Using Windows XP, but can't afford to upgrade to a newer operating system? If so, you're in a bit of luck: Microsoft is offering a $100 instant rebate on new computers and tablets for anyone who needs to trade up from XP.
There are a few catches, however: The hardware runs only Windows 8.1, it can only be purchased from the Microsoft Store, the model selection is fairly limited and everything that's available is pretty pricey.
With the "XPocalypse" — the official end of all Microsoft support and security updates for Windows XP — approaching April 8, millions of XP users worldwide are scrambling to update their systems. Many older XP machines can't run Windows 7 or 8, and their owners will have to buy new machines.
There's the cheap way to perform such a hardware upgrade: Shop around for a decent desktop tower under $500, and then plug in your existing monitor and keyboard.
Then there's the Microsoft way: Pay a lot for features you might not use, such as a touchscreen, and for Windows 8, an operating system not everyone wants.
The $100 rebate offer is "valid on select PC or Surface devices priced $599 or more" as the Microsoft Store promotional page states. There are no towers — desktops that go under the desk — available as part of the offer: only laptops, all-in-one desktops or Surface Pro 2 tablets.
All the devices have touchscreens, which adds to their cost. All the laptops and "2-in-1" devices (tablets that transform into laptops) sport Intel i5 or i7 central processing units, not cheaper Intel i3 or AMD chips. (The Microsoft Store does sell low-end laptops with AMD, i3 and Celeron chips, but they're not part of this.)
The offer, which runs until June 15, is only open to residents of the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. You can qualify either by bringing a "qualifying Windows XP device" into a physical Microsoft Store or by making an online purchase using such a device.
We called the Microsoft Store to ask what constituted a qualifying Windows XP device. A representative we reached at the support number provided for the online store told us that if we'd been viewing the Windows XP offer page from a Windows XP machine, we'd have seen a special code we could enter.
A different representative, whom we reached at the number for the Manhattan Microsoft Store, told us that a qualifying device in a brick-and-mortar store meant a fully functioning Windows XP machine that had come with XP installed. He added that we'd also have to leave the old device at the Microsoft Store before we could take the new machine home.
The purported fringe benefits that come with the instant-rebate offer are illusory. The offer page states that you'll be entitled to a free data transfer from an XP machine using Laplink PCmover Express, but the truth is any XP user can download this software for free.
The page also says you get 90 days of the Microsoft Signature Experience, which means your computer has no pre-installed junkware or trialware, has Windows Defender as an anti-virus solution instead of a third-party trial version, and comes with free telephone support. But every shopper at the Microsoft Store gets that deal.
Finally, a price comparison shows that the offer may not be worth it. The least expensive laptop available, the Acer Aspire V5-473P-6459, costs $599 at the Microsoft Store; it's $379.99 at Amazon.
Even with the $100 instant rebate, you'd still be paying $119 more at the Microsoft Store — just enough to buy a second copy of Windows 8.1 for a friend.