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How to prepare for the end of Windows XP

As Microsoft has been reminding its customers for many months, support for its Windows XP operating system ends on April 8. While your Windows XP computer will continue to run, Microsoft will not be providing security updates and other patches to keep the system safer from viruses and other malware attacks. The company also announced that it would not be providing an XP-compatible version of its Microsoft Security Essentials software on its site, either.

Microsoft has two suggestions for those still using Windows XP: upgrade the operating system or buy a new PC. The system requirements for Windows 8.1, the latest operating system, may be a little high for older hardware. 

You need a machine with at least a 1-gigahertz processor, 1 gigabyte of memory, 16 gigabytes of hard drive space and a graphics card compatible with DirectX9 and the Windows Display Driver Model software. 

Microsoft's site has a tutorial on potentially upgrading from Windows XP, including links to an upgrade assistant program that checks your current machine to see if it can run Windows 8.1. You can check to see if your older programs work on Windows 8.1 on the Compatibility Center page. 

If neither of these options sounds appealing or possible, you have other choices. You can continue on with Windows XP with third-party security software, although you may find fewer sites, services and programs that continue to work with an operating system that was first released in 2001. 

Although it may take some heavy lifting and expertise, some people have found extended life for old hardware by installing the open-source Linux operating system, which tends to have less-intensive system requirements than other operating systems.

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