don’t run or corrupt the database.

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briansg

I regularly use Paradox on my Windows Vista computer and have a another copy on my Windows 8.1 laptop (LIcense terms means I cannot have both loaded at the same time) . So far, I have not noticed any new problems with the latter although I have not used it much – both produce the recognised error message on program closure to the effect that ‘The program has stopped working – Windows will seek a solution’ , but this is not a problem in practice for me.

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Stephen

Despite what Microsoft say, you can often run older programs on Windows 8.1. I’ve recently installed Word 2000 on my new laptop, and it runs without any problem.
– To install and old program, right-click on the setup file and select ‘Run as Administrator’.
– Right-click on it again, and select ‘Compatibilty Mode’, then select the OS that it used to run on (eg XP).
See how it goes. Good luck!

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Penrhos

I’ve tried running paradox on Win7 in XP compatibility mode and it does run, BUT the custom forms and ObjectPAL variously don’t run, crash or produce funny results.

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MikeF

Quicken 2002 will not even load on a Windows 8.1 PC despite various attempts using compatibility mode. Qucken no longer available for UK users to buy (Intuit clearly think we are third world) so I will continue to use it on my laptop using Windows XP until I can find a suitable UK-compatible alternative.

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jeanette

I have a windows xp computer and I have the up to date Norton security installed so am I able to still carry on using my computer as it is or do I need to upgrade or buy a new computer ?

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Rob R

You can absolutely carry on using it. Norton is one of the best security suites out there at the moment and will give you far more protection than windows updates would. However it might be an idea to start planning for a new system if yours is more than 8 years old as it will start to struggle even with the basics soon.

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Rob R

This article is slightly misleading. Yes the options it gives are valid but it leaves out one very important one. Keep your trusty old XP machine! As some users either can’t afford to upgrade or simply don’t want to, it is doing readers a disservice to omit the easiest option available to them.
As an IT professional myself I am advising my customers to upgrade if possible to Windows 7, but if money or hardware constraints exist then sticking with XP is perfectly possible providing you perform certain steps.
First of all, make sure you run Windows update before the April 8th cut off date. XP really is rock solid these days and this will ensure all the previous updates are applied. Secondly, confirm you are running Service Pack 3 ( you can right click My Computer and select properties to view this information ). Thirdly, install Firefox – a free internet browser and much better alternative to Internet Explorer – as this will continue to receive updates where IE will not (you can import favourites etc into Firefox when installing). If you’re still using Outlook Express for email then you can download Opera Mail which is a much better alternative, or just use your email provider’s webmail function. Next, make sure all Adobe software is up to date and uninstall any unused programs from “Add/Remove Programs”. Lastly and most importantly, install a top quality internet security suite such as Norton Internet Security or Kaspersky I S.
Provided you’ve done the above you will remain safe online using XP. If you’re system is over 10 years old it may struggle with the latest security software. If this is the case then you should definitely start planning for a new PC, but in the mean time you can try Avast Free Antivirus but be advised it doesn’t have certain features that the full suites do.
One last thing – XP users making the jump to Windows 8 will be completely lost at first as it is massively different to what you’re used to. For those adventurous ones among you I say good luck. For those less confident with new tech, I’d advise you to avoid the high street stores, as these will have only Windows 8 or Apple Mac. Both are vastly different to XP. The best bet is to go online to stores that sell to businesses as they still stock Windows 7 machines. Dell’s online business store or LaptopsDirect are just 2 examples of many.
Hope that helps those who feel they are in computing no-mans-land at the moment. Which? seems to have forgotten you!

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John

Well done Rob! I totally agree that Which shoudl have mentioned everyting you have said in their article.

I spoke to my IT specialist when I heard about the “demise” of XP and he said the same thing – keep your Anti-Virus up to date ( I find AVG very good ), keep anti-spyware software ( I find Spybot excellent ) and you will be safe for years.

Let’s face it the vast majority of both private and bsuiness users in the world are running XP and don’t want to change.

Pity Microsoft don’t take the attitude “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!”

John

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Derek Putley

Microsoft’s business is pretty much based around making us need new computers and new software regularly.

But with many homes already brimming with perfectly usable laptops and desktops, they decided they needed to make inroads into the market for tablets.

Hence Windows 8 is intended to give a common operating system for both tablets and normal PCs. In contrast, Google seems quite content to use different versions of Linux (i.e. Chrome OS and Android) for their PCs and tablets (and phones) respectively.

Actually, a version of Android (Android x86) is now available as a free download for laptops. This offers a free way of “downgrading” an old (ex-XP or ex-Vista) laptop to something like the (much more limited?) capabilities of a tablet but (probably) without a touchscreen but with a proper keyboard and mouse.

This is interesting as a free alternative to a Chromebook and can provide a way of configuring a machine for simple tasks like internet browsing, viewing media and playing Angry Birds. I am currently trying this out on an old Net Book. So far, it seems that Android x86 won’t be knocking Linux Mint from the top of the “linux charts” anytime soon, but it does provide a way to try out a lot of free Android software without the need to fork out for a tablet.

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Carol

What a super resume Bob and I thank you for it. I have read through it several times now and I’m pleased to say I am reasonably up-to-date with it all!
A few months ago in anticipation of the change over I bought myself a new laptop with Windows 7 Prof and as I have used Norton throughout my 10+ years of computing I feel I am fairly safe in that respect.
The browser aspect of things gets my goat every time however as I have to confess to being addicted to my IE …… what happens after 8 April as I have it on my new laptop – and use it all the time…eek!
I do have Google Chrome of course but don’t like it at all – so never use it.
I was also addicted to my Outlook Express and don’t particularly like the Windows Live Mail thing… So perhaps I should try the Opera?
I rather suspect that my idea of using the ancient IBM which I have had all my PC days would blow up if I tried changing over to Linux etc which is why I am particularly interested in hanging on to the dear old thing with its XP professional and up-to-date service Pack 3…..
So thank you Rob for your pearls of wisdom – I shall hang on to my old IBM, purely as a backup – (I also have an iPad – but you can’t really save/store stuff on it)….. at least until I can afford something more robust!

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Rob R

I really would try Firefox if you haven’t already. It’s the most similar 3rd party browser in looks and operation to IE8 and in my opinion is the best all-rounder. I agree about Chrome, it’s a little too light for my liking. You have to poke around under the hood to get the best out of it so it’s not suitable for many.

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Stephen

Don’t be afraid to move to Windows 8.1 – it’s not as daunting as it seems.

The first thing to do is to install a ‘Start-button’ progam such as ‘classicshell’ (free) or ‘Startisback’ (which I use, and costs about £1.86). From there, you can select the option to ‘boot to the desktop’, and you effectively have a traditional Windows XP machine.

You can then use it as you always have done, from the word go. Good luck!

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Carol

Thank you Stephen… That is the best news I have had since the beginning of this caper with XP
One of my neighbours told me about the possibility of adjusting from a Windows 8.1 to a “virtual XP machine”…. Just as you describe but I of course was totally clueless, but now I can make sense of it… I think!
Two laptops for the price of one was how he described it….as long as it has a start button.
So I guess my next purchase will be a Windows 8.1…… when I can afford it that is…LOL

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tollygirl 28

hi Rob thank you for your info have got service 3 pack but which Firefox do I click as box came up from internet explorer saying this could harm my machine? Sorry so very ignorant of all this tollygirl28

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MikeyGee

I worked with IBM mainframes from the 70′s but bpc’s are not my preferred choice.I have a desktop with Windows XP.I also have a Windows Vista Home Premium service pack 1 software.Can I use this on my desktop.Also do I have to uninstall Windows XP and how do I do this?Thought your article was excellent.
Mike G.

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Derek Putley

Mike,
The general consensus from the XP enthusiasts on this discussion is that the lowest risk, least pain, lowest cost option is simply to keep XP but to make sure you have good 3rd party security software (e.g. free Avast etc…).

If you have a set of Vista discs you could probably install this in place of XP. Vista will continue to receive security updates for a while yet but will run rather slowly if you do not have at least 2GB of ram on your desktop PC. Vista was sold in the form of upgrade kits for XP PCs, so it may be possible to install Vista as an upgrade with your existing data in place. However, even if you can do this, it is important to make sure you have any important personal data properly backed up (e.g. to an external usb disc) before you start.

In principle, it should also be possible to set up a PC to dual boot both Vista and XP, so, at start up, you can choose which one to run. I once had a PC set up to boot either into XP or Windows 2000 but this was not especially easy to set up.

Dual booting can also be used to offer the choice of either XP or Linux at start up; this is usually easy to set up using a standard Linux install disc. Linux is actually very similar to Unix and many free versions are now available.

The Linux enthusiasts in this discussion have mentioned a number of preferred varieties of Linux; both Mint and Ubuntu are good versatile versions well suited for home use. Each of these offers a variety of graphical desktops (“windowing systems”), some of which are very similar to the “look and feel” of XP and will run well on computers originally designed for XP.

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Amy

all of the questions and comments are just Greek to me and elderly PC user with limited funds but I need the emails and Skype to keep in contact with a global family. Please someone tell me in English what I have to do to keep my XP machine without going into debt. thank you.

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Katharine

Amy,

Rob’s advice (just above your post) is very wise.

Find a local IT consultant (I expect your friends will be able to recommend someone who’s local, friendly and cheap) and ask them to carry out what Rob recommends (it’s not that complicated) so you can carry on using XP. You might have to buy some anti virus software (like Norton) if you don’t already have it, but you probably do.

Your XP machine will still work, it’s just that Microsoft will no longer update XP to keep it secure, so you’ll need to use other methods (eg Norton) to keep it secure.

Hope that helps.

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Dennis

Would it be a good idea to use the old XP pc as a back-up file as I have a newer Win8 pc?

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Derek Putley

I think it is always a good idea to have a spare computer, in working order, in case something goes wrong (or seems to have gone wrong) with your main computer. A natural extension of that is to keep copies of any key files you have on both machines. That ought out to be easy to do over a home network or by using a USB disc as a caddy. Anything that is important and precious should be backed up regularly.

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Ian

The latest versions of Linux operating systems are very easy to install and free (you can even buy installation discs for about 85 pence per disc if you can’t create one). They have a graphical user interface and many modern Linux installations come with a free word processing suite which does everything a normal user would need to do and it is compatible with MS Office files. Most important of all perhaps, Linux is not susceptible to most online threats (viruses etc.), so much so that many Linux users don’t bother with virus protection. It could easily cost £200 to install any Windows OS plus a virus checker and word processing or you could use open source software and do it for nothing!

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John de Rivaz

The difficulty I find with Linux is that it is difficult to find drivers for equipment such as dot matrix printers (still used to print mailing labels), cameras, video cameras and Freeview recorders. I have two machines running Ubuntu which is actually very good, albeit not for these things. There is a TV recorder, but it can’t be relied upon nearly as much as the Windows version (although these are never totally reliable.) Also installing anything other than Ubuntu approved software is far less straight forward compared to Microsoft. All the software is free, which is pretty amazing, but you do get what you pay for. In addition, it will run on old machines that Windows rejects. An old quad core file server will sell for ludicrously low sums on eBay, and is very fast when running Ubuntu.

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When XP support ends so does IE updating

I have IE 8 and Firefox browers, not keen on Chrome. I discovered to day when trying to use IE browser that ‘it’s out of date’ – clicking upgrade took me to Windows site and the info that none avai;able as XP is ending. Can’t believe the primary browser (IE) will not be useable in future. What’s the next bad news going to be?

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Carol

So what are we meant to do then now that IE will no longer be usable after 8 April?
I dislike Chrome with a passion and I am not too keen on Firefox either…. I have IE 8 and have had it all along…. well as long as it was the up-to-date version!
As it was when I updated to my new Toshiba computer recently with Windows 7 prof., I was totally unable to get Internet Explorer for my emails…. Well without paying through the nose for it.
I have had to adapt to Windows live mail… Which is far from being simple – especially for an OAP silver surfer like me…LOL
I too like the idea of having a second computer as a backup and am tempted to go for Windows 8a
but wonder if that would be a step too far… It gets very mixed reports…… Any suggestions anybody?

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Frank

I have a net book that runs Windows XP and I used to use Norton internet security but recently changed to Microsoft Security essentials as it received good reviews in Which and is free to use.
Should I now switch back to Norton if I want to continue using XP ?
I think my net book may not be suited to Win7 due to lack of ram.

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Rob R

See my post below in response to Gareth re this one. But if XP is a must then Norton is fine but you may find it impacts the performance of the machine. Avast may be a better bet for this one. Both Norton and Kaspersky do free trials so you can find out before commiting to buy.

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Gareth

Flipping heck I have a lot of homework to do and only a few days in which to do it.

As well as my ‘main’ (15.6″) laptop I also have a little 10″ Dell that I have not used for months (I just don’t get on with it) and I have spent several weeks trying to download all the upgrades I had miss out on – with the infuriating result that – first of all it tells me ‘upgrades are available’ – so I click on the little yellow shield – and after ages it tells me I can’t have the upgrades – but then tells me that “upgrades are available for my machine” – and it waltzes me round and round in this idiocy for ever !!!!

This is not the first time I have come across this lunacy, and it renders me apoplectic with rage. On top of which they don’t allow communication (as in two-way).

I feel like I don’t need a geek but a nursemaid.

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Rob R

Now this sounds like the sort of machine that would really benefit from Linux (eg. Ubuntu) especially if it’s only used once in a while for basic stuff like internet browsing and emails. The install is dead easy, or get a local IT pro to do it for you if you’re not too confident doing it yourself.

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Sylvia

All the above is interesting and helpful.
But I have a question – I love using Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 for my emails. I have a few email accounts and have them all directed into Outlook. I don’t like accessing emails via the web. I like my emails being on my hard-drive. Will Outlook work with W7 or W8? Is there an alternative to Outlook?

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Jen

Yes it will. Last November I upgraded from my ancient Windows XP, using Office 2003 and an old version of stand-alone Microsoft Outlook, to a new PC with Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2007. I initially tried using Windows Live Mail, which was a total nightmare, and I quickly switched to Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 which is working well – no problems.

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Rob R

Absolutely Sylvia. Windows 7 and 8 will run most versions of Office, 2007 is no problem what so ever.

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Sylvia

Thank you Jen and Rob. Appreciate your comments. Maybe I’ll give W7 a try and leave W8 until it’s got a bit more user friendly.

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tollygirl 28

help drowning in a sea of jargon, like many xp users I am the wrong side of 65 and feel very upset about the loss of updates. I have a32 bit amd athlon machine which I’ve had since Oct 2006 and it has opened up a whole new world to me also self taught and like many people only sent emails and photos via outlook express, buy the occasional thing and have mostly used for family tree research,I am not interested in games,downloading music or films and do not bank on line. So what do I do have been told by which machine suitable for windows7 need to buy a disk? As desk top is older is this worth it? Use AVG free security is this enough? Husband bought me a lenova android tablet for Christmas find use this for browsing more as so very quick any advice most welcome

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Derek Putley

Hi tollygirl 28,

It sounds to that you ought to be alright if you just carry on using the free version of AVG on your XP desktop. The paid-for version may have some useful extra features, so it might be worth upgrading to that for additional peace of mind, if you think the annual subscription sounds like acceptable value for money.

As you have an android tablet, you already have another way of surfing the internet. If you like books, you may find that books such as “The Rough Guide to Android Phones and Tablets” by Andrew Clare can help you to get the most out of your tablet.

Hence, on the basis of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” you may just want to keep your desktop doing under XP. If you do that, you certainly won’t be alone.

However, if you do actually decide that you WANT to upgrade to Windows 7, then you could also do that. If you are going to run Windows 7, I think you will need at least 1 GB of RAM, but 2GB would be much better.

On the secondhand market, a machine like a 2006 32bit AMB Athlon would retail for about £50 in working order and a secondhand PC with Windows 7 already on it might cost about £100 for cheap one, so it you do ever want to move to Windows 7 there need not be much difference in cost between upgrading your old machine or just getting hold of another one. (If it were up to me, I’d do the latter.)

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tollygirl 28

Hi thank you for your advice, have today checked and have got service pack3, also done a windows update and downloaded Firefox although looks different to my internet explorer.I am still undecided as which way to go but not in any hurry and will look into all options available thanks again

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jane

As my xp pc was old, grinding to a halt and slow on line I have already bought a Windows 8 laptop which came with Mcaffee free for 5 devices (for 1 year). The xp has Norton installed and due to be renewed in June. Is Mcaffee suitable to protect the xp and should I install it before April 8? I’m keen to keep both machines as the old one has programmes that 8 won’t run.
Please don’t get too technical , I’m 65+.

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Jen

I think it depends on whether you want to use your old machine for internet access. If you do, then even using Norton or McAfee won’t be good enough, as the underlying XP will be vulnerable without any more fixes from Microsoft. You should be perfectly OK using the machine offline though – in which case you don’t really need anti-virus software at all.

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jane

Many thanks for your advice. I think I’ll just use the xp off line and cancel the Norton when it expires.

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Marv

I have a desktop and an old notebook both running on XP pro SP3.

1. I have hundreds of tracks on dozens of CDs saved to Windows Media. How do I transfer these tracks if I bought a new PC running 8.1?
2. Would all my thousands of documents on Word 2003 open in Windows 8.1 with the newest Word version pre installed?
3. If I installed Windows 7 or 8.1 on my existing desk top what would happen to existing programs as above, ie all my documents and Windows Media tracks?

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Katharine

Marv,

I’ve just got a new laptop (my old Windows 7 one died) and, like you, I had lots of music tracks on the old machine. We transferred the files to a hard drive and put them on the new machine.

Docs created in older versions of Word open up OK on newer versions of Word (I’ve successfully opened Word 2003 docs on Word 2010 for years). They just open in ‘compatibility mode’ which means that the whizzy new features in the newer Word don’t work, but those old docs wouldn’t incorporate those features anyway.

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jayjay

How do I know if I have XP?

I keep getting a msg. asking if I want to update to Windows 8 and have been ignoring it. How am I supposed to know if I want to or not?
I’m 70 not 17.
I really wish they’d stop mucking around with stuff!

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Carol

Hear Hear jay-jay – I know exactly how you feel as I too am well over 70 and am currently on a very steep learning curve thanks to all these Windows changes. Like somebody said at the beginning “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”…… but of course that would not be good for business!!

Anyway – in answer to your question about finding out which version of Windows you are on… If you do the following you will find out…
Click the Start button – then click Run, type in winver in the little box that appears, then press OK or Enter. You will then get an announcement page which will give you all the information as to what system you are running.
Hope that helps.

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jeanette

On my xp computer will all my documents and files still be accessible and OK to use when the Microsoft support is stopped ? I am useless on computers …

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meester Chris

YEs

It will all work as exactly as before.

However hackers (unwashed nasty boys) like to invent trouble and Microsoft release updates to close these backdoor issues to keep them at bay.

As of this month (APRIL 2014)
Microsoft cease to provide updates to XP.
It also means Microsofts own ‘defender’ or anti- virus and malware protection stops.

It means you need a good Firewall (XP’s is very poor)
and a good anti-virus package to help avoid the nasty boys!

None of this will mean that your files will not be available – but its always sensible to back them up onto another device or even a simple USB key and store it safely for the future. They last about 10 years!
AVAST is free and will do a good job, Which! recommended too.

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jeanette

On my xp computer will all my documents and files still be accessible and OK to use when the Microsoft support is stopped, also I have downloaded Firefox as you suggested rob but it is also wanting me to download something called slim updates as well, do I need this or shall I just ignore it, I’m useless on computers by the way :-)

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meester Chris

Firefox will update itself.
This is a good thing and nothing to be afraid of.

Its quicker and more reliable than IE; which I have not used for more than 10 years!

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jayjay

I appear to have Windows vista HP, version 6, service pack 2. Apparently I can’t download service pack 3 as my computer is 32 bit whatever that means.

I use Firefox and have Norton installed. That’s all I know.

Can someone please let me know if I am affected by this, so that I can contact someone who actually knows what they are doing, as I am now starting to panic.
Many thanks

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Derek Putley

Jayjay,

If I remember correctly, there is no such thing as Service Pack 3 for Windows Vista. A quick look on Wikipedia seems to confirm this.

Windows Vista is not directly affected by the end of official Microsoft Support for Windows XP. Vista will continue to receive security updates from Microsoft for a while yet.

My current main “XP” PC actually came with Vista originally but was “upgraded” to XP because I preferred that to Vista. Vista is OK though – actually it is very like Windows 7.

What really let Vista down originally were two things:

1 – excessive marketing hype from Microsoft, telling us all how much better it would be than XP. (How could anyone possibly improve upon the perfect operating system for home computers?)

2 – greedy computer manufacturers selling brand new computers with Vista installed and only 512 Megabytes of RAM. Vista has a ravenous appetite for memory and really needs 2048Megabytes (i.e. 2 Gigabytes) of RAM to make it perform acceptably. (Even then it won’t be as slick as XP though.)

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Chris Litton

I was interested to see that PCMover was recommended as the tool to use for transferring data from your old PC to a new PC.
I purchased this software thinking it was just what I needed to simplify this task. It was only after I installed the program that it became apparent that the program could only be used once for one transfer. As I have several computers, this would mean I would have to purchase more copies of the program and at £47 this is a significant cost.
I complained to the supplier that it was not made clear before purchasing that it was only good for one transfer and this debate continues. Reading the terms and conditions, it seems very unlikely that I will be refunded but I have been offered a free gift to compensate for my inconvenience.
So, be warned! Microsoft already provide the free the Easy Transfer program which will assist in the transfer of data such as documents, music and pictures and that is what I will be using.
There are still lots of Windows 7 computers available and that is my recommendation to friends and family who are able to upgrade.

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Ned

I suspect that microsoft will send out some sabotage updates at the last moment, to force people to buy a new operating system, so I suggest switching off automatic updates for XP right now.

Using XP I found that the PC was inoperable for up to half an hour after switching it ion, because the operating system prioritizes automatic updates over anything you want to do. So a year ago I simply switched off automatic updates, and since then everything runs fine.

I have never had a virus or malware problem, perhaps because I keep don’t use explorer, don’t download dodgy files and keep javascript turned off.

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njs

I can cope with downloading Firefox and Norton security if these are necessary to enable me to keep using XP. But am not sure why I can’t continue using Outlook Express to send and receive emails. Can anyone explain to this simpleton please?

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Carol

Sorry njs…but sadly Outlook Express is not available after tomorrow as it is/was part of the Windows XP operating system and so will no longer be supported by Microsoft.
There are a few alternatives you could transfer to – like Gmail or Windows Live Mail etc
They all take a bit of getting used to but needs must – unfortunately!
I still mourn the loss if my beloved OE – so you are not alone!!

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Gareth

To Rob R (as well as the General Panic) I have only just started reading through the posts on the [Which? Tech Daily]. Before this I had been confused by the Which? news emails (which I had not bothered with at all, since I can read it in the magazine) so when I discovered that Which? was running some sort of ‘help for us to survive MS killing off XP’ I read through the ‘posts in the blue boxes’ and added my “Flipping Heck” – without having got my mind round the start point of the posts, but assumed that it must be there somewhere … well the first one that
I have is ‘Author: Sylvia on 04.04.2014 22:45 in which she says “All the above is interesting and helpful..” What ‘above’ – I seem to have lost some posts somehow.
And now I find “See my post below in response to Gareth re this one”. Setting aside for the moment that I don’t actually know what Rob is talking about – the possibility of having a response addressed to me (well, I haven’t seen another ‘Gareth’ post) does so much to lift my spirits – I could almost face a ‘panic’ session on the strength of it. But I think I need to get hold of copies of the [Which? Tech Daily] posts from the first one. There is absolutely no way I am going to get
my ‘XP Rescue’ sorted by Tuesday (regardless of which time zone they are going by, ‘Vulcan?’) but reading through all your posts – us silver surfers are doing ourselves down – 65+? – almost a youngster.
Since I have admitted that I don’t actually know what Sylvia and Rob are talking about – it’s a bit late to say I’m going ‘off subject’ – but my attitude to all these uber-geeks (and that ilk) is “The customer may not always be right – but the customer is always the customer”, and on a similar subject I have heard tell of an ‘Information Superhighway’ – so where the bleeping bleep is the ‘Information’? I think I have wittered enough for the moment, and I ought to extract my digit and
search for Rob’s “See my post below…”, or if I have ‘lost’ some [Which? Tech Daily] posts perhaps some kind soul at Which? Towers will forward copies of my ‘missing’ ones (pretty please?).
It has just occurred to me that Sylvia’s “All the above..” might actually refer to the ‘Which? Windows XP support ends’ series of topics , leading down to the laplink/PCmover series of steps (yes, I am having difficulties with 20/20 hindsight! But hey, I spotted it before I sent it off). How the ‘death of XP’ cookie crumbles I have at least got the option of using the local council’s rooms full of PCs in the libraries, just book your hour in advance! Meanwhile it’s homework time for me, I
could always start with re-reading what I said that Rob has referred to.
Looking back over the above it strikes me that it isn’t about computers etc etc – but then when we make phone calls we don’t discus whether, or if?, the phone works. Also, Stephen says he has installed Word 2000 on a W8.1 – which encourages me, since I have several shoe boxes of cover discs from the last century, things like National Geographic and Attenborough programs, which I imagine I will one day load into the machine … as the saying has it ‘Hope is the triumph of optimism over experience’ … but how come all these ultra-billionaires aren’t cute enough to sort that wrinkle out! Just remember – ‘Bon Courage, mes amis’.

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Carol

Well Gareth – Might I suggest that you try using your PgUp button and scan to the beginning of this most helpful forum which has a great deal to offer us silver surfers in the quest for help.
Rob et al really know their stuff and I for one have learnt a lot about coping with these “Windows” changes that happen tomorrow.
Bon chance!

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XP User

Hi Gareth,
I’m an XP user and have no intention of upgrading to Win7/8 or buying a new device just yet. The withdraw of support for XP by Microsoft only affects protection against viruses and the like. I use Avast “basic and cheap” protection package, and will continue to do so. It does all I need it to do, and nothing more, but that’s good enough for me. You can pay out lots of money for a more comprehensive package, but that comes down to personal choice and bank balance! If you use Internet Explorer for your Outlook Express email account, may I suggest trying Opera, a good alternative to Outlook. I have cut and pasted the info Rob posted originally. Please see below. Hope this helps and good luck!

Rob’s Post:
This article is slightly misleading. Yes the options it gives are valid but it leaves out one very important one. Keep your trusty old XP machine! As some users either can’t afford to upgrade or simply don’t want to, it is doing readers a disservice to omit the easiest option available to them.
As an IT professional myself I am advising my customers to upgrade if possible to Windows 7, but if money or hardware constraints exist then sticking with XP is perfectly possible providing you perform certain steps.
First of all, make sure you run Windows update before the April 8th cut off date. XP really is rock solid these days and this will ensure all the previous updates are applied. Secondly, confirm you are running Service Pack 3 ( you can right click My Computer and select properties to view this information ). Thirdly, install Firefox – a free internet browser and much better alternative to Internet Explorer – as this will continue to receive updates where IE will not (you can import favourites etc into Firefox when installing). If you’re still using Outlook Express for email then you can download Opera Mail which is a much better alternative, or just use your email provider’s webmail function. Next, make sure all Adobe software is up to date and uninstall any unused programs from “Add/Remove Programs”. Lastly and most importantly, install a top quality internet security suite such as Norton Internet Security or Kaspersky I S.
Provided you’ve done the above you will remain safe online using XP. If you’re system is over 10 years old it may struggle with the latest security software. If this is the case then you should definitely start planning for a new PC, but in the mean time you can try Avast Free Antivirus but be advised it doesn’t have certain features that the full suites do.
One last thing – XP users making the jump to Windows 8 will be completely lost at first as it is massively different to what you’re used to. For those adventurous ones among you I say good luck. For those less confident with new tech, I’d advise you to avoid the high street stores, as these will have only Windows 8 or Apple Mac. Both are vastly different to XP. The best bet is to go online to stores that sell to businesses as they still stock Windows 7 machines. Dell’s online business store or LaptopsDirect are just 2 examples of many.
Hope that helps those who feel they are in computing no-mans-land at the moment. Which? seems to have forgotten you!

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Rob R

Hi everyone. Listen, put simply, this XP scare is just another Y2K. XP will still work. Your files will still be there, planes won’t drop out of the sky. Hell, even Outlook Express will still work if you really must. It’s simply a matter of updates. You won’t get any more. Which is why in my post above, I recommend essentially moving away from any Microsoft applications and programs i.e Internet Explorer, Outlook Express and Microsoft Security Essentials. There are loads of third party alternatives to each of these, the best of which being Firefox, Opera Mail and Avast Free Antivirus. If you’re not confident in changing over to these yourself, then maybe a knowledgable family member or local IT technician can help.

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Chris Litton

Rob R is absolutely correct in what he says. If you haven’t decided which upgrade route to take, just be more aware that there is an increased risk of infection and use an alternative to Security Essentials if that is what you are using to protect against virus attack. Everything else will continue to work as normal.

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Carol

Good morning Rob and Chris….. I thank you most sincerely for those reassuring words of wisdom!
Us old fogeys do find new technology very difficult to handle at times…. especially when you are suddenly faced by new programs…ie browsers and emailers after many years of happy usage – without knowing how they work nor wanting to know…LOL
Happily I have a stand-alone emailer…. and use Norton 360 …. So hopefully I’m covered – reasonably well at least?
I have been having fun trying out other browsers…eg Opera but they are all so complicated these days! However as one good friend remarked – keeping up-to-date like this will prevent the Alzheimer’s from setting in!!!!!

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cybersmith

For years now I’ve stopped using Windows. Don’t be put off switching to linux – installing Linux is no more difficult than upgrading to a new version of Windows and will cost nothing. The perception that Linux is for hard core techies is very out of date. The reality is it is actually technically easier to live with! Here’s why:

No virus protection required

Disks, USB sticks, CD & DVDs will all work, Linux works with virtually any file or disk format.

Everything that can work, will work out of the box, no need to install drivers for a huge range of hardware.

Software like music playing and editing, video playing and editing, full office suites etc are all available for free and work with all the Microsoft packages such as Office. Web browsers are also freely available eg. Firefox, Chrome etc.

In my experience PCs with Linux on do not slow down or lose functions with age as Windows machines do. There are good reasons for this that I won’t go in to here.

Installation is as simple as windows if not simpler – you don’t have to mess about putting in license numbers for example.

There are lot’s of Linux versions available – for free. If you install one and don’t like it, have a go at another one until you find one you do like! I use Mint.

Support is through a network of developers and users and is free.

It’s about time people started realising that Microsoft has been selling mediocre bloated software for very high prices when equal or better quality alternatives exist that cost nothing. This has only happened because it is virtually impossible to buy a PC without Windows installed thereby forcing customers to buy a license. Perhaps Which might campaign for PC retailers to offer the option of buying PCs with an alternative Operating System for a reduction in price to reflect the saving on a Windows license.

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PeeD

Sounds great but there must be a reason why more people do not use Linux. If I have Win 7 with lots of saved music, photos and other files what happens to them when I install Linux? Do I back them up and copy them back after installation. Will I still be able to use Thunderbird and the various TV players.

You listed all the pros but I’m sure there are cons as well.

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SteveMK

I have used Ubuntu Linux on my PC for several years now. Windows XP is still installed on the same machine. It has dual boot so I can access either. You should always back up your important data. In fact I hope it is already backed up. The install process gives the option to keep the existing operating system and once selected will automatically install the dual boot. It also defaults to installing Firefoxand Thunderbird. When running you can access Windows files from Ubuntu for example photos. The main cons for me are: Not easy to get iplayer working, main updates every six months though they are easy enough to install. Occasionally a more difficult problem can occur but I find thre support better than when I had Microsoft problems. Hope this helps.

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Derek Putley

Until recently, most home users could usually only buy PCs that came either with Windows or with Apple’s OS X. (OS X is actually based on BSD unix and thus, under the skin, is very similar to Linux). From time to time, Linux versions of netbooks or other low cost PCs were sold for the home market but did not seem to catch on.

More recently, the rise of Google’s cloud services and the advent of tablets has changed all this. Android (as used on most tablets) is a version of Linux and Google Chromebooks run Chrome OS (also a version of Linux).

Not all PC hardware is supported under Linux, but effectively all hardware is supported under one (or more) versions of Windows. I’ll be keeping an XP desktop for my video capture card because this is only supported on XP and earlier versions of Windows.

In general, anyone with an elderly XP PC now has the following choices:

1. Keep it going – but make sure you have good (i.e. non-Microsoft) security software. Paid for security software is best.

2. Upgrade it to run something like Linux Mint Maya Xfce LTSE alongside (or instead of XP).

3. Retire it and buy a new computer. Shopping around for one running Windows 7 will give a “look and feel” closer to XP than you might get with Windows 8. You may be able to find the “off switch” too.

4. There may be other options I have not thought of.

Option 1 is probably the easiest option to go with if you are not going to worry too much about maximizing your internet security.

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LW

Option 1 may be the easiest. But the best option is to switch to a Mac!

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GerryH

Hi

My computer is running XP Media Center Edition version 2002 Service Pack 3. I always have Automatic updates turned on so assume I have all the latest updates.

I also run Bullguard Internet Security 2013

Is it safe for me to continue using the computer or will Bullguard not protect me from future attacks on the XP operating system in which case must I move to windows 7 or 8?

Thanks for any help on this matter.

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Chris Litton

Gerry
So long as you are using a reliable anti virus program and whilst I have no direct experience of Bullgard, if it has protected you so far, there is no reason to change.
As others have said, just be vigilent and don’t click on any links unless you are confident they are safe (some antivirus programs such as McAfee include a site scanner) and if you use Internet Explorer, consider changing to Chrome or others that have been mentioned previously. Take your time to consider whether to move to Windows 7 (my preferred option) or Windows 8 which is being updated to appear more familliar to those of us used to Windows XP.
Hope this helps.

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GerryH

Hi Chris

Many thanks for the informative and speedy response – much appreciated. I have used Firefox as an alternative to Internet Explorer in the past and will probably use this going.

I haven’t looked at either windows 7 or 8 but will do so with you comments in mind.

Thanks again
Gerry

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Chris Dobbing

Go for LInux and get 10 more years out of your existing PC. You’ll be amazed at how much faster and easier it is than Windows. Totally free and the free included Office software is just as good and comaptible with MS Office. No viruses. I use Ubuntu linux which is helpfully supported by a large on-line worldwide community.

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GerryH

Hi Chris

Many thanks for the further option of using Linux. Looks like I’ve a bit of work to do to get up to speed on all this.

Gerry

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Bman

Good excuse to buy a new MacBook Pro. Wish I had done it earlier.

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LW

Absolutely! I also wish I’d done it earlier. I got my MacBook Pro a couple of years ago. Never looked back.

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LW

Windows XP was the only Windows system worth using. All the others since have been inferior, and as for Windows 8 or 8.1 – well, they are just awful. The very best thing anyone can do if they liked using Windows XP is to switch to a Mac. Not only are their operating systems similar in appearance – in other words, they are logical (with File, Edit, View etc etc. and drop down menus), you will find that by switching you get a MUCH better more reliable computer/laptop. I made the switch a couple of years ago, and it’s the best thing I ever did.

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Rob R

Hehee I knew the Mac heads would start posting sooner or later. Bear in mind I have no favourites here. I own both Windows and Mac machines and they both have their pluses and minuses. Mainly in price!
First of all, Apple have never supported an operating system for 12 years like Microsoft have with XP. As soon as Apple decide that “that’s not the way were doing things any more”, you’re stuffed. They don’t want to know. It’s upgrade or nothing. Users who have spent hundreds of pounds on their Pro apps have suddenly found that they’re out in the cold and in the worst cases, unable to work (take the thousands of Final Cut users for example). People berate Microsoft for their business practices but Apple are no better.
Secondly considering one of the main issues here is cost with regards to people having to upgrade their machines – many users will be priced out of Apple’s “club”. You can usually get an equivalent Windows machine for a few hundred (!) pounds cheaper than the Apple equivalent. There is certainly no “budget” option for Apple users.

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Derek Putley

Quite often, at least for a lot of people, there has has to be a some tangible benefit as payback for the trouble and expense involving in moving to some different sort of computer.

XP was the first version of Windows that was really good at supporting all sorts of useful USB devices like cameras and so on. For me, that meant there were obvious reasons for upgrading to XP when I did. At least as regards my personal usage, no such obvious benefits have been offered by computers running later versions of Windows or OS X.

Last year, I was unfortunate enough to suffer a malware attack on my Windows 7 laptop, so, for improved security, I have moved most of my “internet facing” home computers over to Linux since then.

Free Long Term Support versions of Linux are usually only supported for up to 5 years – but, of course, upgrades to later versions are also free. As an engineer, I have always had to use both Linux and Unix in my day job, so it is relatively easy to use these for home stuff too. A lot of really good free software is available for both Linux and Windows – sometimes these things work better on Linux and sometimes they don’t.

Linux can be setup to mimic the look and feel of either Windows PCs or Apple Macs – or it can use its own, more distinctive, configurations.

One useful feature of Linux is that many versions of Linux can run from either a live CD or a USB stick. Hence a very simple dual boot option for old XP PCs would be to boot (i) from a Linux live CD when browsing the internet or (ii) into XP for “standalone” operations. Live CDs of Puppy Linux work particularly well in this way. Less ancient computers that can also boot from USB devices also have the options of using a USB stick equivalent of a live CD or even a “full install” onto a USB stick.

These are good ways of trying out Linux because they avoid the need to make any changes to the actual PC hard disc – so an existing XP installation can be left in place. I do not expect that Linux will be “everybody’s cup of tea” – but it is free to download and try (or use) for as long as you want.

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Figgerty

Derek, your suggestion is the most useful and cheapest I have seen to date. I have copied the last two paragraphs to the main sites Conversation topic on this subject and supplied a link to here. I hope you will be prepared to supply more detailed instructions if anyone decides to follow your advise. When MS stop supporting Windows 7 I may well try out Linux although I have an upgrade copy of Windows 8 which I have not bothered to install.

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DaveN

Derek
I didn’t miss the cut-off date as such, only didn’t actively grab the very latest XP updates to my version 3. However, despite McAfee being bundled with BT Infinity, it didn’t prevent my getting an apparently old “TR/Dropper.Gen Trojan” virus which was discovered by chance from running an old Norton program. Too late ! That machine has gone on an extreme go-slow and is unusable now, for the live monitor for viruses cannot be switched off. Staying off-line and disabling it from the taskbar does not prevent the “mcshield” screening continuing to use resources, according to Task Manager. I am left with an even older XP laptop to use under the same vulnerable conditions.
I wonder, after your comments about picking up a virus under Windows-7, whether I should follow your Linux advice, or bite the expensive bullet and go for a Mac Mini and still run Microsoft programs in a virtual machine mode, albeit at even more cost? With a short try I have found Apple Macs less than completely logical in approach. Familiarity is everything of course.

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Derek Putley

Dave

Sorry to hear of your predicament. I’m not an expert on the subject of removing viruses from Windows machines – but there ought to be lots of help on-line or at your local independent computer shop.

Sounds like you may not have some incentive to try out Linux, e.g. by booting from a live CD.

You may also want to try and backup up any user data on your infected PC.

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Carol

Hi there everybody…. Has anybody else heard and can confirm the rumour that the government has paid Microsoft over five and a half million quid to continue to support XP windows until July 14, 2015?
I have been told this by my two PC Gurus. Apparently the reason is that the government itself the NHS and much of the civil service still use windows XP professional and of course it would’ve cost a lot more than 5 1/2 million pounds to change all those computers by the deadline in April this year.
Let us hope that this piece of info is correct as it would sure give us all a lot more time to think through what we are going to do with old computers…LOL

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Derek Putley

Hi Carol,

Your “rumour” was reported on the Guardian website, in an article dated 7th April.

However, I believe these ad-hoc commerical arrangements will only provide support for the computers owned by those paying for them, so Microsoft will not necessarily be releasing free versions of any resulting updates.

The £5.5M in question will give all the UK “Sir Humphreys” a bit more time in which do decide what to do (or more likely to try to find the money for some long-term alternatives from somewhere).

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Joan

I want to transfer embroidery designs in My Documents, from my old xp computer to my relatively new Vista…. am told I can e-mail them, when I press send am told no hotmail address exist! (outlook express).
I am also over 70 and not computer literate so please make instructions simple for the “simple” mind.
Thank you!.

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Derek Putley

Hi Joan

The problem you describe might be caused by you typing an incorrect (and thence also non-existant) destination email address into Outlook Express.

If you are using a hotmail account you may be able to just bypass Outlook Express and set up your email message directly by logging into the web based version of Hotmail.

In general though, using email is a relatively complicated way of sending files from one computer to another, if both computers are in the same place.

The easiest way would probably to:
1) just plug an “external drive” like a USB stick or a USB hard drive into the XP computer.
2) use Windows File Manager to copy the files onto the USB stick.
3) safety eject the USB drive (or just shut down the XP box to be sure) – then remove the USB disc.
4) Plug the USB disc into your Vista computer and then copy the files to your Documents folder on Vista.

If you only have a few files to copy you won’t need a high capacity USB disc.

If you don’t aready have a USB disc, there are easy to find, in big supermarkets like Tesco, Sainsbury and Asda, in Argos and, of course in computer shops. For example, Argos catalogue item 909/3410 costs £6.99 and has a data capacity of 8GB.

If you have more data than that, you probably won’t be able to easily email it anyway. Argos item 191/8665 costs £59.99 and is an external hard disc with a capacity of 1TB (1000GB) – that ought to be big enough to easily store all of the user data off most old XP computers.

By the way, I do not have shares in Argos but they do seem to carry this kind of product at sensible prices. Also, because sell their stuff in shops, you can just go and buy what you want when you need it (and without anyone trying to sell you stuff you don’t need).

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