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April 8 Support Deadline Affected More than Windows XP

Windows XP may have taken the lion's share of the spotlight on April 8 when it hit its "extended support" deadline, but many other Microsoft software products also lost support on that date.

According to Microsoft's product lifecycle FAQ, products that pass beyond the extended support phase continue to function, but are left out of the monthly security update releases, leaving machines potentially vulnerable to attacks. Other products that lost extended support on April 8 are:

  • Office 2003
  • Outlook 2003
  • SharePoint 2003
  • Exchange 2010 Service Pack 2
  • Project Server 2003

Microsoft offers a mini-FAQ for potentially disappointed Office 2003 users. For those organizations or individuals using the free Office viewer products based on Office 2003, Microsoft claims that they also have lost extended support. Users of those viewers should "upgrade to a later version such as Office 365 or Office 2013," according to Microsoft. Office viewers are useful for reviewing documents produced by different versions of the Microsoft Office suite.

Surprisingly, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 R2 did not hit their end-of-life product milestones on Tuesday; they're still good until July 14, 2015, as noted by Microsoft MVP Aidan Finn, in a blog post.

Finn offered another list of other Microsoft products that have lost extended support in a second blog post. Those other items include products such as InfoPath 2003, Visio 2003 and Virtual PC 2004, among others.

Death of Windows XP
Informally, Microsoft describes products that continue to be used after extended support as "rotting from the inside out":

Of course Windows XP will not stop working on this date but it will effectively be rotting from the inside out. You won’t be getting security updates, service packs, patches and will most likely have more support issues by continuing to run an OS that is not supported.

The exception is for organizations willing to pay for Microsoft's "custom support" option. Custom support is typically designed for larger organizations and can be relatively expensive. For Windows XP, the cost is $200 per device for the first year based on a minimum of 750 devices. However, that cost will then double after the first year of custom support, according to a description by Michael Silver, distinguished analyst and vice president at Gartner Inc.

As an example of that kind of cost, the U.K. government is paying Microsoft £5.5 million ($9.2 million) just to keep its Windows XP, Office 2003 and Exchange 2003 operations supported for another year, according to a BBC report.

Windows XP got its last few patches on Tuesday, but nothing more will arrive through Windows Update to patch its flaws, and April 9 will represent a potential "zero-day forever" security situation for Windows XP users, according to Microsoft. There are no reprieves expected to come from Microsoft, although anti-malware signatures for Windows XP systems will continue to be delivered through July 14, 2015. The access to anti-malware signatures will still leave systems potentially vulnerable to attacks, though.

Microsoft has offered migration help and security tips for Windows XP users from time to time, but some organizations just did not make Tuesday's deadline. Silver recently estimated that about "20 to 25 percent of enterprise systems will still run [Windows] XP and that one third of enterprises will have more than 10 percent of their systems running on XP," according to a Gartner-produced Q&A about the end of Windows XP support.

Silver recommended getting rid of Windows XP as soon as possible. However, for those continuing to use the operating system, he suggested reducing user rights, Web browsing and e-mail use. He also suggested moving some important applications off Windows XP so that they run on a server instead.

Other tips for continuing to run Windows XP come from Neil MacDonald, vice president and Gartner Fellow. He offered 10 best practices for continuing to run the OS in an announcement.

A Redmond magazine reader poll indicated that 23 percent of respondents plan to keep running Windows XP systems indefinitely. So, despite Microsoft's security talk, some users aren't budging, although they may be running some systems that aren't connected to the Internet, thereby reducing risks.

A scan of Web sites around the globe by Netcraft, a U.K.-based provider of Internet security services, found that 6,000 Web sites are still using Windows XP, including 14 U.S. government Web sites. The state of Utah is using a Webmail system based on Windows XP, it indicated. Netcraft found that China wasn't using Windows XP much for Web sites, with just 3 percent use. However, the country still may have a large number of Windows XP desktop users.

Windows XP is effectually dead or can be considered a security bomb in waiting. Even Microsoft seemed somewhat nostalgic for the near-13-year-old OS, quoting poet T.S. Eliot on "the beginning is often the end," in a security blog post. That's maybe appropriate with so many Microsoft products losing support on Tuesday. Eliot also once described April as "the cruelest month," but in a different context.

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