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Death knell for Microsoft Security essentials as XP is axed

Bad news for those still planning to cling to their legacy Windows XP systems after the operating system's official "death" on 8 April 2014: While the OS will certainly work come 9 April, you're going to start heading into the wild, wild West of viruses, exploits, and other unfriendly computer hijinks.

Not only is support for the operating system ending, but you will also lose your ability to benefit from Microsoft's free antivirus and anti-malware app, Microsoft Security Essentials.

Microsoft's official, end-of-support date for Windows XP shouldn't come as news for anyone who has touched a computer in the past five years or so. In fact, we can recall a pledge the company made back in 2008 that it would support Windows XP all the way through 2014.

Well, almost all the way. 8 April is the official cut-off, which means that Microsoft will publish a grand total of zero automatic updates for the operating system after the fact. You'll still be able to activate your version of Windows XP, you just won't receive any new patches – and likely won't be able to find any updated drivers – for your operating system. Companies will still be able to pay Microsoft for additional support after-the-fact; normal users will almost certainly be out of luck.

Worse, Microsoft Security Essentials is going away as well. And we don't just mean that Microsoft won't be updating the app with any new virus definitions or signatures. According to Microsoft's official "end of support" site for Windows XP, it will no longer provide Microsoft Security Essentials for download on Windows XP.

"If you continue to use Windows XP after support ends, your computer will still work but it might become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses. Also, as more software and hardware manufacturers continue to optimize for more recent versions of Windows, you can expect to encounter greater numbers of apps and devices that do not work with Windows XP," reads Microsoft's description.

A quick trip over to Net Applications reveals that Windows XP is still the second most-used operating system among all visitors to the more than 40,000 sites the company tracks worldwide (around 160 million unique visits per month). Its share of just under 30 per cent or so stomps that of Windows 8, at just under 7 per cent; Windows 8.1, at just under 4 per cent; but falls short of the approximately 47 per cent share enjoyed by Windows 7.

Still, it's pretty clear that there is a wee more than a handful of users still clinging to Windows XP with but a few months to go in the operating system's official lifecycle. While companies like Google and Mozilla have pledged to continue to support the OS after Microsoft's cut-off — and, yes, you can still get an antivirus app for XP that isn't Microsoft's (for now) — it's anyone's guess as to how long Windows XP will hold up after April.