Technology bosses within the British government have opted not to renew the extended support agreement for the ancient Windows XP operating system.

Windows XP is still being used by a number of government departments and agencies, but the powers that be feel they have the ability to protect the increasingly vulnerable OS.

Extended Support

Windows XP was first launched in late 2001, and it rapidly became one of Microsoft’s most popular, and indeed stable, operating systems. Windows 7 only overtook XP in total market share at the end of 2011, and XP still remains in use by governments and businesses around the world.

But Microsoft stopped supporting the venerable OS on 8 April 2014, putting an end to its monthly security patches and bug fixes. This potentially opened up security risks for those organisations still using Windows XP.

The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for example paid Microsoft around $500,000 (£315,000) to support its 58,000 Windows XP systems back in April 2014.

That same month, the British government also signed a 12 month Custom Support Agreement (CSA) contract with Microsoft worth £5.5m for it to continue to provide support for Windows XP.

But now the British government has decided to call time on the extended support agreement for Windows XP and has agreed to let it lapse.

Support It Yourselves

The decision to end the XP support contract was revealed in a blog posting on the Government Technology Blog.

“The Technology Leaders met last month and took a collective decision to not extend the support arrangement for 2015,” the blog noted. “The current support agreement ended in April 2015.”

Yet it admitted that Windows XP is still being used in certain government departments and agencies.

“There has been good progress in moving away from Windows XP across departments and government organisations and with many public bodies this transition is complete,” it said. “We expect most remaining government devices using Windows XP will be able to mitigate any risks, using the CESG guidance. Where this is not possible, they may need to review their own short term transition support.”

It is thought that Windows XP is still being used in the NHS and HMRC. A freedom of information request by Citrix last autumn found that all NHS trusts were still using XP in some form, with 74 percent planning to migrate in March of this year.

A Freedom of Information request also revealed last month that London’s Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) still has more than 35,000 systems on Windows XP, a year after Microsoft stopped offering support for the operating system to the general public.

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

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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