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Goodbye, old friend; XP is now an orphan
Remember Windows 3.1?
There was a major hew and cry when Microsoft decided to drop that operating system to issue Windows 95 -- remember that, as well?
There hasn't been the uproar this time, but today is the last day the Redmond, Washington, company will issue security updates for the Windown XP operating system on a computer you might just have on your desk right now.
Windows XP came out in 2001, ancient by computer standards, but stayed in use for so long because its successor, Vista, proved to be so unpopular. Windows 7 and 8 -- the latest update to Windows 8.1 was released today -- are more popular, but when you switch to them, plan on spending some time getting used to a completely new system designed for touch-screen monitors.
You can keep running your XP computer, but it's wise to retire it for doing online banking and shopping, since Microsoft will no longer issue fixes to keep hackers away from your usernames and passwords.
If you use it mainly for standalone jobs such as word processing or spreadsheets, consider disconnecting it from the Internet entirely.
You might be able to upgrade it to Windows 7 or 8, but chances are good it won't meet system requirements for the latest operating system, and it's time to buy a new computer anyway.
If you're a geek, you might try going to an open-source operating system like Linux, but that presents its own challenges.
Haven't heard of Linux? If you're using a non-Apple smartphone, you're probably carrying a copy of it on the Android phone in your pocket right now.
Don't feel alone if you're stuck with an XP computer. Many bank ATMs operate on an embedded form of the software, but they will have security support from Microsoft until January 2016.
Whatever you do about your computer, keep your security software up to date and seek advice from an expert you trust.