Microsoft no longer supports Windows XP, an OS still used by approximately 15 percent (as of May 2015) of Windows customers. That means many PC users must upgrade to a more secure, supported version of Windows or risk their un-updated, unpatched version of Windows XP catching a virus or other Internet bug. As a rule of thumb, we recommend upgrading your OS and then updating it often to protect your system. If you're switching to a new OS, read how to migrate easily from Windows XP. However, if you're a die-hard who wants to keep an XP machine, here are five tips for keeping it running as safely and smoothly as possible until you upgrade.
1. Use updated browsers -- no more Internet Explorer
The latest version of Internet Explorer for Windows XP is Internet Explorer 8, an incredibly outdated browser. For security, it's better to use third-party browsers like Chrome, Firefox, or Opera. All have promised to continue Windows XP support for at least another year.
2. Get rid of Flash, Java, and Adobe Reader
Although Flash, Java, and Adobe Reader were the mainstays of yesteryear's Internet, with an unsupported OS they are gaping doors for hackers. Most video sites like YouTube and Netflix uses HTML5, so there should be no need for Flash. Java is still required for certain applications, but unless you use those on a daily basis, there's no need for it to be installed. Lastly, there are safer alternatives for Adobe Reader, such as Sumatra PDF, Nitro PDF, and Foxit Reader.
3. Buy a full antivirus suite
Getting the protection of a full antivirus suite isn't a bad idea, especially when it costs much less than upgrading to a new system. Kaspersky, Trend Micro, F-Secure, and Norton are all good calls. You want something heavy-duty with its own firewall for the best protection. Then get a second opinion from other scanners just to be on the safe side. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is good utility to run as a second line of defense.
4. Go offline or limit your account access
The surest way to stay safe is to stay off the Internet. If your Windows XP machine's uses don't require an Internet connection (for instance, if you're using it for offline home theater viewing, music, or games), then disconnect. Otherwise use the limited account privilege setting in the User Control Panel. Stay off the admin account unless you need to update, patch, or install something. Account limitation can be a roadblock for attackers.
5. Remove unnecessary clutter
Any programs you're not using can be a risk now that you're on an outdated OS. Keep baggage to the bare minimum by uninstalling apps you don't need. IObit, Revo, and Advanced Uninstaller can help. Then update whatever applications remain. Just because Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP doesn't mean that software developers are dropping it, too. A majority of publishers will still offer updates to their software for at least for another year.
End of an era
Even though Windows XP gets no more Microsoft love, your functioning PC did not suddenly became useless. If you practice good security and know the limitations of the legacy OS, you can stretch your system's life for a little while longer. However, we recommend that you not keep sensitive data or perform essential tasks on your XP machine. While "unsupported" doesn't mean automatic hacking, there will be fewer people reporting exploits.