Microsoft yesterday announced a two-year countdown to the end of its support of the Windows XP operating system and Office 2003. On April 8 of 2014, Microsoft will no longer ship security updates or hot fixes for XP and Office 2003.
From an MS blog post directed to businesses: "If you still have some PCs running Windows XP and Office 2003 in your organization, now would be a good time to start migrating them to Windows 7 and Office 2010."
Windows XP first shipped to users in October of 2001. But as recently as a year ago, the OS was still more popular than Windows Vista or Windows 7.
This news will likely impact companies more than individual consumers; after all, it's easier to upgrade one machine than to upgrade a whole fleet of them. But it's a good idea to keep this date on your radar, in the event that you're still using a computer running XP. In today's computing environment, rife with malware and cybertheft, it's too dangerous to go without continually upgraded security fixes.
If you decide to go with a whole new laptop or desktop, here are some tips from our computer buying guide at ConsumerReports.org:
If you go with a PC, you have a choice of several versions of Windows 7, each with its own hardware requirements. Windows 7 is less prone to crashing than the previous version, and has more refinements and features but fewer annoyances. We recommend Home Premium as the Windows 7 version for most home users.
For more tips on staying safe online, see our Guide to online security.