After 17 years, support for the last Windows XP variant comes to an end. Because of changes coming to Windows Update, users have until July to apply final patches.
Extended support for Windows Embedded POSReady 2009—the last supported version of Windows based on Windows XP—ended on April 9, 2019, marking the final end of the Windows NT 5.1 product line after 17 years, 7 months, and 16 days. Counting this edition, Windows XP is the longest-lived version of Windows ever—a record that is unlikely to be beaten.
Other enterprise-targeted variants of Windows XP have reached end-of-life recently, with Windows Embedded Standard 2009 reaching end-of-life on January 8, 2019. Windows Embedded for Point of Service SP3 and XP Embedded SP3 reached end-of-life in 2016, while support for Windows XP Home and Professional SP3 ended five years ago, on April 8, 2014.
SEE: How to avoid installing Windows 10 crapware (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
Despite the nominal end of support for Windows XP five years ago, the existence of POSReady 2009 allowed users to receive security updates on Windows XP Home and Professional SP3 through the use of a registry hack. Microsoft dissuaded users from doing this, stating that they "do not fully protect Windows XP customers," though no attempt was apparently made to prevent users from using this hack. With POSReady reaching the end of support, the flow of these security updates will likewise come to an end.
Facing facts, the death of Windows XP should be welcome at this juncture—ZDNet's Jason Perlow declared in 2017 that "If you're still using Windows XP, you're a menace to society," while the Australian Department of Defence only migrated the last of their systems off of Windows XP in February 2019.
Looking back: Migrating from Windows XP
In January 2014, Tech Pro Research surveyed TechRepublic members about their migration plans from Windows XP. The report (available freely here for TechRepublic members) found that 37% of respondents said they intended to continue using Windows XP.
Of those, 40% indicated that "It works, so there's no need to change," and 39% cited business-critical software with dependencies on Windows XP, a response that was more common among respondents from organizations with over 500 employees.
Of organizations that intended to remain on Windows XP, 42% of respondents cited security and malware risks as their primary concern, with 29% similarly concerned with a lack of continued patches or updates from Microsoft. Microsoft did go to the extraordinary step of patching Windows XP systems against WannaCry, deploying the update created for Embedded Standard and POSReady 2009, though 98% of WannaCry victims were using Windows 7.
Notably, 11% of respondents in the survey indicated plans to migrate systems to Linux, with 1% planning migrations to Mac OS X.
Where do you want to go today?
Microsoft undoubtedly would prefer Windows XP users upgrade to Windows 10, though attempting an in-place upgrade from XP to Windows 10 is likely a bad idea (and upgrading from POSReady 2009 to a consumer version of Windows is entirely unsupported). In 2015, TechRepublic chief reporter Nick Heath took a look at the lowest-spec systems you could install Windows 10 on.
If your systems are not connected to the Internet, it is possible to continue operating an out-of-support of system, though it's important to be wary about any devices—particularly USB drives—connected to the system.
It's unclear when Windows Update services for POSReady 2009 will be deactivated, if ever—minor issues such as expired certificates could impede the ability to install updates, though Windows 2000 could still connect to Windows Update as late as 2015, with some effort. Of note, Windows Update will require SHA-2 encryption support as of July 16, 2019 to continue receiving updates. It's probably a safe bet that Windows Update will continue to work normally until then, though guarantees are impossible. For current deployments, updating sooner rather than later is advisable.
Alternatively, the perennial Windows alternative ReactOS is still in active development.
For more, check out 8 strategies to keep legacy systems running, How PC/GEOS found a 5th life as an open source DOS shell, and how to install Windows 10 in a VM on a Linux machine, or for a deeper dive into TechRepublic's archives, check out "Microsoft bids adieu to Windows 98."
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