A interesting hack surfaced yesterday that allows Windows XP users to alter their computer’s registry settings so as to allow them to continue receiving free security updates from Microsoft. The hack certainly appears to work, and ostensibly guarantees continued support for Windows XP systems for another five years, although it should probably only be used as a last resort.
To be honest it’s not even a hack we’re talking about here, because absolutely anyone can do this. Simply fire up “regedit”, navigate to HKLM\Sytem\WPA and then create a new key called PosReady. Click on the new key, add a new DWORD value, and set this to “1”. This will do the trick for a 32-bit system, while those running 64-bit XP can follow this guide here.
What this does is identify your PC as a Windows POSReady computer, rather than one that’s running Windows XP. It’s significant because POSReady is a variation of XP that’s designed to be run on embedded systems, although its codebase is said to be very similar to XP. More importantly, it will continue receiving updates from Microsoft until 2019 – in effect, giving you an additional five years of support.
In total, that means a staggering 18 years of security updates for Windows XP, not a bad run by any stretch of the imagination. But tweaking your registry to snag an extra five years of updates may not be the wisest move if you’re really concerned about security.
Having learned about the issue, Microsoft provided the following statement to ZDNet:
“We recently became aware of a hack that purportedly aims to provide security updates to Windows XP customers. The security updates that could be installed are intended for Windows Embedded and Windows Server 2003 customers and do not fully protect Windows XP customers. Windows XP customers also run a significant risk of functionality issues with their machines if they install these updates, as they are not tested against Windows XP. The best way for Windows XP customers to protect their systems is to upgrade to a more modern operating system, like Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.”
In all likelihood though, the sneaky updates will add some degree of protection to your rickety old machine, but unless there’s really no way you can afford an upgrade – and you just can’t stand the thought of switching to Linux – it’s probably not wise to see this as a ‘solution’.
As well as the compatibility issues Microsoft warns about, we should remember that XP just isn’t anywhere near as secure as Windows 7 or Windows 8. It simply isn’t built to contend with modern types of malware, and there’s the chance that Microsoft may figure out a way to identify registry ‘tweakers’ and neutralize this hack.
For those who can, it’s time to bite the bullet. Scape together your loose change and update that rusty old OS as soon as possible. Chances are you’ll be glad that you did.