XP users will still be able to get security patches automatically through Windows Update. In addition, it doesn't cost to call Microsoft if you have a problem installing Windows XP. However, calling Microsoft about other support incidents will cost the user money.
Microsoft already delivered its last service pack for XP, which is Service Pack 3.
The venerable XP operating system, first released in October of 2001, will enter the "extended support" lifecycle stage on Tuesday. Extended support for XP will last five years, until April 8, 2014. During that time, Microsoft will charge for per-incident support. The company will also charge its Premier Support customers for any nonsecurity requested hotfixes.
XP die-hards need not panic about support slipping away after the 2014 date. If they still want to get support for XP by that time, it will be available as part of Microsoft's "custom support" program -- the third and final stage of Microsoft's lifecycle support cycle.
Microsoft announced in February that it would keep the enrollment fee price for its custom support flat in 2009, meaning that it stays at 2008 prices. The company said it's keeping the price flat as a concession to its customers during the current economic downturn.
The total Microsoft lifecycle support cycle lasts 15 years, with mainstream support, extended support and custom support each lasting five years apiece. More information about Microsoft's lifecycle support policies can be found in this FAQ here.
Those looking to buy a new PC with Windows XP loaded on it can now only get it through exercising Microsoft's downgrade option.
Microsoft extended the availability of the XP downgrade option through May of 2009 for system builders and through July of 2009 for OEMs. However, even those dates to downgrade Vista aren't fixed in stone. Some OEMs, such as HP, expect to have PCs with XP downgrade rights available through 2012.
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