From June 30 onwards you'll no longer be able to purchase Windows XP or obtain support for it, right? Well, no. Not if you follow PC Advisor's guide to extending XP.

June 30 is a red-letter day for Windows XP users.

You may have heard that from June 30 onwards you'll no longer be able to purchase the operating system (OS) or obtain support for it - but don't panic just yet, because this isn't quite the case.

Consumers will be able to buy XP on certain mainstream PCs until at least January 31, 2009, and possibly even further. And ultra-low-cost PCs such as the Asus Eee PC will sell with XP until June 2010.

In terms of technical support too, Microsoft will provide some forms of support until 2014.

We've rounded up your options for buying and getting support for Windows XP before the sun finally sets on Microsoft's most successful operating system.

Video: Should you skip Vista and stick with XP?

Not dead yet

Microsoft's public statement seems to leave no wiggle room. It reads: "Windows XP will no longer be available for purchase from Microsoft for general retail and OEM partners as of June 30, 2008."

But that simple statement hides plenty of loopholes. First, retailers and PC makers can still sell Windows XP software, and Windows XP PCs, after that date, as long as they purchased the products before June 30.

If a retailer stocks up on copies of XP before June 30, it can sell XP for as long as those supplies hold out. The same holds true for PC manufacturers. Examples of each type will do exactly that.

An even bigger loophole - something called downgrade rights - will allow people to get Windows XP on new PCs, even after computer makers' stock of Windows XP licences runs out.

An OEM such as Dell can sell you a PC that starts out with Vista Business or Vista Ultimate on it, and then downgrade the operating system to Windows XP Professional before shipping the machine out to you.

In the box, you will receive discs for Vista, XP, Vista drivers and XP drivers. That way, if you decide you'd prefer Vista, you can use the installation disc and drivers to upgrade to that OS.

You can do this only with Vista PCs for which the OEM has decided to offer downgrade rights, however. A Dell spokesperson says that Dell will provide the option for its XPS line of gaming PCs (the XPS M1730 laptop, XPS 630 gaming desktop and XPS 730 gaming desktop), for its line of Vostro small-business PCs and for enterprise customers.

However, Dell won't offer the choice indefinitely, only until January 31, 2009.

HP also offers a downgrade option on its business desktops, laptops, and workstations, and will continue to do so until at least July 30, 2009, says a company spokesperson. As with Dell PCs, when someone buys a system, it will have XP Pro installed, and will come with discs for both XP and Vista.

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From June 30 onwards you'll no longer be able to purchase Windows XP or obtain support for it, right? Well, no. Not if you follow PC Advisor's guide to extending XP.

January 31 of next year is also the last date you'll be able to buy XP on a machine from a 'system builder' - a company that builds no-brand custom PCs from components and purchases Microsoft software from a distributor rather than directly from Microsoft itself.

If you buy an ultra-low-cost PC, which Microsoft describes as a laptop with "limited hardware capabilities" intended for entry-level buyers or people seeking an inexpensive second system, you're in luck. Such laptops, including the popular Asus Eee PC, can be sold with Windows XP until June 2010. The laptops must have small screens and low-powered CPUs to qualify.

Video: Should you skip Vista and stick with XP?

How to get support, post-cutoff

Obtaining support for XP after June 30 will be even easier than trying to buy XP after that date.

For starters, you have access to what Microsoft calls 'mainstream support' for XP until April 14, 2009. Mainstream support includes the release of bug fixes and security patches, so you'll still be receiving updates for the operating system.

You can pay Microsoft for help, as well, and the company will also honour all warranty claims until then.

After that date, and until April 8, 2014, Microsoft will offer what it calls 'extended support' for XP. During that time, Microsoft will continue to issue security patches but won't release public bug fixes.

Businesses that signed support contracts with Microsoft will be able to get bug fixes, but no one else will. Paid support will still be available, but warranty claims won't be honoured. Microsoft says Windows XP customers will have to take up such claims, even if they relate to software, with the PC manufacturer at that point.

Whether you can obtain support from your PC's manufacturer may depend on the way in which XP was installed on your system. For example, Dell will support XP on your system as long as Dell installed it, perhaps via the downgrade option or prior to June 30.

But if you bought a Windows Vista PC and then installed XP yourself, Dell won't offer support.

Where to find more details

If you're looking for more information about support for XP, check out Microsoft's Windows Life-Cycle Policy pages and the Microsoft Support Lifecycle blog.

  1. Buying and keeping the OS after June 30
  2. Getting support for Windows XP after June 30

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