Microsoft To End Security Essentials With XP Support Cutoff

Microsoft will officially halt support for Windows XP on 8 April – more than 12 years since the operating system was launched way back in 2001.

And users hoping to eke a few more months, or perhaps years, out of the OS were dealt a further blow by Microsoft.

Security Essentials

In addition to putting a stop to security patches as updates for the ageing OS, Microsoft has also announced that it will stop providing what amounts to a first line of defence for many XP users. Warning that “technical assistance for Windows XP will no longer be available, including automatic updates,” the company said that it “will also stop providing Microsoft Security Essentials for download on Windows XP on this date.”

Microsoft Security Essentials, the free, slimmed down successor to Windows Live OneCare, guards against Trojans, rootkits and other malware on Windows XP, 7 and Vista (Windows Defender replaces Security Essentials in Windows 8). Due to its tight integration with the OS, lightweight operation and lack of a price tag, it emerged as “good enough” protection for scores of users.

In a few short months, that protection is set to vanish.

Security experts at Microsoft have warned that come April, malware coders will unleash a wave of malware targeting Windows XP, endangering the data of users and businesses that are still reliant on the OS. Developed during the midst of a nascent Internet, Windows XP is simply showing its age, according to Tim Rains, director of Microsoft Trustworthy Computing.

Stark Threat

“Microsoft Windows XP was released almost 12 years ago, which is an eternity in technology terms,” he said in an 29 October blog post. Inevitably, added Rains, “there is a tipping point where dated software and hardware can no longer defend against modern-day threats and increasingly sophisticated cyber-criminals.”

Windows XP, while still officially supported, is already trailing behind its successors. Rains reported, for instance, that “Windows XP systems had an infection rate that was six times higher than Windows 8.” And since Windows has a legacy of shared code between OSes, cyber-criminals may take cues from future patches that are issued for Windows 7 and 8 to exploit more weaknesses in XP.

In August, Rains painted a starker picture. “Since a security update will never become available for Windows XP to address these vulnerabilities, Windows XP will essentially have a ‘zero-day’ vulnerability forever,” he cautioned.

Millions of Windows users are still clinging to XP, despite Microsoft’s warnings. At last count, XP held 28.98 percent of the desktop OS market in December 2013, a 2.24 percent drop from the previous month, according to data from NetMarketShare. Only Windows 7 bests it in terms of popularity (47.52 percent).

The data suggests that there will still be many XP holdouts after the XP support cutoff. Windows 8.x (8 and 8.1 combined) only managed to cross the 10 percent mark last month, thanks to a 1.19 percent jump from November’s figures.

What do you know about Windows? Try our history quiz!

Originally published on eWeek.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez covers Microsoft products and services, such as Office, Windows, Windows Phone, Azure and Skype.

View Comments

  • I cannot afford to upgrade to Windows 7 and don't like 8, so I installed Robolinux which runs XP or 7 fully patched, sand boxed inside it, totally immune to all viruses and malware, requiring absolutely no updates or anti virus or anti malware software either. Robolinux was super easy to install and operate and it saved me hundreds of dollars too.

  • Funny enough, Microsoft pushes the new SE-version (4.5.216, with nagging screen) through automatic updates, but still has the previous version (4.4.304) available for manual download. I would not be surprised if they've pushed the 4.5-version only to XP-users.
    Anyway, the solution is:
    1) Manually download Security Essentials here: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=231274. Keep it for later use.
    2) Go to your configuration screen.
    3) Select 'software' and uninstall Security Essentials.
    4) Select 'Automatic updates' and opt for the second possibility (download and ask to install).
    5) Install your downloaded version of Security Essentials.
    6) The first time Windows Update asks you to update SE, you say no and click that you do not want to be bothered again about this update.

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