Windows XP is about to die. Now what?

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XP officially will be dead to consumers on April 8. Microsoft is abandoning XP and no longer will provide OS fixes, patch security holes or offer support of any kind. Consumers who still are running the 13-year-old operating system have some choices to make.

Should you upgrade to Windows 7, get a Chromebook, tablet or just get by on a Smartphone? It depends on what you want to do, and how you want to do it. Here are a few options.

Upgrade XP to Windows 7 or 8.1

 

Upgrading the OS might be a good option if you have newer hardware that will support it. If you're still rocking that $350 Dell or Emachines (remember them?) you got as a package deal in 2005, chances are you're out of luck. Even if you've upgraded the memory and hard drive capacity, the Windows 7 or 8 experience is going to be lousy – and hardware driver support might be non-existent.

Here are the minimum requirements for Windows 8 and 8.1.

Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster
RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver
To access Windows Store, you’ll need screen resolution of at least 1024×768. To use the Snap feature for Metro apps, you'll need a screen with 1366×768 resolution or higher.

Microsoft has an upgrade path that allows you to go from XP directly to Windows 8. However, if you've only used XP, you'll be in for a mind-melting shock. Plus, only your data will be kept when going to Windows 8. You’ll need to reinstall all your programs. If you do that, be sure to collect your software product keys first.

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If you upgrade an old system with XP, go with Windows 7 and not 8.

Get a Chromebook

 

If you only use your XP computer for email, surfing the web, light word processing, playing online games and visiting social sites, a Chromebook is a perfect choice. A Chromebook starts at around $250, which is probably a lot less than what you paid for your XP machine. You'll probably want to transfer some of your browser favorites if you get one. Here’s an article on how to transfer your bookmarks from XP to Chromebook. And documents should be easy enough to upload to your Google Drive.

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Can I Get by with Just a Tablet or Smartphone?

 

Again, make this decision based on what you want to do. If you're using email, visiting social networks and chatting, you should be fine. Just analyze your current situation: Do you use a laptop or desktop computer at home?

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If you need to do word processing, you’ll want something with a decent keyboard and screen. A tablet probably would fit the bill. There are decent wireless keyboards you can add to tablets… even a Kindle Fire. If you want a hybrid computer/tablet, check out the Microsoft Surface. Although the Surface Pro is rather expensive and better suited for power users, the Surface 2 (which runs RT – a simple version of Windows 8.1) has the full version of Office 2013.

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Many people will have trouble getting their legacy software to work on a newer version of Windows. In that situation you can create a Virtual Machine with VirtualBox and run XP on it.

Here’s other information that can help solve this problem.

It's important to note that support for Office 2003 ends on the same day as XP. This shouldn't be as problematic as the end of XP. However, the Office suite no longer will get assisted support, and there will be no more updated online content or software updates – including security patches.


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LAST UPDATED 3/31/2014