After Tuesday, Microsoft will no longer provide technical assistance or automatic updates that help protect your computer that runs Windows XP. You will still be able to run your computer on the Internet, but it will be less secure.

Windows XP made its debut in 2001 and became the most popular operating system with more than 800 million users at one time. The system is still widely used in business and in ATMs. Microsoft explains what will happen Tuesday as a result of withdrawal of support for Windows XP at this site:

As a result, after April 8, 2014, technical assistance for Windows XP will no longer be available, including automatic updates that help protect your PC. Microsoft will also stop providing Microsoft Security Essentials for download on Windows XP on this date.

If you already have Microsoft Security Essentials installed, you will continue to receive anti-malware signature updates for a limited time, but this does not mean that your PC will be secure because Microsoft will no longer be providing security updates to help protect your PC.

As newer apps are developed to work on later versions of Windows, if you continue using Windows XP the newer apps will not work. Your computer becomes more vulnerable because Microsoft will no longer be providing patches for weaknesses.

However, later versions of Windows are based upon much of the same basic framework. When vulnerabilities are found in the newer versions and patches are provided, hackers will look for the same vulnerability in the older version, which will not be patched.

Scott Kinka, a technology officer, notes:

"Every standard desktop-security risk that a computer faces will be amplified because there are no fixes being written by Microsoft. To some extent, patching Windows 7 or 8 provides a potential road map to hackers into XP machines.

“Let"s say a vulnerability is found and patched in Windows 7 a few months after April 8, when there will still be millions of people using XP. When the update comes out, not only will XP not be patched, but hackers can examine the Windows 7 update to learn where the same vulnerability exists in XP."

So what is to be done?

Microsoft suggests that you could upgrade to either Windows 7 or Windows 8 or 8.1. This is one possibility but one should first check to see if your computer can be upgraded in this manner. Many computers running XP are older machines that may not be able to be upgraded. Another alternative is to buy a new or newer computer with a later system. Perhaps you may find a larger tablet or Chromebook can do everything you want to on the Internet

Another alternative is to install a free Linux operating system. You can first try out a system using a live CD or USB boot. Alternatively you can install a dual boot system that allows you to boot either to your Linux operating system or Windows XP. Once you are satisfied with and used to your Linux system. you could do a full install that wipes out your Windows XP system.

Before installing a Linux system even in a dual boot install, make sure you back up all your files in case something goes wrong! There are many different versions of Linux. I have one computer with a recent version of Ubuntu, which is one of the more popular versions of Linux.

A simple version that is supposed to be good for those new to Linux and not that different from Windows XP is Linux Lite. Some of the reasons for upgrading to Linux rather than a new Windows operating system are given here.

A compelling reason for me is that Linux systems are free as are the apps. As one of the embedded videos shows one big advantage of Linux systems is that they can be customized.

There are drawbacks of course. Many of your Windows apps will not work. I also have a printer that will not work on Linux although many printers now will do so. You should check out this sort of thing. You may also find that your video or music player will not work.

However, Linux has its own apps. VLC for example works fine with Linux a player that I actually prefer and use with Windows. Microsoft Office will not work but there is a free Office Libre that I have used now for several years on Windows. I found Microsoft Office not only not worth the money but a pain in the fanny when I did have it since I use many computers they didn’t all have it so I could not even open the Microsoft Word files. Fortunately, Office Libre will open them. Office Libre, as its name implies, is free, so I just download it onto any computer I use.

Linux has many different systems. Here are descriptions of some of the more popular.

For a beginner I think that Linux Lite or Ubuntu are probably the best. I have only used several versions of Ubuntu myself. Ubuntu can be downloaded from this site.

You will need to burn an ISO image onto a CD or DVD. I have embedded to the article a YouTube video showing you how to burn the ISO image using IMG after you have downloaded the file. You may already have software that will burn the ISO image but make sure you do not just burn text but use the burn image function if your software can do that.

Once you have the disc with the image you can then install a dual boot or full install of Ubuntu from the disc as shown in another appended video. The video shows Linux Lite being installed. The site to download it can be found here.

A review of Linux Lite can be found here along with instructions as to how to do certain things and a link to a download site. You can also transfer the ISO file to a bootable USB.

The process of installation is not all that difficult. Even I did not manage to screw it up. As I said before though, back up all your files before you start the installation process. I should mention that another great plus for Linux is the user forums. If you have problems using the forums can generally turn up a solution.

If you are interested in Linux you can always install a dual boot system with later Windows systems 7 or 8 or 8.1 as well even if you don"t have the Windows XP problem.