Even so, many consumers, businesses and government agencies have seen no reason to replace XP on their desktop and laptop computers, according to research firm NetMarketShare, which says XP powers nearly 30 percent of all personal computers worldwide. Others estimate 200 million or more XP users.
"XP is a solid operating system. People are used to it. They've got other software that's compatible with it. And all their stuff is on it," said Kevin McGuire, who owns the Bay Area Computerman repair shop in West San Jose. "I still have computers running XP in my shop."
While McGuire is skeptical of the more dire warnings about XP, other experts say there's reason to be concerned. Several makers of antivirus programs and other security software say their products will continue to work with XP, but they may not provide full protection.
Security programs can detect and neutralize malware, but they don't repair vulnerabilities in the underlying operating system, said Gerry Egan, senior director of product management at Symantec, which "strongly recommends" that XP users upgrade to a newer operating system.
But for those who really want to keep using XP, experts offer this advice:
First, be sure to use an updated anti-malware program; some experts recommend using two, since one may find things the other misses. Microsoft Security Essentials is a free anti-malware program that you can download now; you won't be able to download the XP version after April 8, although Microsoft says it will distribute updates for an unspecified time.
Second, switch to Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox for Web browsing. Both will continue to work with XP and have the latest browser security features. The two most recent versions of Microsoft's Internet Explorer won't work with XP, while older versions of Explorer don't work as well with newer websites.
Finally, stick to trusted websites and avoid using an XP computer for online banking, shopping or anything involving sensitive information. Better still, disconnect from the Internet and just use the computer for word-processing, spread sheets or games that are already installed on your machine.
While those steps may reduce the risk, "our advice is to upgrade," said Richard Yom, owner of the PC Clinic repair shop in San Jose. Still, he acknowledged, "some people will wait as long as they can."