PCs with Windows XP will become sitting ducks for hackers when Microsoft stops providing security updates in April. This has raised questions for many readers, because XP is still used by nearly 29 percent of PCs, according to research firm Net Applications.
Q: What would you recommend for those of us still using Windows XP?
Pam Hudgens, San Luis Obispo, Calif.
A: You need a newer operating system, and your choices from Microsoft are Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8. I recommend Windows 7, which is still used by 47.5 percent of PCs. Windows 8 (used by 10.6 percent) is radically different from Windows XP and not a good choice for you.
However, your Windows XP PC is too old to be upgraded to Windows 7. I suggest you buy a new PC with Windows 7 from Acer, Gateway or Dell.
Alternatively, you could buy a “Windows 8 Pro” PC that comes with “downgrade rights,” meaning that you are allowed to install Windows 7 instead. (Pay a computer shop to do the complicated downgrade.)
Q: You’ve been encouraging owners of Windows XP PCs to buy Windows 7 PCs. But will the older programs I use, such as Quicken Basic 2005 and Microsoft Office 2003, work on Windows 7? Also, how can I move my Outlook e-mails and Mozilla Firefox bookmarks to a new PC? Should I buy a notebook or a desktop PC?
Larry Snow, Eden Prairie
A: Your Quicken Basic 2005 program is unlikely to work on Windows 7, but you should be able to use a flash drive to transfer its data files to a new version of Quicken on a new PC. Office 2003 is compatible with Windows 7, and its Outlook files can also be copied to a flash drive and moved to a new PC (see tinyurl.com/l73qet8). You can move your Firefox bookmarks by storing them in a free Firefox cloud storage service (see tinyurl.com/czzmkcb) that can be accessed by old and new PCs. Either a notebook or desktop PC is acceptable.
Q: Can I continue to get Microsoft security updates if I use my free upgrade CD to install Windows Vista Home Premium on my Windows XP computer? Will Vista cause problems on my seven-year-old PC?
Arliss Gadbaw, Orono
A: Upgrading to Vista Home Premium will enable you to receive Microsoft security updates until April 2017.