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Microsoft retires Windows 2000, Windows XP SP2

Windows 2000 and Windows XP Service Pack 2 officially get dragged to the Recycle Bin today.

Those two old editions of Microsoft's operating system won't magically stop working at the stroke of midnight. But today ends the company's support for each: It will no longer release new security fixes or provide technical assistance for them. So if you want to keep running them, you're on your own.

Good. It's time to say "buh-bye" to both releases.

Windows 2000 looked obsolete back in 2005, five years after its debut; giving its largely corporate users another five years of support was more than generous enough. Microsoft is a for-profit company, not a public utility; it is within its rights to direct its resources towards products it sells today.

By way of comparison, Apple has a habit of only supporting the current and previous version of OS X--the 2005-vintage OS X 10.4 Tiger saw its last update in May 2009. Things aren't that different with the open-source Linux operating system: Even the "long term support" releases of Ubuntu Linux, such as the recently reviewed 10.04, only come with three years of updates.

Windows XP SP2 -- the name refers to the massive, desperately needed Service Pack 2 security update Microsoft shipped in 2004 -- represents a different matter.

Six years approaches eternity in the life of a home-computer operating system -- few home PCs stay in service that long. Plus, Microsoft released its next and final Service Pack patch for XP, Service Pack 3, more than two years ago. And Windows XP itself remains under "extended support" -- that is, patches for vulnerabilities only -- until April 8, 2014.

(I can only imagine the howls of outrage that will come in four years, given the strange devotion some XP users have to what has become a living fossil of an operating system.)

But many people have told me they couldn't install SP3 -- just as many told me they had problems with SP2, and much like how others have complained about problems adding such comparatively minor updates as a new version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.

There's not much I can do in those cases besides recite such traditional remedies as "install it in Safe Mode" -- in part because the victims of these malfunctions rarely provide a description more detailed than "it didn't work" or "the computer crashed." The odds are they had some preexisting condition on their PC that would have caused trouble eventually -- but that's of little consolation to these folks, many of whom also didn't back up their data.

Others may not have bothered. Microsoft blandly labels SP3 "an important update that includes previously released security, performance, and stability updates for Windows XP," suggesting that users who downloaded earlier fixes already got its benefits. You'd have to click through a more technical document to see how many of SP3's patches are "hotfixes" that may not have been distributed automatically through Microsoft's Windows Update service.

Instead of scolding home users still stuck on XP Service Pack 2, I'd rather try to help them. Have you experienced and overcome obstacles installing XP SP3, or have you helped a friend through those issues? Please share your experience, and what worked for you, in the comments.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  July 13, 2010; 11:51 AM ET
Categories:  Security , Windows  
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I've run into issues where a SP3 install fails. In many cases I've been able to fix the problem by following these instructions:

In some cases, though, the OS was corrupt and I had to do a clean install.

Posted by: DavidFlores | July 13, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

The Microsoft-apologist tone of this column was eye-opening.

You conveniently ignore the fact that when MS comes out with a new OS, you eventually have no choice but to replace not only your old OS but frequently a bunch of software and hardware that is still perfectly good but just won't run on the new system.

All this so a huge obscenely rich company can get even richer.

Oh, sure it may be within their "rights" but I also have the right to be completely disgusted with Microsoft. I find your scolding tone to be completely uncalled for.

Posted by: solsticebelle | July 13, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

I have a 10 year old computer running Windows 2000 - it's still going strong. The only problem is that it's a little too slow to play videos, but for everything else it still works fine. I have it as my main computer because I installed a RAID controller in it, and it's the only computer I have that has data redundancy, so I keep all my important data on it.

Posted by: slwapo | July 13, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

i work on computers for a living and have yet to find a computer from any manufacturer that will not load xpsp3. the problem is not in the service pack, it is the hardware of the computer and may also be due to viruses. most people that claim to have this loading problem do not realize their system needs more ram and a bigger hard drive instead of those hard drives that are less than 20gb.

Posted by: Rickk1 | July 13, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

i also read an article today that claimed microsoft has decided to add an xp downgrade to windows7 due to win7 not being as popular as they had hoped and that this downgrade would then extend xp support to 2020.

Posted by: Rickk1 | July 13, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

I know that MS is not a public utility, but I have had an XP OS Compaq for over 5 years now and for what I have to do--write, check email, download photos, access my office files from home etc., it works just fine. Every time I think about getting a Windows 7 PC I think "What do I need this for?" and hang on to the Compaq. I don't buy new just to buy new. When I replaced my 36 inch Sony CRT TV with a 46 inch Mitsubishi Hi Def LCD the benefits were immediate and visible. Windows 7? Not really.

Posted by: jhpurdy | July 13, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if a few coats of clear nail polish would provide enough of an insulation barrier--and be a lot more attractive than tape!

Posted by: tonymayo1 | July 13, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I am my family's "tech support" and have dealt with everything from Windows 95 to Windows 7 in the MS world. 7 freezes my brand new Dell notebook with 8 GB of RAM on about a weekly basis. Now granted XP was never super stable, but I never saw a freeze or blue screen of death that frequently. I still run XP on 2 machines (though rarely used) and my sister has Vista. XP is still by far the most stable (after SP2).

To be fair, I also have a Macbook and Mac-mini, which there is no comparision...much better than any Windows product as far as stability goes. O/S has not failed me in the 6 years or so I've had a Mac.

Posted by: lamaccountant1 | July 13, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

If someone is still running XP at less than the Service Pack 3 level, it's a deliberate choice they've made. SP3 shows up as an Automatic Update so the SP2 users (or their administrators) intentionally avoided the update or uninstalled SP3.

The few remaining Win 2000 users are either hard-core loyal to their operating system or they are business systems that the administrators do not want to upgrade (for whatever reason).

From a malicious hacker point of view, XP SP2 and Win 2000 users will become easy targets. Just about any Microsoft security bulletin that affects XP SP3 will also affect XP SP2. The difference is that there won't be any patches for XP SP2. The same goes for Win 2000; because Win 2000 and XP share the same core code, most XP vulnerabilities also affect Win 2000. But again, no more patches for Win 2000.

Although, Microsoft may not explicitly announce that a future bulletin affects XP SP2 or Win 2000, you can bet that any malware author worth his salt will test his newest virus/trojan/spyware/exploit against XP SP2 and Win 2000. If it works, he's got it made. This type of back-testing is also used against other widely used but unsupported software, such as Office 2000 or Acrobat Reader 6.0 or 7.0.

If you still want to stay on XP SP2 or Win 2000, your only real defenses are:

1) run as a limited user for your daily work. Do not run as an administrator unless necessary. Unless you knew enough to make the switch, you're running as a administrator; that's the default setting for a fresh installation of XP. At work, your I.T. support already has you running as a limited user (unless they're incredibly stupid).

You can create a limited user account in the Control Panel (Start, Settings, Control Panel, User Accounts). You can convert your existing administrator account to a limited user, but be sure to create a new administrator account first (otherwise, you will lock yourself out of your system).

2) Use a non-Microsoft browser and keep it up to date. This is especially vital for Win 2000. The highest Internet Explorer version that can be installed on Win 2000 is I.E. 6 SP1.

Posted by: coakl | July 13, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Microsoft's lifecycle management Web site also indicates that after this month, OFFICE 2000 will no longer be supported with security updates.

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | July 13, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Since 2006 I've had a DELL D505, centrino 1.7 Mhz 2MB L2 and 333 Mhz PC 2700 1.5GB RAM (yes it is ancient!) but the hardware configuration has proved thus far to be very robust in handeling the XP-HOME EDITION (now with SP3) with every hotfix and update MS was able to throw at my D505 (they all installed seemlesly by the way). However, I did need to upgrade the RAM to 1.5GB from 250MB along the way for the D505 to show full blossom and a good updated antivirus too.
I would like from MS to hold on to the XPSP3 as long as possible, improve over it and sell the improvements if they like; it has evolved into a regular workhorse. Why reinvent the wheel? The new OSs are just resource guzzlers of the new machines rendering them almost like the old machines on XP on the first year of deployment.
Afew of my friends are benefitting from only the media performance of the new OSs as they bought new machines which are turning to ovens when they run applications on the new OSs. All have notebook coolers with them (I thought we're going green?). Here at 45-50 deg celcius believe you me you will need the coolers and then some, even the internal power packs will not last long in this heat unless you crank down the frequency and this renders the machine like a typewriter of the Forties.
Appologies to all who may contradict me!:-)

Posted by: iraqinthegray | July 13, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

I use Ubuntu Linux. My operating system(OS) is 2.5 months old. In another 3.5 months, I will install a new version of Ubuntu.

I never upgraded to newer versions when I was using Windows, because it costs money to upgrade any Windows OS. But since I started using Ubuntu, I have been installing latest version with in days of their release. No need to pay, just download and install the new version.

That is one type of freedom I get to enjoy just because of my decision to upgrade to Linux. There are other types of freedom too.

The main reason I always upgrade to latest version is - security. I keep my data segregated by using a data partition, so it will be easy for me to just install new version as soon as it comes along.

When I see new and shiny things in latest Ubuntu(apart from vastly better security), I fail to understand why people still stick to using almost decade old Windows XP.

If you are still using Windows XP at home, do yourself a favor. Give Ubuntu (or any other Linux for that matter) a try. Who knows, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Posted by: Indian-American | July 13, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse

Everything comes to an end, but the software industry should supply anyone who wants it a Final CD. I don't have a problem with the software people charging a nominal fee for that Final CD.

Whenever a company discontinues a product, it should fall immediately into the public domain. If the people want to use it at their expense and support it, that's fine. After all they paid for the product and the company is "abandoning" them.

Posted by: SteveR1 | July 13, 2010 10:38 PM | Report abuse

I'll be glad when M$ ends themselves. In this week economy, FOSS is gaining some ground.

Posted by: lord_beavis | July 13, 2010 11:34 PM | Report abuse

I know its very "Not MSlike" but i think it should consider releasing ths SP4!
XP SP3 will be already 4 years old in a few months time! & As per the latest data from "Net Applications", XP has almost 65% of Os market share.If one looks at the decrease of its market share within last one year, it will take nearly 5 more years at least to die or even close to Does any one agree with me?

Posted by: alpeshhindocha1 | July 14, 2010 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Wow, but with Windows7 being a complete success I am not surprised.


Posted by: clermontpc | July 14, 2010 8:27 AM | Report abuse

90% of Microsoft Office is fluff BS. I cannot see the justification of upgrading from Office 2000 to Office 2010 if I don't need it. Who really uses all the new features? I know customers who care only about mail-merge, and that's it. I'm supposed to tell an office with 100 computers to get ready to spend $39,000 for a software upgrade they don't need because the manufacturer no longer supports what they have?

Imagine if auto-manufacturers stopped selling spark plugs for cars that were ten years old or older... people would switch manufacturers. No difference here. Sure the interior may look a little different, the shifter may be in a different place, but its still a vehicle that won't rape your wallet. Welcome to Open Source Software.

Posted by: wnett | July 14, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

It still floors me that people get angry at a profit-driven corporation for discontinuing a decade-old product after releasing a far superior successor. the article author even mentioned that OS X only supports 2 versions at a time, and they update pretty regularly yet no one complains. Windows 7 isn't just a slap of paint and a loss of resources, there are security features and numerous other low-level technologies tied into the very core of the operating system. These things couldn't be ported to XP without breaking applications the same way they do with Win7 as it is.

I'm not being biased, I use windows 7 at home and use XP at work, and it's an amazingly painful experience. XP is no faster than Win7 despite being exceptionally more vulnerable and feature-shallow.

If you have some irrational devotion to XP, that's your deal, otherwise there is no reason not to shell out 100-200 dollars once every DECADE for a new operating system.

Posted by: burkhartmj | July 14, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

I think the open source idea would be a great solution. I also like the automotive analogy. If Microsoft is bailing on a product that many believe still has life, why not turn it into an aftermarket supported OS? It's already been proven to work with Linux.

Posted by: whineyboy | July 14, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

@Rikk1: You're right. SP2 made some systems which had been infected by various bits of malware unbootable, so Microsoft tested this further with SP3 and made it detect the common problems and refuse to install. If SP3 won't install and you have enough free disk space, the problem is almost 100% certainly an infection.

@lamaccountant1: If a new machine is crashing on a weekly basis, there's something wrong with it. Given that the majority of users, including many other users of your hardware since it's a Dell and is likely rather common, do not have these issues it's probably exclusive to your machine.

Take a look at the blue screen next time you get it. If it lists a file, write it down. If it's the same file more than once in a row, Google the filename and figure out what it's associated with. In that case it's likely a driver crashing which may need to be reinstalled or updated.

If there's no file name or it varies, the issue is likely hardware-related. In that case, download a copy of Memtest86+ for free from the Memtest home page, burn it, and boot your PC off the disk. That will run a stress test on the RAM and memory controllers in your laptop. I'd place a bet that if it's not a driver you have a bad RAM chip. Let it run for at least two full passes. If it starts puking errors at you, look at where in the memory range those errors are. Since you say you have 8GB of RAM in a laptop, it likely has two 4GB chips, so the first 4GB of memory will typically be DIMM1 and the second 4GB DIMM2. When you get errors at the same point in two different passes, you've found your culprit. Swap the chips between the two slots and try again to verify. If the errors move to follow, it's a bad RAM module. If they remain in the same place, it's a bad motherboard.

In the unlikely case that it's not a clear driver issue and memtest comes back clean, all you're left with is a reinstall. Install from clean media rather than the Dell restore disk. If somehow there is still a problem after this, there is a deeper hardware problem with your system which I can't help diagnose via a limited forum like this.

@wnett: Comparing software updates to car parts is silly. Car parts are bought and sold, software updates are given away. Because of that, spare car parts will be sold as long as a market exists to purchase them which is large enough to sustain profitability for the part maker. This is further assisted by the fact that most car parts are shared across multiple models. If I make a spark plug for a GM LS1 engine, I'm selling it to owners of Corvettes, Firebirds, Camaros, GTOs, etc. That extends the profitable life of making those parts. On the other side, where is the profit drive for creating updates when not one or two but three whole OS releases have gone by since then? Microsoft makes their money selling you the OS and applications, updates cost them.

Posted by: wolrah | July 14, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

If anybody thinks the author of this column is too "pro-microsoft" then just read the previous article he links to where he says "if you want Microsoft to listen up, then buy something else". Now that's sane advice. We live in a free market people.

There is Linux out there. There are Macs. You can even browse the web on your little 5" cell phone screen if you want to. Go nuts. Knock yourself out. You can keep using Windows XP, at your sole option, at your own risk.

Windows 7 is pretty good. I say that with some real sense of surprise actually. I have been using it at work all day every day since launch day. I am a professional software developer. Windows has never been as good as this. Windows XP and 2000 fans may not mind their platform's shoddy support for security, their unstable USB peripheral code, and all that. But there are objective ways in which Microsoft Windows 2000 and XP are no longer suitable as general purpose operating systems even on a PC purchased five years ago.


Posted by: warrenpst | July 14, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I'm fine with dumping 2000 and XP SP2, but XP3 is a mission-critical product that has no replacement. I know Windows 7 does much more than Vista in terms of providing backwards compatibility, but it simply is not 100%. If you are a system administrator at a small government, company, or NGO, you have much to lose and nothing to gain by upgrading. Those in that position simply will not upgrade unless forced.

As for me, I assume IBM will get their act together and make a version of Rational System Architect that will install in Windows 7, but I suspect my Canon printer is a lost cause.

Posted by: slar | July 15, 2010 7:44 AM | Report abuse

XP SP3 broke my backup laptop's wireless card. So, I just ran a network cable from the router to it and XP SP3 installed fine. By the way, I love Vista and I hope Microsoft supports it for a long time.

Posted by: JohnHH3 | July 16, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Windows 2000 is great! I still use it to this very day.

Posted by: patsco123 | July 20, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

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