Microsoft extends support for Windows XP Service Pack 2
Microsoft plans to offer free patches for vulnerabilities it classes as security critical for Windows XP until at least 2014. The snag – as for all Microsoft products – this only applies where the latest Service Pack is installed. In this case this means SP3, which should be the last Service Pack for XP. Users still using an older Service Pack will no longer have access to support. Support for SP1 has already been withdrawn.
According to the original schedule, Microsoft was to have continued supporting SP2 for a further 12 months following the release of SP3. However due to large volumes of enquiries from customers, Microsoft has now extended this period to 24 months. Support policies for service packs have also been standardised. This change applies to all products from the Windows range, whilst for all other products only 12 months support will be offered for service packs prior to the current pack.
The change means that XP users have gained an extra year to update to SP3. SP3 does not at present offer any real benefits. All patches which fix vulnerabilities classed by Microsoft as security critical can be installed using the auto update system and SP3 does not offer any fundamentally new functionality. Instead, we have received many reports from readers of problems such as infinite restart loops. The causes of these problems are not yet known.
Microsoft has not yet revised its planned support end dates for Windows Vista. Vista Ultimate continues to be classed as a product for home use, so that it will not be eligible for extended support. The bizarre result is that, as things stand, Microsoft will provide patches for Windows XP Home for longer than for Vista Ultimate.