End of Support for XP SP2 is End of an Era

Microsoft’s announcement this week that it is preparing to end support for machines running Windows XP SP2 not only represents a challenge for the thousands of businesses still running SP2, but also is the end of an era for both Microsoft and its customers.

Microsoft’s announcement this week that it is preparing to end support for machines running Windows XP SP2 not only represents a challenge for the thousands of businesses still running SP2, but also is the end of an era for both Microsoft and its customers.

By the time Microsoft drops support for XP SP2 on July 13, Windows XP will be nearly nine years old. The OS was released in August 2001 as a replacement for Windows 2000 and was the last full release of Windows before Microsoft started its Trustworthy Computing effort. Very soon after the famous memo from Bill Gates appeared, attention both inside and outside the company focused on hardening Windows XP.

The first release of Windows XP was not seen as much of a security upgrade over Windows 2000, and it became clear fairly quickly that it was going to need some serious help. And soon. Windows XP had a firewall installed with it, but it was turned off by default and wasn’t obvious to a lot of users.

With Service Pack 2 Microsoft set out to fix that and add a number of other security protections, as well. It wasn’t until 2004 that the final release of XP SP2 actually hit the streets. But when it did, it represented a huge step forward in security for Windows users. It wasn’t necessarily the feature set that mattered as much as the fact that the protections were enabled by default and taken out of the users’ hands.

Not only did XP SP2 turn on the Windows Firewall by default, which was a major upgrade. But the service pack also added hardware support for DEP (Data Execution Prevention), an important defense against buffer overflow attacks. This was at a time when worms such as Code Red, Nimda and others were tearing through networks around the world, exploiting memory vulnerabilities and paralyzing systems.

The combination of these security features and the addition of the Windows Security Center, which gave users a dashboard-type view of the status of their antivirus software, firewall and other protections, was a milestone in desktop security. Microsoft has continued to add security features to subsequent releases of Windows, but XP SP2 was the one that started it all.

And now, Microsoft is ending support for XP SP2, as well as for Windows 2000, a move that’s been anticipated for some time. (The company will still support SP3 for Windows XP.) It’s a decision that likely has as much to do with the company’s interest in having customers upgrade to a new version of Windows–or even a new machine entirely–as it does with the practical considerations of continuing to provide patches and tech support for outdated OS versions. But that doesn’t make it any less problematic for organizations that have plenty of XP machines happily humming along.

As Byron Acohido points out, this is not an insignificant problem.

“Such desktop PCs and servers are still widely used in corporate
networks globally. And as anyone paying attention knows, infected PCs in corporate
settings are in high
by cyber gangs controlling the botnets driving all forms of
cybercrime. Botnets are used to  spread spam, steal data, hijack online
bank accounts, commit click fraud and conduct denial-of- service
attacks for extortion or political reasons,” Acohido writes.

Older machines often are prime targets for attackers, who know that these PCs are less likely to be fully updated. But they’re just as valuable to botmasters, spammers and other attackers as newer PCs are. A win is a win, regardless of the victim’s age.

For Microsoft and its customers, the end of support for XP SP2 is the end of the beginning of Microsoft’s security initiative.

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  • Anonymous on

    you could always move ot SP3 on XP

  • Fernando on

    Yes, this whole article completely misses the point: Microsoft still supports XP SP3.  It's by no means the "end of an era."

  • Dennis Fisher on

    Right, SP3 is still supported. The point isn't that XP itself is done, but that SP2 was the beginning of the security push and it's going end-of-support. But you're right about SP3.

  • Anonymous on

    The other problem is that some games work well with SP2 but doesn't work with SP3

  • Anonymous on

    The problem for my company is that the vast majority of our workstations currently run Windows XP 64-bit, which for some reason does not support the installation of SP3.  It looks to me like this is just yet another attempt by Microsoft to force people to "upgrade" to Windows 7.

  • Douglas on

    At the link provided in this article there is a note toward the bottom.

    * Note: There's no SP3 for the 64-bit version of Windows XP. If you’re running the 64-bit version of Windows XP with SP2, you have the latest service pack and will continue to be eligible for support and receive updates until April 8, 2014.

    So long live windows XP x64!

  • Shirley Serious on

    You are the only person in the world that thinks a firewall being turned on by default is a "major upgrade."

  • Evisscerator on

    As with all good things, so must a robust operating system (Windows XP Home/Pro) must come to an end , at least on the support end. It is undeniably the most popular and widely used Operating System ever built by Microsoft or anyone else.

    Hear Hear, 3 Cheers for Windows XP !!!

  • Anonymous on

    Shirley, are you serious? From a security perspective a firewall being turned on by default is most assuredly a "major upgrade". Systems all of a sudden were more secure by default - And not just a little bit more secure. For users who didn't know what a firewall  was (most users) it meant they were already that much more secure.

  • Anonymous on

    The fact that the default enablement of a firewall is considered a giant step forward shows just how insufferably weak Windows security was at that time. Some progress has been made by Microsoft but much more is needed.

  • Anonymous on

    FIRST I'm an old fart so some of my way of putting things may offend some younger people, but being around for 80 years you learn some things the hard way.

    I have a Dell XP / 64 / sp2 and I have had the pleasure of all kinds of bugs, mice, lice, termites,worms,you name it you got it so my cure is more simple.

    Take all these criters [ uncontrolable animals we send home ] but these we cannot but we could take them out and NEUTER them so they cannot create any more like them, a simple minded solution , to those who dont like it please enjoy your bugs, mice, lice, termites, worms, you name it . PLEASE DO IT IN SILENCE so the rest of us can be heard. 

  • Anonymous on

    Oh plz this is 2010, format that drive and get with th erest of the World.  OMG I am not surpised at these post, I bet you all miss Windows98 still.  Get a grip, get a life, get Windows 7!!!

  • Anonymous on

    Enabling a software setting isn't an upgrade, the software was already there. they just toggled it on. Besides it's not much of a firewall, if you have a router to block your ports then why would you need software on your computer to do the same??

  • Jack of Stonington on

    So XP-SP2 is out but XP-SP3 is still okay . . . , huh, so what? I have to say I don't know too many people running XP that are not already on SP3 so I don't understand all the fuss. This really is not a problem and if Microsnot were to drop XP all around then I could see a big problem it would cause an uprising and revolt against Microdread due to the number of clients using it.

    If you haven't tried Seven yet trust me it's no great deal and is not much better then XP for overall operation, I run XP-SP3 Pro, XP Home SP3, XP Media SP-3, Seven and Apple OS 10 Snow Leopard and I have to say that someday someone will have to come up with a single system that will be stable and used almost forever, oh it will need upgrades and changes but not a complete new system.  The day of a universal Op Sys is here because of the wide spread usage and the person that writes it will be a real winner - one system forever . . .  or at least for 20 years. If we can get one baseline guide operating system where people can select individual tangents and perks to build there systems as required so they can all be on one page and speak one language it will be a great day for computing. How funny - I know companies still running Windows "95", now that is funny - support for that stopped around the Bronze Age but they still keep it going and it still does the job for the machinery it is connected to.  What ever happened to the old Vic-20 or a Commodore 64? Now that was computing (hahaha) this is not a big deal in my book.

    By the middle of 2011 Microsoft will be due to release another new operating system anyway, Seven was a long time in coming and if you all recall the days of “98” and “98 SE” and so on you all know they need to drop in several new choices before long. Maybe Seven SE-2 with SP2.5 or Seven plus One . . . ? The day will come soon.   Oh, does anyone actually trust a Microsoft firewall anyway?


  • Anonymous on

    If you see what SP3 does to your PC, then Windows 7 is indeed faster than XP. Unbelievable they forced SP3 on us! Now I have to buy a new pc, because sweaty guy thinks I'm oldfashioned? Internet, mail and Office is all we need.

  • Anonymous on

    Get theb free vmplayer and set up a sandboxed xp-sp2 to play old games in. Heck setup a VM-Win98 machine too if you feel the need. 

  • Anonymous on

    windows 7 works fine not as good as xp but try to avoid vista please , and about the firewall yes is a major upgrade , i work as tech support and you be surprised on how much people doesnt know how to do that or even what os they used , lol hahahaha so is a major upgrade for the fools that use their computer as toys lol

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