Microsoft hands Windows XP a lifeline, but the clock’s still ticking


Microsoft has thrown a lifeline to the millions of users who’re still running the decrepit Windows XP operating system on their computers, by announcing it’ll be extending anti-malware support for an extra year. This means that Windows XP computers will continue to receive updates until April 2015.

Previously, Microsoft had insisted that support for Security Essentials, Forefront Endpoint Protection, Forefront Client Security, System Center Endpoint Protection and Windows Intune would end in April, the same day that support for the actual OS ends too – April 8, 2014. Had that been the case, those using Windows XP – and there are still millions of them – would’ve stopped receiving anti-malware updates in April, even though updates for the same software would be provided to those running Windows Vista or more recent operating systems.

Good news then that Microsoft has decided to backtrack on this. In a blog post on Wednesday, the company said that XP users would be given one final reprieve, giving them an extra year to migrate to a fresher operating system.

“To help organizations complete their migrations, Microsoft will continue to provide updates to our antimalware signatures and engine for Windows XP users through July 14, 2015,” said Microsoft’s Malware Protection Center in its blog. This means that XP users now have 14 months in which to upgrade.

That’s good news for slackers, but that doesn’t mean they should look to upgrade as soon as they possibly can. Anti-malware updates are one thing, but the operating system itself will no longer be supported as of this April. Any new, never-to-be-patched vulnerabilities that are discovered in the software will be a serious temptation for hackers, while later updates for Vista and other operating systems could help cybercriminals to discover similar flaws in XP.

Microsoft warns about this danger itself:

“Our research shows that the effectiveness of antimalware solutions on out-of-support operating systems is limited. Running a well-protected solution starts with using modern software and hardware designed to help protect against today’s threat landscape.”

The warning doesn’t really get any clearer than that, yet there are millions of systems that have yet to be updated. At the last count, it’s believed that Windows XP is running on close to a third of the world’s PCs.