Suck it up and upgrade to Windows XP SP3 already

If you haven’t moved on from SP2, do it now, because Microsoft ends support for it tomorrow

Sticking to its guns, Microsoft has confirmed that it is indeed pulling the plug on support for Windows XP SP2 tomorrow. Perhaps that will provide the much-needed kick in the rear for organizations that have steadfastly refused to upgrade to SP3 -- and evidently, quite a few companies fall into that category.

According to Wolgang Kandek, the CTO of IT security company Qualys, only half of all Windows XP installations have upgraded to SP3 since it was released in April 2008. Until the holdouts make the upgrade, they won't benefit from security updates and patches, meaning their systems may be less secure and less stable.

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"Even with a significant increase in the upgrade ratio, up from the 20 percent and 30 percent achieved in 2008 and 2009 respectively, we are still over a year away from having all machines migrated, threatening to leave many machines exposed to exploits for the vulnerabilities that we expect in the second half of 2010," Kandek writes.

Frankly, all those organizations that that are clinging to SP2 really have no excuse not to move to SP3. The upgrade is free, and as noted, it's been around for more than two years (whereas SP2 has been around since 2004). There's some wisdom in exercising discretion before adopting a major OS upgrade, certainly; SP2 had its share of flaws when it first came out, though Microsoft got it right eventually. Additionally, SP3 had critical bugs early on, but at this point, SP3 is sufficiently stable and will certainly be the more secure alternative to SP2 after tomorrow when Microsoft stops updating the latter.

Also, no grousing at Microsoft here -- the company isn't forcing you (yet) to pony up the dough for Windows 7 (or Vista). All it's doing is ending support for an outdated version of its venerable OS. You wouldn't expect Dell or HP to have replacement parts in stock for a computer you bought nearly 10 years ago, would you?

Notably, organizations running the 64-bit version of Windows XP still have some breathing room. SP3 is not available for that version of the OS. If you're running SP2, according to the company, you have the latest service pack and will continue to be eligible for support and receive updates until April 8, 2014.

This article, "Suck it up and upgrade to Windows XP SP3 already," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.


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