With just abut 30 hours left before XP support is pulled by Microsoft there are likely more than a few users and businesses scrambling to download Microsoft Security Essentials and initiate back-ups just in case XP machines are hit hard by malware and attacks as April 9 dawns.

Microsoft is officially ending XP support after issuing final patches and fixes on Tuesday, April 8. After that XP users are on their own security wise. Many are likely busy using free work time to search out new Windows PCs and laptops featuring Windows 7 and 8.1 (and 8.2 as that OS upgrade arrives Tuesday as well).

It should be interesting to see PC sales and shipment stats in a few months due to the last minute shopping and upgrading. A recent Forrester report claims 20 percent of businesses are still using XP, with nearly 25 percent in the public and healthcare sectors.

As XP users contemplate new PC OS options or there are a few steps that can help keep XP at least somewhat secure.

  1. First off, remove the administrator rights on the PC. This is a main gateway for hackers and a prime pathway for nasty malware.
  2. If you have other computing devices to use for checking email, doing online shopping for a new PC, and don't need Internet access on the XP machine, it's simple to just pull the plug and disconnect it from the Internet. As long as you don't load up any potentially infected files off a USB, this pretty much eliminates any horrible things from attacking the XP desktop.
  3. If you can't disconnect from the Internet then at least disable JAVA and Flash, as they pose weak spots and potential malware entry points. Yes, some web pages may not load properly but it's better than having the PC walloped to death.
  4. If the PC has to remain connected to the Internet, disconnect/remove the Internet Explorer browser. Using IE is like inviting the bad guys into your system when it's unprotected. Download a third-party browser, such as Chrome, as that browser is constantly updated against security threats.
  5.  Finally, don't panic. Pundits are expressing mixed messages about how dire the XP security situation really is, with a few noting that it's more than likely hackers are busy trying to break into Windows 7 and 8.1 given largers user bases.

This is one of the few times it's not fair to curse out Microsoft though the temptation may be strong. It's not like XP users just got the news about support ending. Microsoft announced support would end as of April 8, 2014 way back in April of 2012. Yes, two full years ago.

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