​What options do Windows XP and Vista users have in a Windows 10 world?

Sarah Tew/CNET

Windows 10 is now available. Microsoft is currently offering the operating system for free for a limited time to Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 users. While this is great news for a majority of PC owners, those of you still holding on to a Windows XP or Windows Vista machine may be feeling left behind. All isn’t lost, however, and there are still upgrade options available. Here’s what you can do:

Do nothing

No one is forcing you to update to Windows 10. There are plenty of happy people with computers that “just work” running Windows XP or Windows Vista. Microsoft, however, no longer issues security updates and patches for Windows XP. This means that your PC is more vulnerable to malware. Windows Vista will no longer be receiving these patches in April of 2017.

Windows 10 isn’t like the horrors you may have heard about with Windows 8. In fact, it isn’t all that different from Vista or XP from a visual standpoint. Sure, there are some differences, but you will find a familiar Start button and the desktop interface you have come to know and love with Windows. In addition, however, Windows 10 also adds the helpful Cortana voice assistant to the desktop, a new Edge Web browser replaces Internet Explorer, and there’s even Xbox One game streaming.

See if you can update to Windows 10

The requirements to run Windows 10 are the same as Windows 7. If your system meets the minimum hardware requirements, you can do a clean install of Windows but it will cost you. A copy of Windows 10 Home retails for $119, while Windows 10 Pro costs $199. There’s also the Windows 10 Pro Pack for $99. This will let you upgrade from Windows 10 Home to the Pro edition at a later time.

The good news is that you won’t need a system with incredibly high-end hardware to run Windows 10, but some older machine may still not be capable of running it. Windows 10 requirements are:

  • Processor: 1GHz CPU or faster
  • RAM: 1GB (32-bit) or 2GB (64-bit)
  • Disk space: 16GB (32-bit) or 20GB (64-bit)
  • Graphics: DirectX 9-capable video card with WDDM driver

Scrap your old PC, and get a shiny new one that can run Windows 10

Even if your machine meets the minimum system requirements to run Windows 10, it may not do so very smoothly. It may be a better investment to buy a new PC, especially given that it costs $120 to purchase Windows 10. There are many laptops that range from as little as $200 to $500 that are capable of running Windows 10 without any known problems.

There a lot of Windows laptops to choose from, but these are the ones that CNET section editor Dan Ackerman has found to be the best for Windows 10.

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