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As official support for Windows XP is phased out, what you can expect from Microsoft will change. Fortunately, it will phase out over a fairly long time.

When Microsoft discontinues support for XP, what will happen if I need to reformat? Will I still be able to get all the updates?

It depend on exactly when you're thinking of. Microsoft won't just stop supporting XP, they'll phase out support. Where in that phase out you happen to be will make a lot of difference.

Fortunately, we have examples of what they've done in the past to make some guesses as to how they'll handle XP.

First, my prediction is that whatever the currently stated dates are for Windows XP's end of life, they'll likely be extended. As we know, many people have been slow to leave XP behind and move to Vista. How Windows 7 will impact this is anyone's guess, but the large remaining installed base of Windows XP, particularly in business, will I believe cause Microsoft to extend support beyond its original plans.

That being said, though, all good things will eventually come to an end.

Based on Microsoft's past phase out of products like Windows 98, I'll throw out this as a likely scenario:

"... all good things will eventually come to an end."
  • Support for the original product without service packs is withdrawn. Windows XP is actually already at this point since as SP2 is now required. If you attempt to take product updates for an original Windows XP, one of the first things you'll be expected to take is SP2.

  • Support for early service packs is withdrawn. Once again, Windows XP is already at this point, as SP1 is no longer supported. Your first attempt to update an SP1 machine should result in a download of SP2.

  • At what Microsoft calls the "supported service pack level" (as I write this, currently SP2 and SP3 for Windows XP), the product is in "Mainstream Support", including security updates, bug fixes and more.

  • After some period of time (Microsoft documents this as 5 years, but it's been known to change), the product enters "Extended" support phase. Most notably, this means that only security updates are issued. My sense is that the requirements for what is, and is not a security issue also get tougher throughout that phase.

  • After another 5 years or so, the product enters what Microsoft carefully calls "Self-help online support". Put another way, you're on your own. All the documentation remains online, but actual support and/or updates may no longer be available. Windows 98 and Me are in this phase right now.

Now, interestingly, if you look at the Windows Support Lifecycle information on Windows XP, they currently list the following dates for Windows XP Pro:

  • General Availability: 12/31/2001

  • Mainstream Support Retired: 4/14/2009

  • Extended Support Retired: 4/8/2014

As you can see, mainstream support for Windows XP is scheduled to be retired within weeks of this article being published. Will it happen? Maybe, maybe not. The good news is that security updates will continue to be available into 2014.

Will you be running Windows XP in 2014? To be honest, I hope not. That's kind of like running Windows 98 today - it's just not really a good idea. But if for some reason you must, you'll be able to.

Article C3686 - March 27, 2009 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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24 Comments
Ziggie
March 27, 2009 10:01 AM

But what about Genuine Advantage? Will installing Windows XP after extended support end cause a validation fail?

For example, I just installed Windows 98 on a very old machine and it was nice as there was no validation required.

Do we know what Microsoft will do?

No, we do not know what Microsoft will do. We never do. I would expect they'll either continue validation even longer than the traditional support period, and when time comes to kill it, do so in a way that allows systems to continue to work.
- Leo
28-Mar-2009
Richard FDisk
March 27, 2009 9:09 PM

One thing I recommend to anyone who needs to avoid Vista, ie. those who do Audio / Video work such as myself and can't get Vista drivers (because they don't and won't ever exist) for their preferred hardware, ie. professional Audio / Video cards, especially on the recording end,
here's my suggestion,
even though you may have already received all or most of the XP updates, you can still go to MS Download and retrieve the "Hard Copies" of the KB patches and burn them off to Data CD / DVD or store them on an External device such as a large flash drive.
One more suggestion is to create a backup image of an "Activated" windows install so that "if" When you need to re-install because of the HDD or Virus etc. you can start there instead of having to call support and explain why you need to use your Key for the umpteenth time.

Guin
March 29, 2009 3:55 PM

I wish MS would let us know when they're going to start releasing machines with 7 pre-installed. I am waiting to get a laptop and I refuse to purchase a Vista machine for my son to bring to college.

Rob Wheeler
March 31, 2009 8:30 AM

With large businesses such as the USPS locked in to XP for the forseeable future, it's hard to imagine that Microsoft will not continue support for as long as necessary. This may also be true for other government entities, as well. Eventually XP will fade away, but the current economic situation almost guarantees that it will be around for longer than originally planned.

Jeanne Chaikin
March 31, 2009 10:38 AM

Not only are large businesses locked into Win XP, but recently, thousands of mini-laptops are being manufactured and sold with XP - a new life for an operating system that was just about to disappear on new machines; and I, for one am glad. Dont't like Vista, never will.

Bernard Winchester
March 31, 2009 11:02 AM

Before withdrawing support for an operating system, Microsoft should rollup all of the updates into one last service pack: that would simplify re-installion. Less testing than usual for an SP would be acceptable in these circumstances.

Chris B
March 31, 2009 11:22 AM

Go to softwarepatch.com and there you will find Microsoft patches to download. If you have installed Service Pack 3 then you need only download those which were released after that time.

Robert Kuth
March 31, 2009 12:24 PM

Xp expires wouldn't it be a good idea to shift to a linux distribution like maybe ubuntu. I've already done that since last August. I only use Xp for a very few programs on a dual boot system. My linux system gets updated every six months to a new version and I still get daily security updates. The cost of switching is $0.00.

julianignacio
March 31, 2009 12:26 PM

I had the general impression that Vista was a nightmare, but after using it on a new laptop for a couple of months and doing some tweaking on it, I find it acceptable to work with. However, I still rely on XP for the main desktops in my business and would never change them to Vista. It's a relief to know the old reliable OS will be around for more time.
Windows 7 is an unknown factor, and from what I have read, it's a revamped version of Vista...Linux is great but too complex for the average user, so I guess we are stuck with XP for a while.

Beverly Gregg
March 31, 2009 3:19 PM

How do you switch to a Linux system free as stated by "Robert Kuth" dated March 31, 2009 at 12:24pm?
Thanks Beverly Gregg

avoidz
April 1, 2009 4:51 AM

@Robert Kuth - You've got more chance of people reinstalling Win98 than you have of the populace suddenly switching to Linux.

chris faulkner
April 1, 2009 5:20 AM

As it stands XP can rock on forever, however you have to hope that software will continue to be written for it.
Been playing with a demo version of Windows 7 for a week, it's a greyhound compared with Vista.
It's happy on a computer with lower specs than one for Vista.
Vista is probably going to get filed with M.E.

JERRY COLSON
April 1, 2009 6:03 AM

COMMON NOW... THIS STUFF IS REALLY ALL ABOUT THE MONEY ANYWAY ! HEY BILL GONNA GIVE ME "WINDOWS 7" WHEN YOU BOOT MY VISTA? BUT LIKE THE GOV TODAY ....$50 BILLION IS NOTHING TO THROW AROUND.... I HEAR BILL DOES GOOD STUFF AROUND THE WORLD BUT GIVEN THE ECONOMIC CLIMATE HERE ...WE COULD USE A LITTLE HELP TOO !

Robert M.
April 1, 2009 6:32 AM

XP is still being sold in NEW PCs - in the form of netbooks.

I find it hard to think that they can sell a product and end support, either before a year expires or even before the product is sold.

So - will XP netbooks be pulled off shelves and resold in different (refurbished/recertified) channels, or will they get licensed copies of a workable Vista or W7? Time will tell!

ryan
April 2, 2009 1:52 PM

windows xp is one of the best operating systems ever created. it can run on computers designed for windows 98. the reason they sell it installed on mini laptops is because they want you to BUY AN UPGRADE!! it is totally obvious...sell xp now to upgade to windows 7 later...business is harsh

Gary Adsitt
April 3, 2009 1:55 PM

If I were to buy a new desktop with Vista what would I face if I were to install my windows XP SP2 disc

Ken
April 4, 2009 10:34 PM

I have a 4 year old HP Pavilion notebook with Windows XP/SP3 on it, just reinstalled XP and SP3 install went smooth. This computer does everything I need. I do not plan to replace it unless it dies. 2014 is a long time away, but I hope this computer lasts at least that long, and maybe as long as the 17 years I had my last car.

If something works, why change!

Thomas
April 5, 2009 2:21 AM

I like XP and would never consider buying a PC with Vista installed. I agree with Chris Faulkner's comment that Vista will probably be filed with ME. For me this is a major issue with any new PC purchase at the moment.

Ubuntu (or other Linux) has to be a serious option! I've recently installed Ubuntu 8.04 on an 8 year old laptop (previously Win2k) and it runs fine. I'm no Linux expert but Ubuntu is so well packaged and easy to install! And the online support community is excellent. I also like the fact that there are other versions available, i.e. Kubuntu, Xubuntu, etc, for less powerful PCs.

I intend to buy a Dell netbook (Mini 12) with XP pre-installed (Dell don't offer this with Vista due to the higher spec requirements). The same netbook is available from Dell with Ubuntu, but my plan is to use XP for a while and then install Ubuntu as a dual-boot, and finally to switch entirely to Ubuntu. In fact, this is really for my wife... she is less keen to move straight to Ubuntu, but I'm sure she can be won over. :-)

Sandy
April 13, 2009 12:09 PM

We use highly specialized, expensive software. It will NOT run on Vista. I like XP - I have never used Vista, and won't start now.
Until the software folks take all of us archaic users into account, I won't be updating.

Chris
April 13, 2009 10:45 PM

I hate Vista, I have a new computer that had Vista preinstalled and downgraded it to Windows XP Pro because it couldnt handle Vista well.Xp runs just right.I will stick with XP till Microsoft comes out with something that doesnt hog so much of resourses as Vista does.

Chris
May 13, 2009 6:59 PM

Well Windows 7(basically a debugged and improved version of Vista) will be for sale in mid-October of 2009, just in time for Xmas. What a surprise. I have XP and I've never made the switch to Vista, thank cookies, and I will probably stick with XP until I am forced to switch over whether because of compatibility issues or they stop with the updates. Vista was a giant SCAM, and it's a great example of what ALL companies do nowadays, they release their product TOO soon. 100% Greed Microsoft better hope Windows 7 is the "sh*t", if they fail here like they did with Vista I'm not sure where we will go.

snail
August 10, 2009 4:36 PM

Nevermind the OS, it's the software which matters ^^ I know a lot of archaic users which you speak of, Sandy. DOS has the software which bests all available competition today. When XP is a relic, I might still cling to it for my software's purposes...unless I find a way to run it in Linux ^^

knowerseeker
October 23, 2009 6:18 AM

I think that more and more people, even some causal users, will begin turning to Ubuntu and other Linux flavors. I'm not a casual user; I'm also not a top geek (used in the positive sense); I guess I would consider myself a "power user". I tried Ubuntu recently and was impressed; it's at least as good as Win XP if not beyond. (I ended up settling for Puppy Linux -- also an excellent product -- because the machine I wanted Linux for is a bit old.)

emmerc
November 17, 2009 11:11 PM

I bought a Toshiba P305-S8832 (Core 2 Duo 2Ghz, 3Gb ram, 2 SATA HDD) with Vista Home Premium and after a year of annoyances, I got tired and installed WinXP Home SP3 and is doing just fine!!! Now I have lots of memory to run my applications. I have a Toshiba 6100 (PIV 2Ghz, 1Gb ram, 160GB HDD) which is working fine with WinXP Home SP3! and also an Asus Eee-PC 900 with Ubuntu 9.10 working just fine!!! I do not plan to try Windos Seven and maybe if one of these machines is still alive by the end of 2014, it will end using Ubuntu by sure!

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