Five things to know about Microsoft's XP deadline

Former Microsoft chairman Bill Gates speaks during the product launch of the Windows XP operating system. Photo / AP
Former Microsoft chairman Bill Gates speaks during the product launch of the Windows XP operating system. Photo / AP

Yes, it's time for XP apocalypse - on Tuesday Microsoft stopped offering support for its 2001 operating system. But before you start freaking out, take a deep breath. Here are five things you need to know about what's really going on.

1. Your computer will still work. Computers running XP are not going to burst into flames, become inoperable or become sentient and punish you for all the times you've cursed at them over the years. Nothing about how your computer runs is changing. All this deadline means is that Microsoft will no longer be sending out official updates to XP.

In fact, even Microsoft Security Essentials updates will continue to roll out until July 2015, giving you plenty of time to either upgrade or find a third-party security product that you like. But don't wait too long.

2. Your ATM will (probably) be fine. Only about 38 percent of the ATMs that were running XP are believed to have migrated off the system.

And 95 percent of all ATMs were thought to be on the 12-year-old system, though some may be on a version of the OS that has official support through 2016.

The problem is, to borrow a phrase, the "unknown unknowns" of the situation. Banks and other financial institutions don't know what attacks may come up once official support for XP stops. It's going to become harder to deal with vulnerabilities over time, but it's not as if your corner ATM is going to start spitting out money or broadcasting your account number to the world.

3. So will your work computer. Plenty of businesses are also still on XP, but tamp down panic in this department, as well. Sure, you should be listening to your IT department's frequent emails on steps you should be taking to migrate your computer to a new system. (Or pressuring them to get with the program.) But if you stick to your normal security protocols for work - or, you know, start actually following them - then you should be just fine.

4. You will, however, have to be smart. This is a good time to remember the basics of being smart online. Don't open weird attachments and emails, don't download weird programs, and get some good antivirus software.

Sophos.com has a pretty good list of tips you should follow if you, for one reason or another, decide to stay on XP past this deadline. These include getting rid of software you're not using, limiting access to your XP computers and continuing to get updates for other software, such as Flash and Java, to keep your computer safe.

5. There's one more thing to do. Microsoft pushed out its last support patch Tuesday and you should definitely, 100 percent, totally and completely make sure you download it. You won't have to be looking at Windows Update for a while anyway, so take a moment today and get your last-ever Microsoft XP patch.

-Washington Post

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