Microsoft retires Windows 2000, Windows XP SP2
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.
July 13, 2010; 11:51 AM ET
Categories: Security , Windows
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