On April 8, 2014, it's the "end of life" for Windows XP.
Now, that doesn't mean XP will suddenly stop working. You can keep using it if you want, but I wouldn't recommend it.
End of life means Microsoft won't be releasing any more security updates to the average user. Any security flaws that hackers find won't be fixed. Your computer will be a sitting duck, even with security software installed. Click here to see what free security software I recommend.
I know many die-hard XP users are cynical about this news. They think Microsoft is trying to force people buy new computers. Microsoft is in business to make money, so it does want people to upgrade. But in Microsoft's defense, this isn't something special for XP.
Microsoft has done the same with Windows 95, 98 and Me. Vista's end of life is April 11, 2017 and Windows 7's is January 14, 2020. In fact, Microsoft extended XP's end-of-life date several times. XP should have been gone years ago.
Here's a fun fact: XP first appeared at the end of 2001. As late as 2010, computers were still sold with XP installed. Windows Vista, which arrived 6 years after XP, only lasted until 2011.
If you think about it, XP will be nearly 13 years old. Like a teenager, it's having trouble adjusting to the world. In spite of a major overhaul with Service Pack 3, XP just wasn't built for the modern digital age.
It's missing key security features introduced in Windows Vista. It can't support the latest, safest and most Web-compatible versions of Internet Explorer. It can't take full advantage of the latest hardware advances.
It's becoming increasingly frustrating for customers and third-party companies. Many third-party companies would love to stop supporting XP. It takes a lot of time and money to make sure programs and hardware work on every version of Windows.
This even affects the Internet. Web developers will be overjoyed to see XP-only Internet Explorer versions 6, 7 and 8 go away. Those versions are so far behind other browsers, you practically have to write another website just for them.
It's going to be a serious change for many people. In most cases it's going to mean a new computer, upgraded software and possibly new accessories like printers and scanners.
And there's an even bigger problem.
Until last year, upgrading wouldn't have been quite so bad. Windows 7 was still fairly close to Windows XP in look and how it worked. In fact, I expect Windows 7 to be the next Windows version that people stick with for quite a while.
Now, however, Windows 8 is the only operating system available on new computers. When you try it, you'll find that it's radically different from previous Windows versions.
The interface was meant for touch-screen tablets and doesn't work that well with keyboard and mouse. In fact, even finding the Desktop is an adventure in itself.
The Windows 8.1 update coming out next month will allow you to bring back some of the old Windows. Microsoft will even include a tutorial on how to use Windows 8 - finally. But it's still a steep learning curve, especially coming from XP. Click here to learn more about making the most of the Windows 8.1 update.
You can find copies of Windows 7 for sale online. You can install it on your current computer - assuming it isn't too old. You could also buy a Windows 8 computer and downgrade.
Just be aware that you can't do an in-place upgrade from XP to 7. You will have to wipe your hard drive and install Windows 7 from scratch. If you buy an upgrade version of Windows 7, you will need Windows XP installation discs to prove that you are eligible. Whatever you do, start planning now. April will be coming up fast and you don't want to be still using XP when it arrives.
Now, you might hear there's a slim chance Microsoft could continue releasing security updates for XP. It is under contract to some companies to provide them for the next few years. However, that's a paid option and I wouldn't hold your breath that Microsoft will make those updates public.
Copyright 2013, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.
Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. To get the podcast, watch the show or find the station nearest you, visit: http://www.komando.com/listen. To subscribe to Kim's free email newsletters, sign-up at: http://www.komando.com/newsletters.