On June 30, 2008, Microsoft pulled the plug on Windows XP. That's the last day Windows XP was officially available for purchase from retail outlets, major resellers and OEM hardware manufacturers. But that doesn't mean the operating system is going to go quietly. Many consumers would still rather run XP than Vista, and there are several loopholes in Microsoft's supply chain that let you get a copy of XP if you really want one.
If you decide to run XP, you may be buying a lame duck, but at least it won't be a dead duck -- Microsoft will continue to fully support Windows XP until the end of 2009, and offer limited support in some form until 2014. So even though you can no longer buy it at your local big box retailer, here are some ways to get your hands on a copy of XP.
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2 Buy Vista and "downgrade" to XP
3 Buy from a mom & pop reseller
4 Buy a 'Nettop' PC
5 Buy overstock from eBay or Craigslist
6 There's always BitTorrent
Your local computer store can still sell copies of Windows XP past the cut-off date, they just can't buy more copies from Microsoft. So, as long as the copies of the OS were purchased on or before June 30, 2008, the store can officially sell it to you and Microsoft will still support it.
The smart stores will stock up on Windows XP, so call around to see which one has a crate of XP install discs in the back room.
Buy Vista and "downgrade" to XP
There's an odd loophole that lets hardware manufacturers offer XP as an option to customers who also purchase a copy of Windows Vista.
Here's how it works: buy a new computer from Dell or HP with Vista Ultimate Edition or Vista Business Edition and you'll be given the option to "downgrade" your operating system to Windows XP Professional. Even though your machine will arrive with an XP image disc, you'll also get install discs for whichever version of Windows Vista you purchased. So, you can run XP as long as you'd like, then install Vista at your leisure (or not).
Dell is offering the "downgrade" option through January 31, 2009 for its XPS gaming PCs and its Vostro small-business PCs. Dell is also extending the downgrade option to its enterprise customers, so talk to your IT/MIS crew and see if they'll let you buy a machine through your company. Just offer to buy them lunch or something since they'd be doing you a favor.
Hewlett-Packard will offer the XP downgrade option on most of its business desktops and notebooks through at least July 30, 2009.
Buy from a mom & pop reseller
Small, local resellers who assemble and sell no-name PCs can still sell machines loaded with Windows XP past the June 30 cutoff. These stores, commonly called "screwdriver shops" because they assemble cheap, non-branded PCs from scratch, buy their operating systems from software resellers and not directly from Microsoft. Resellers will be allowed to provide XP to these clients until January 31, 2009.
Buy a 'Nettop' PC
Asus' hugely popular Eee-class mini-notebooks can run XPThe market for mini-notebooks -- low cost, low power ultra-portable PCs like the Asus Eee PC -- is heating up. These machines can run Windows XP, but most of them are too under-powered to run Vista. For that reason, many manufacturers are offering them with Linux pre-installed. Microsoft, sensing the danger of losing potential customers to Ubuntu or Fedora, has extended the XP cutoff date for these tiny machines.
You'll be able to buy a mini-notebook, or Nettop, as Microsoft calls them, with Windows XP until June 2010.
Check out Wired's review table of mini-notebooks
Buy overstock from eBay or Craigslist
Some budding entrepreneurs spent the last few months before the cutoff date hoarding copies of XP, and now they're ready to unload. Search the auction sites or local classified sites like Craigslist for independent sellers. Just beware of scams.
There's always BitTorrent
Of course, if any of these options listed above aren't appealing or available to you for some reason, you can turn to the net's seedy underbelly for your needs.
Besides being dangerous and illegal, piracy has proven to be an efficient distribution mechanism for Windows XP. Various versions of the OS optimized for tasks like gaming, audio production or video editing are available on a nefarious tracker site near you