Windows XP SP2 updates end July 13 -- but don't panic

Scare stories abound about risks as Microsoft ends support for Windows XP, but updates will continues if you've installed SP3

The world is coming to an end! Or at least you'd think so by news reports of the dangers that companies face when Microsoft ends its extended support program for Windows XP Service Pack 2 on July 13.

Guess what? Nothing will happen to those Windows XP SP2 systems on July 14. Windows XP SP2 will be just as stable and secure then as it is now, with six years of patches already applied to it. All that will happen is that Microsoft will stop providing updates to the 32-bit version of XP SP2, as it has long been scheduled to do. And if you use the 64-bit version of XP SP2, you'll get automatic security updates through April 8, 2014. (Here's Microsoft's own explanation of what will happen.)

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There's also a simple fix for companies that plan to keep running 32-bit Windows XP after July 13 and want Microsoft's continued standard patch support: Upgrade (at no cost) to Service Pack 3. Security updates will be available until April 8, 2014, through Windows Update -- so you'll continue to get security updates for nearly four more years. That's hardly a crisis.

Of course, Microsoft wants customers to upgrade to Windows 7, so it's been spreading the word about the end of XP support to give lagging IT shops a nudge. So have consultants looking to do the upgrade work; one even suggested that clients upgrade to Windows 7 to avoid the "hassle" of upgrading to XP SP3 -- as if that were easier.

No doubt that very few organizations will still run Windows XP by 2014. But for those who are saving their time and dollars by deferring Windows 7 rollouts, there's no need to panic: You have time to roll out Windows 7 and keep a stable XP in the interim.

This article, "Enough with the Windows XP security 'red alert' nonsense," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.

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