Update 1/24/2014 - Techsoup's Microsoft discount program is only available for public access computers. This is from their page on eligibility requirements:
Microsoft - Restrictions for the Software Donation Program for Nonprofits and Public Libraries
"Public libraries may request Microsoft software donations through this program only for use on public access computers or on computers that are used to directly manage either the public access computers or the library's public access program."
Microsoft has decided that it's no longer going to support Windows XP after April 8, 2014. This is from the Microsoft website:
Support is ending soon: On April 8, 2014, support and updates for Windows XP will no longer be available. Don't let your PC go unprotected.
If you follow the link to that web page, you'll get information from Microsoft on how to check and see which operating system your computer is running. It will also tell you what the end of support means. Your computer(s) will continue to run but they'll be increasingly vulnerable to viruses and other attacks particularly via the Internet. Some security experts fear that hackers are now saving up their attacks and will unleash them after April 8. It could get ugly out there in a hurry.
Microsoft also provides a link to Windows Upgrade Assistant. That will tell you whether or not your computer, software applications, printer, etc. are compatible with Windows 8.
I'm thinking that might not be the best solution for older machines. I'd suggest seeing if your computer is compatible with Windows 7 instead:
Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor - Find out if your PC can run Windows 7
If your computer won't run Windows 7, I'd suggest taking it offline before April 8. It might still have some usefulness for you running Office apps or other software that isn't dependent on the Internet. But you don't want to keep it as an Internet connected device.
Another option for older hardware is to consider running Linux on it instead of Windows. This doesn't require as much tech savvy as it did in the past but you'll need someone who's not afraid of a little command line coding.
If your computer will run Windows 7, Techsoup.org is a great place to look for discounts on Microsoft and other commercial software. Here's their Microsoft Product page:
Microsoft Product Catalog
Under browse products, you'll find a dropdown box with a number of software options, you'll probably want to look at Microsoft Windows PC Operating System Upgrades for Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 options. Their admin fee is only $12. It's well worth the cost and the hassle of upgrading to avoid problems with your library's network.
Techsoup also has some useful information on how to upgrade your computer:
Windows XP Upgrade Tips – Will Your Existing Software and Hardware Work?
Microsoft is also ending support for Office 2003 in April. So, you'll want to look at upgrading that as well. Techsoup can help with discounts on Microsoft Office. In addition, there are open source alternatives. PCWorld looks at 5 of them in this article:
5 free open source alternatives to Microsoft Office
Would love to hear what your experience is with various open source options. Which would you recommend and would you be willing to advise and support library colleagues? You can comment and if we get enough response, I'll post in a separate blog post.