Believe it or not, the Windows XP operating system has been around for 15 years, making it practically prehistoric in computer terms.

Support for XP ended in April 2014, meaning it’s really dangerous to continue using, as you’re open to all sorts of attacks.

Although numbers are falling, 9.11% are still using XP, according to NetMarketShare.

We would really urge you to upgrade your PC from XP to stay safe – see all our reasons here. But if you really can’t or won’t upgrade, let us at least offer you some advice on getting the most out of XP.

These tips may also be useful if you’re using Windows 7 too.

If you’re looking to get the most out of Windows 10, we’ve got advice just for you right here.

Tip 1: Clean up - or reinstall - Windows XP

Windows XP Box

Any PC still running Windows XP is likely to be getting on a bit and that means it’s bound to have seen lots of software come and go over the years.

Windows XP isn’t great at keeping itself clean when software is uninstalled and the files that get left behind not only waste hard drive space, they slow a PC down and can even cause it to crash.

Regular maintenance can keep your PC free from unwanted digital junk. Our feature Seven easy ways to clean up your PC will help here, but a more drastic (and usually much more effective) solution is to clear the hard drive completely and reinstall Windows XP.

You’ll need to back up your personal files first and reinstall your favourite software afterwards, so make sure you have any necessary installation discs and registration codes to hand before you start.

 

Tip 2: Update Windows XP

Screenshot Microsoft update

Microsoft ended support for Windows XP in April 2014, which means it won’t release any more updates, bug fixes or security patches.

All previous updates are still available, though, so use Windows Update to makes sure the final Service Pack (SP3) is installed, along with all other High Priority updates. Find this by clicking the Windows icon and typing Windows Update into the search bar.

If you do reinstall Windows XP, you’ll also have to install all the updates before installing any additional software.

 

Tip 3: Project against malware

Computer code with malicious virus higlighted

Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows XP has also been withdrawn, so if you were relying on it for malware protection, you should replace it with something else as a matter of urgency.

BT Virus Protect is free for all broadband customers and it’s compatible with XP (Service Pack 3). Check out the box below to find out more.

 

Tip 4: Fit a hardware firewall

BT Home Hub 5

There’s little else you can do with software to make a Windows XP PC more feel more sprightly or secure, so all that remains is to upgrade your PC’s hardware.

If your PC is connected directly to a home broadband modem (rather than being on a home network), then it’s worth adding a home router to your setup.

Routers have a built-in firewall that helps keep PCs safe online. Even if you don’t use or need the device’s other networking features, this is a valuable extra layer of protection that works alongside Windows XP’s own software firewall.

Find out about BT’s Home Hub 5 router.

 

Tip 5: Upgrade your PC’s memory

Screenshot Windows XP memory status

Adding more memory is an easy way to speed up a PC, but this may not be simple with older models that run Windows XP.

Find out how much memory your PC currently has by right-clicking My Computer on the Desktop and selecting Properties - its memory capacity will be shown under Computer on the dialog box that appears.

If you have less than 2GB of memory then an upgrade is worthwhile, but if it’s an older machine, your PC may not be able to use more than 4GB. Memory supplier Crucial has a handy system scanner that should tell you how much memory your PC can use and which type you need to install.

 

Tip 6: Buy a bigger hard drive

Samsung hard drive

Any PC that’s running out of hard drive space will be slow due to the way Windows uses it to store temporary data for running applications. Upgrading to a larger hard drive is the obvious solution, but it might also be worth considering a solid-state drive (SSD) instead. With no moving parts, SSDs are lightning fast and can make an old PC feel brand new. SSDs are very expensive compared to hard drives, though, and high-capacity models can cost as much as a new PC.

Here are just a few SSDs to consider:

-       Samsung 750 EVO 250GB: £60.98 - Amazon

-       Kingston Technology 120GB: £40.29 Amazon

-       SanDisk SSD PLUS 240GB: £59.90 - Amazon

[Related story: Upgrading from Windows XP the easy way]

 

Tip 7: See if you can upgrade to Windows 7

Screenshot Windows - showing if you can update

Clinging to Windows XP when you could be using Windows 7 is a false economy, but you don’t necessarily need to buy a whole new PC to get it. Run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to see if your PC is powerful enough for an operating system upgrade - the minimum requirements are a 1GHz processor, 1GB of memory and 16GB of free hard drive space.

 

Tip 8: Run Windows XP as a virtual PC

Screenshot Windows Virtual PC

If you have certain applications that will only run with Windows XP, don’t despair. Windows 7 Ultimate Edition has a built-in ‘Windows XP Mode’ for running old software, while any version of Windows can use the free Virtual Box to install Windows XP and its applications in a ‘virtual’ PC.

This is fairly tricky though – if you have software that will only run under Windows XP you could always consider upgrading that as well.

Tip 9 – Use a safe web browser

As we previously explained, XP isn’t safe anymore and numerous web browsers are no longer supported either, including older versions of Internet Explorer and Google Chrome.

Using a supported web browser not only makes your PC safer but also more stable, as you’ll still benefit from some new features. Find out about all the safest web browsers here and watch our video below for more:
 
 
Are you still using Windows XP? Let us know why in the Comments section below.
 
Article updated by Jamie Harris on 06/10/2016.