Today, Windows XP transitions from free, mainstream support to extended support. Because of recent news reports about this transition, many customers believe that Microsoft is dropping support for XP. But that's not the case, the software giant says.

"Microsoft will continue to provide support for Windows XP until April 2014," a Microsoft spokesperson told me. "The ongoing support for Windows XP is a reflection of Microsoft's commitment to provide the highest level of support for all XP customers."

According to Microsoft's product support lifecycle policy, business products receive two levels of support from the company. In the first level, mainstream support, customers get free support for the first five years of the product's life. But since XP was released in 2001, the software giant has added almost three years of additional free support.

The second phase, which XP is now entering, is called extended support. In this phase, Microsoft continues to provide free monthly security patches to all customers. XP users can also purchase paid support for specific problems, on a per-incident basis (all customers) or over time (corporate customers). XP's extended support phase runs through April 8, 2014.

For most XP users, then, nothing is changing: The product will continue to be serviced with free monthly security updates for the next five years. And those who have trouble installing XP can still get free phone support from the company.

Despite being succeeded by Windows Vista, XP remains the most frequently used OS worldwide, with approximately 63 percent usage share, compared with about 23 percent for Vista