February 03, 2014, 1:58 PM — Greg Salone doesn't want to give up Windows XP. He asked for advice on what could "keep me from being vulnerable" after support ends on April 8.
You've heard this from me and pretty much every other tech journalist: You need to stop using Windows XP. It will gradually--or maybe not so gradually--become less secure after Microsoft stops updating the OS. I won't go into the details, since I covered them in Should you keep using Windows XP?
But you might not be able to give it up. Your business may depend on a specialized application that won't run on Windows 7 or 8. Or you may not be able to afford a new PC and your old one isn't powerful enough for an upgrade. Perhaps you're just stubborn.
Reluctantly, I'm going to advise you on protecting a Windows XP computer after Microsoft's updates stop. But I give this advice with a warning: This is not perfect protection. You'll be better off giving up on XP.
[Email your tech questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
If you absolutely can't or won't give up XP, consider disconnecting that particular PC from the Internet. Use it the old-fashioned way: as a truly personal computer with no connection to the outside world. Then buy another PC or a tablet for email and browsing.
If that isn't practical, follow these suggestions to make your XP computer more secure:
Get a full security suite: A simple antivirus program won't be enough. Buy a heavy-duty suite with a two-way firewall and exploit protection in addition to antivirus. I like Kaspersky Internet Security, but there are several solid security suites, as we found in our recent roundup.
Get a second opinion: Now that you have a powerful security suite, don't trust it. Augment your regular antivirus program with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free. Run it once a week to scan for malware that your suite may have missed.
Use Firefox or Chrome: An out-of-date browser is an open door for malware, and any version of Internet Explorer that runs on XP is very out of date indeed. But the latest versions of Firefox and Chrome can still run on your machine.
Protect your browser: Scripts are a dangerous malware delivery system, and the right browser add-ins can block them. And yes, you can tell the add-ins to make exceptions and allow scripts from sites that you trust. If you use Firefox, install NoScript Security Suite. For Chrome, go with NotScripts.
And remember that eventually, the security suites and browsers will stop supporting XP, as well. This can't go on forever.