Microsoft retires its 12-year-old Windows XP operating system on Tuesday. Even so, there are still millions of XP computers out there. Here's what to do if you own one of them:
What happens Tuesday?
— Microsoft Corp. will issue its final update to fix known security flaws with XP.
— After that, XP machines will still work, and you can install past security updates. You won't get new ones to address any new security flaws.
— Your machine will face greater security risks. Because hackers know Microsoft will no longer issue updates, they have extra incentive to look for security flaws.
Can I upgrade my computer?
— Check here to see whether your computer is running Windows XP: amirunningxp.com
— If it is, run the tool here to see whether your computer is powerful enough to upgrade: bit.ly/KkZERx
— If you can upgrade, you can buy a DVD version of the latest Windows 8 version for $120: bit.ly/1mQBzCe
— You'll need to back up your files and have discs for old programs handy, as an upgrade requires wiping out your hard drive. Microsoft has a step-by-step tutorial: bit.ly/1mYSYEj
— Keep in mind that it's likely better to use that $120 toward a new computer. You'll be getting something more powerful.
What if I keep using my XP computer, despite the risks?
— Be sure to run all the previously released updates, plus the last one out on Tuesday.
— If you don't need the Internet connection, unplug it. That will minimize the risk. Be careful about attaching USB storage drives, as that might introduce malicious software.
— If you need the Internet, refrain from using email, Facebook and other communications channels through which malicious software might travel.
— It's also a good idea to lock down your computer by using a profile that lacks administrative rights and to remove older software you no longer need.
Where can I get more information?
— What end of support means: windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/end-support-help
— Upgrade information: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/upgrade-to-windows-8
Explore further: Microsoft counting down to the end of Windows XP