Chances are that April 2014 came and went without your alarm. Sadly however, that is the date Microsoft stopped supporting its 12-year operating system, XP. The biggest issue for me, was simply that the lack of security upgrades could put the rest of the household technology at risk.
I had a laptop that just wasn't good enough to make the cut to an upgrade. The newer Windows 8 operating system cost more than the PC alone was worth. I finally resolved, seven months later, to do something with it. I reconfigured it with a Linux operating system. I must say that I'm simply impressed by how well it runs now.
One of the nicest aspects of running Linux is that you can test it out before you make a more permanent decision. The system is compact enough to run from a small flash drive. Additionally, if you use a program like Yumi, you can boot multiple distributions of Linux from the same drive.
Linux comes in multiple distributions, or in tech jargon, distros. Each one has its own benefits. From a popularity standpoint, Ubuntu tops the list. For my project, I chose two. One is called Tails, and recently came into the spotlight because Edward Snowden touted its security and anonymity. The other is called Linux Mint, and it's a fork of Ubuntu (the program updates come from Ubuntu) with the added benefit of default music and video apps. I found both to be exceptional.
Linux distributions come preloaded with apps. Both Tails and Linux Mint had LibreOffice, an office suite compatible with Microsoft Office, preinstalled. Linux Mint has GIMP and VLC along with other well-regarded open source programs. Frankly, I don't know that there was much missing that I would need for a student PC. Oh, and did I mention that the system is fast? I don't know when I recall feeling this unbloated. I guess it would have to harken back to the days of command line DOS.
Linux is not DOS. Thankfully. Rather, it's a fully mature operating system running on a graphical interface, just like Windows and Mac OS. My computer looks just like anyone else's these days. Here's the thing. I liked the new Linux OS so much, I also installed it on another older PC -- and I did it with a dual system menu. It runs both Windows 7 and Linux, albeit not at the same time.
If you have an older PC, save our environment and recycle it right in your own home. The Linux distros are open source and free. You may even be like me and find it so good that it belongs on your post-XP computers as well.