Windows XP support will end April 8th, 2014. Since Microsoft will not be providing security patches for XP after this date the concern is that businesses and individuals still running this operating system will be vulnerable to targeted hacking attacks. To avoid potential security issues XP users should consider an upgrade to Windows 7 or 8 or the purchase of a new computer pre-loaded with a more recent version of Windows. Those who want or need to wring the last bit of use out of their older hardware and XP operating system should be sure to take the following precautionary steps:
- Stop using Internet Explorer. Since many viruses and malware exploit computers through the browser it is essential to install a browser that will continue to receive security updates. Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are two excellent alternatives to IE.
- Make sure you have adequate anti-virus software installed. Many free programs are up to the job of protecting your computer but a payed security suite may be preferable for protecting an out of date OS. Many anti-virus software makers will support XP until 2016.
- If you’ve been running Microsoft Security Essentials to protect your PC keep in mind that support for the XP version of this product will end in April as well. A good free alternative to Security Essentials is Avast! 2014 Free Antivirus. Those interested in a payed security program might look into Kaspersky Internet Security 2014.
- Take special care to keep non operating system software up to date. Programs such as Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader and Sun Java should be set to update automatically or be promptly updated manually when warned to do so.
- Dump Outlook Express and Outlook 2003 as both these email clients lose security updates after April. Consider switching to Mozilla Thunderbird or using one of the web based email services like Gmail or Microsoft’s outlook.com.
- Switch to a limited user account. Home users should change their user accounts so that only a seldom-used administrator account can install or modify software. Everything else, especially Web and email use, should be done using limited accounts without administrator rights. Limited accounts limit the damage malware can do.