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Today many PC users are following the XP end of support debacle.

There are all kinds of rumors floating around regarding what will happen if a user continues with XP.

There is also the love and hate relationship with users and Microsoft. Some say it is a racket to get people to buy more copies of the mediocre Windows 8 OS, reminiscent of the Vista release. Others may say that Microsoft has fulfilled their obligation to consumers by offering continued support for over 10 years, free of charge.

Unfortunately, Microsoft has not been very forthcoming with the facts. While MS claims that XP is an outdated operating system and fundamentally incapable of securing users from viruses, malware etc., European governments have contracted Microsoft to continue support for XP. The message to consumers is that XP can still be a secure OS, but it will cost you 10 million bucks.

So, what should a user do who has XP on one or multiple machines? Microsoft's answer is, “To stay protected after support ends, you have two options: Upgrade your current PC (or) Get a new PC.” Obviously, neither are options for people who don't have any cash.

If you don't have any money you will be sticking to XP, or trying to get a hacked copy of Windows 7. Using a hacked OS is never a good idea and potentially less stable and less secure than an unsupported one. So, several questions arise.

First, if a user wants to do a fresh install of an XP machine after tomorrow, will the Microsoft or Windows Update utility still work? The answer seems to be that yes Windows Update will still work, but no new patches will be issued.

Second, what does a user risk by sticking with XP? Microsoft's answer is that there will be a bunch of viruses and security threats etc. coming out and attacking everyone's machines. While there may be some truth to this, PC's are always vulnerable to viruses. The only thing to do in any case is have an antivirus system installed and back up any important data on an external drive.

Also, there is the vulnerability to phishing, credit card and identity theft and other scams which are usually associated with online shopping or official records. The solution to this is to avoid sharing any sensitive data online. Additionally, a user can use Firefox with add-ons and other utilities such as Fiddler to monitor and protect against vulnerabilities through internet.

Finally, in the age of social networks, email and online job applications, it is easy to forget that PC's do serve other purposes that do not require Internet access. Audio and Video applications are great examples of this as well as desktop publishing, MS office, Photoshop, even web design applications do not require an Internet connection. So, the easiest solution: unplug the network card.

For users who want to upgrade to Windows 7, there has been a lot of nonsense about having to buy a new machine to run it. Here are the requirements from Microsoft:

1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor

1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)

16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)

DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

If a system does not meet these requirements, the user probably can't access anything on the web anyway. A tablet at a discount store will have better specs than the above.

As an additional resource, here are some links to the ISO files for the Windows 7 discs. These are legit and from a Microsoft Server at Digital River, Note you will need a valid license key to activate the OS (scrap metal and a razor blade):

Windows 7 Downloads:

Download the appropriate Windows 7 .ISO file which includes Service Pack 1(Note: must match what your product key version is for)

Windows 7 Home Premium 32Bit: 7 Home Premium 64Bit:

Windows 7 Professional 32Bit: 7 Professional 64Bit:

Windows 7 Ultimate 32Bit: 7 Ultimate 64Bit:

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