This week, Microsoft ends free support for Windows XP, cutting off the supply of security updates and bug fixes to anyone unwilling to pay the $200 per desktop fee MS is asking for extended support.

XP machines aren't just going to explode at midnight on April 8th but with hackers and malware authors already comfortable with the antiquated OS, it won't be long before some new exploit is discovered that will never be fixed. In short, if you value security then it makes sense to stop using XP.

Unless you are prepared to cough up the ongoing support fees - like the UK Government, which recently negotiated a bargain rate of £5.5 ($9.2) million for a year's worth of critical security fixes - the logical response would seem to be to retire the aging XP box and buy a new PC running Windows 8 or perhaps Windows 7 if you haven't quite adjusted to Metro yet.

But is that the best solution? Now that the end of XP is upon us, might it be time to give the world of Linux a try - breathing new life into your old hardware with a solid OS that doesn't take a spanking new machine to run and which may still give you the security updates you need well into the future?

You may have dabbled in Linux before and been put off by lack of hardware support or cryptic interfaces but the free OS has not stood still.

Modern Linux distributions offer easy installs, good hardware support and a greatly improved user experience compared to the UNIX of old. It's not a complete no-brainer however and there are still some important caveats when considering to a move to Linux.

Ubuntu UI