updated 1/25/2007 7:58:30 AM ET 2007-01-25T12:58:30

On the eve of the consumer launch of its new Windows Vista operating system, Microsoft Corp. is extending the period in which it will offer support for the previous version, Windows XP.

Consumers who own Windows XP machines already were entitled to get customer service on the software up until April 2009.

That date reflects Microsoft's policy of curtailing its support for an edition of Windows two years after a new version hits the market.

On Wednesday, however, Microsoft said consumers who still have Windows XP running after April 2009 will be entitled to five more years of "extended support."

In the extended plan, consumers will still get security fixes, but instead of free service from the Microsoft help desk, they will have to pay for most assistance.

Microsoft said the move was meant to bring the support policies for consumers in line with what businesses already have.

Vista has been available for big businesses since Nov. 30 but hits the consumer PCs market as of Tuesday.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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