Q. I keep reading warnings about Windows XP getting retired next year with no more security updates. I don't like the look of Windows 8, but if I upgrade to Windows 7, how long will that system be supported?
A. Microsoft does not keep writing patches for old operating systems forever, and has been strongly encouraging its Windows XP users to upgrade to a more modern and secure version. Once the company stops issuing security fixes for Windows XP, computers running the system will have an increased vulnerability to malicious software and Internet intruders.
While the clock is scheduled to run out on Windows XP on April 8, 2014, Microsoft's Windows Lifecycle fact sheet gives Windows 7 a retirement date of Jan. 14, 2020. The Windows 7 mainstream support period, where things like feature updates can still happen, is scheduled to end Jan. 13, 2015.
Many users have resisted upgrading to Windows 8, which introduced big design changes that have been met with some harsh reviews. So Microsoft is preparing Windows 8.1 for release this October. As seen in the free preview version of the software, Microsoft has been responding to complaints about Windows 8 and is trying to make this newest update to Windows seem more like the familiar older editions -- while including more built-in tutorials and tips for new users.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.