Windows XP users face costly choice as Microsoft ends support

SEATTLE -- Microsoft says the time has come for users of Windows XP to upgrade and retire the old computer its running on.

It sounds like a marketing ploy, but it's reality as Microsoft plans to end technical assistance for Windows XP on April 8.

Many users of the 13-year old operating system believe it was the most robust Microsoft has offered, and that's why it lasted so long. But it means both home users and large companies -- even governments -- are facing costly decisions.

The April 8 end of support means automatic security updates, bug fixes and essential changes to the operating system from Microsoft for XP users will end. Microsoft will also stop providing Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows XP, as well and updates for Office 2003.

An XP computer will still work after April 8, but Microsoft says it might become vulnerable to security risks, malware attacks and viruses.

Tech blogs have alluded to a possibility of a flood of virus attacks beginning April 9 because hackers know Microsoft won't do anything to plug any more holes in XP.

Those are all good reasons, according to Microsoft, for people to upgrade to the company's latest Windows 8.1 operating system. It's one thing for the average home user to upgrade, but it could cost corporations millions of dollars to upgrade.

"A lot of companies really did drag their feet upgrading," said Gary Schare, president of Redmond's Browsium.

Browsium is a team of ex-Microsoft employees who help large companies migrate their older legacy systems onto new operating systems including Windows.

Schare says many companies have found the upgrade to Windows 7 or 8 to be "expensive and complex."

"They waited and waited and now they are up against a bit of crisis," he said.

But Windows XP still commands the second largest slice of the pie when it comes to operating systems in use worldwide. According Net Applications, nearly 30 percent of the world is using Windows XP as of December 2013. That number as been dropping ever since Microsoft announced the end of XP support in April of 2013.

Nearly 48 percent are using Windows 7, and just under 8 percent are using Windows 8. Schare is finding large companies are choosing Windows 7 over 8.

"I'd say 95 to 98 percent of our customers are going to windows 7 and just a few looking at Windows 8," said Schare.

Microsoft is no longer selling a retail version of Windows 7. Stores that still have it in stock are selling home versions between $70 and $100 dollars. Microsoft wants everyone to upgrade to Windows 8 which retails at $120.

People with older computers running Windows XP can download and run "Windows Upgrade Assistant" to see if their old computer has the power to run Windows 8.1.

It it can't run Windows 8, Schare says get rid of the computer.

"That doesn't mean hand it off to grandma, it doesn't mean hand it off to the kids, it means retire it and buy a new PC," he said.

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