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Sunday, December 14, 2008

How to maintain XP after Microsoft ends support

XP lovers may still be able to buy a new PC with that operating system installed for another year or so, but unfortunately, Microsoft plans to end most free support for the OS within months. The vast majority of more than 1 billion computers run Windows XP in use worldwide by the end of 2008 as projected. Some 68 percent of the client computers in use around the world use XP. Vista represents just over 19 percent of the worldwide PC market. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer tells users that staying with XP until Windows 7 ships late next year is a viable option. XP's huge installed base helps to ensure that hardware and software companies are continuing to support their existing XP users while also making sure their new products will work with the OS. For now, anyway, losing the support of third-party vendors is far from the biggest threat facing anyone who sticks with XP.

XP will reach the end of mainstream support on Apr. 14, 2009, despite the fact that Service Pack 3 for XP was released just last spring. (XP first shipped in late 2001, so the end of its mainstream support is coming more than two years later than is typical — a testament to XP's popularity.) After April 2009, XP moves into the extended-support period, which is expected to last through Apr. 8, 2014. Under extended support, if you encounter problems installing a security patch or other critical fix, tech support will help you free of charge. Any other help from Microsoft tech support, however, will be on a pay-per-incident basis.

Dell Computer says it will sell systems with XP as a downgrade option through 2009 and possibly longer. If you bought a new PC with XP preinstalled, it's important to note that you must contact your PC maker for all support.

Useful XP support sites: Microsoft's XP newsgroups , TechArena community, BoardReader, and AllExperts.

Listings for Microsoft user groups are available at the Microsoft Mindshare site.

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