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XP End of Life – Confusion on “Time of Death” Reports

So when does Microsoft pull the plug and declare Windows XP at End of Life?

For the past few years we were told that it was April 8, 2014, and most of us paid little heed to the warnings that we’d be vulnerable to security attacks after that.  We’ve fallen in love with this highly popular operating system and just didn’t want to part ways.

Then on January 15, Microsoft posted a new Antimalware Support for Windows XP  blog with the following lead paragraph:

Microsoft has announced the Windows XP end of support date of April 8, 2014. After this date, Windows XP will no longer be a supported 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.

This was immediately publicized across the blogosphere as a full stay of execution, and in fact the BBC blog headline read: ‘Microsoft extends security fixes for Windows XP to 2015’

Turns out that the confusion factor was so widespread that Microsoft added the following asterisk just days later:

 *We’ve received some inquiries about what “no longer supported operating system” means. To clarify, this mean that, after April 8, 2014, Windows XP users will no longer receive new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options, or online technical content updates from Microsoft.

Ok, I must admit at this point that I’m not an IT Security geek, and this still left me and apparently many others still confused.  So they appended the asterisk with the following comment on February 5, 2014:

We’ve received several inquiries about the difference between security updates and antimalware signatures, as well as the Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) for Windows XP. You can find answers to these questions and more on our Windows XP end of support page

So let’s go to that Microsoft page to learn more. And the answer is….

PCs running Windows XP after April 8, 2014 should not be considered to be truly protected.

After support ends for Windows XP on April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer provide security updates for Windows XP to help protect your PC against malware.

These updates to our antimalware products for Windows XP can help detect and block certain malware on your Windows XP PC while you complete your transition to a fully supported operating system. It’s important to note, however, that because antimalware products have limited effectiveness on PCs that do not have the latest security updates, your PC will still be at risk for infection.

We strongly recommend that you complete your migration to a supported operating system as soon as possible so that you can receive regular security updates to help protect your computer from malicious attacks.

So the bottom line is that you shouldn’t consider July 14, 2015 as a new End of Life date unless you don’t care about security.

This blog post on techradar.com explains this much less confusing way:

Microsoft will release “signatures” that will be used to identify and ward off malware for Windows XP systems. These signatures will continue to be delivered to Windows systems running various Microsoft security and management products.

Company officials had previously consistently warned that Microsoft would not provide patch support for Windows XP after April 8, and that the continued used of the operating system would expose it to zero-day attacks from hackers and malware. That message hasn’t changed, despite the introduction of the signatures.

“This [antimalware support announcement] does not affect the end-of-support date of Windows XP, or the supportability of Windows XP for other Microsoft products, which deliver and apply those signatures,” Microsoft’s announcement stated.

Windows XP will still lose product support on April 8, leaving it vulnerable, although antivirus signatures will help to identify any malware that may attack them. Microsoft will not issue security patches unless customers sign up for a subscription-style payment scheme.

The message is clear: Windows XP users should move on to Windows 7 or Windows 8.

If you haven’t completed your migration from Windows XP, you are not alone.

Spiceworks issued a report, entitled “Getting Over Your XP” (link opens a PDF) which revealed just how prevalent the Windows XP operating system remains 12 years after its release.

According to the survey, 76 per cent of IT professionals run Windows XP on devices within their place network. Of that number, 36 per cent will leave XP as the operating system after its end-of-life occurs. This means that when Windows cease to provide security updates, patches and bulletins for the operating system, 27 per cent of professionals will continue to use it. Reluctance to upgrade will increase the risk of malicious attack.

A similar story is told in this TechRepublic blog article:   Windows XP deadline looms, but many firms still aren’t ready to leap

And even with the end of support looming, many organizations remain unprepared to switch away from the OS. When asked “Do you think businesses are prepared for the end of Windows XP support?” TechRepublic’s CIO Jury of tech decision makers responded yes by seven-to-five, the narrowest of possible margins, while the comments by CIOs suggest that many organizations will chose to go it alone and run Windows XP even when Microsoft has stopped providing security fixes.

This article get the perspective of 12 different CIOS and is an interesting read regarding the “pains” of migration and how it has been a long and complicated process. Here are two examples.

Derrick Wood, group CIO at Wood Group, said it took a three-year multi-million dollar program to get his company ready for life after XP. 

XP migration projects also have the potential to suck money out of other initiatives unless budgets are carefully planned, warned Kelly Bodway, VP of IT at Universal Lighting Technologies: “Technically I believe businesses are ready, but the financial impact of making this change is quite substantial and if proper budgets were not already in place for this fiscal year, other spending areas will be impacted dramatically.”

So if you haven’t started the migration away from Windows XP, this may not be an easy fix with less than 50 days until end of life.

Looking for help to minimize the pains and costs of migration? EarthLink Business can provide guidance on how best to make that happen.

About Kevin Courteau

Kevin Courteau
Kevin serves as Senior Product Marketing Manager for EarthLink, supporting IT Services, MPLS, and Voice Services. Kevin is responsible for launching new services and developing campaigns and offers promoting them. Kevin manages the Industry Insights campaigns delivering whitepapers and webinar on topics of interest to customers and prospects. He brings nearly 30 years of marketing experience including 13 in telecommunications B2B product marketing. At Global Crossing Kevin served in multiple marketing positions and launched the world’s first global MPLS and VoIP services. He has an MBA in Marketing from the University of Iowa, and a BS in Industrial Engineering from Purdue.