Experts: Avoid Windows XP Update 'Trick'

John Lister's picture

Earlier this year, a hack was discovered that would allow Windows XP users to continue receiving security updates, despite Microsoft no longer officially supporting the system. However, experts are now warning users that the hack guarantees neither security, nor stable computing.

Windows XP: No More Security Updates

Microsoft finally pulled the plug on Windows XP in April this year, including all future security updates. The problem is that many people still continue to use the operating system, despite significant security risks. The Windows Embedded hack essentially tricks Windows XP into believing it was part of the "Windows Embedded" family of operating systems, so that Windows XP could continue to receive updates.

Windows Embedded Updates Not For Ordinary PCs

Windows embedded systems are those which are built into devices, rather than traditional computers. These include everything from ATM displays, to the screens on the back of airplane seats that play movies and display flight paths. Such systems carry out specific tasks, and usually aren't reprogrammed or tweaked.

A special version of XP known as Windows Embedded Industry (version 2009) is widely used on embedded systems in such devices, which rarely need updates. That said, Microsoft is still issuing security updates for this system until at least April 2019, removing any potential security threats if and when they appear.

XP Workaround Already Leaving Computers At Risk

The big problem is that it's possible a bug could be found that affect ordinary versions of Windows (including XP), but not in embedded systems. In other words, even if the hack was used, it does not mean that Windows XP would be completely patched and remain invulnerable.

Cisco has now pointed out that's exactly what happened in a recently released November monthly security bulletin. Anyone relying on the Windows Embedded hack may not receive the proper patch for their XP machine, as the Windows Embedded systems does not appear to be applicable. (Source:

The Windows Embedded hack is not just a security issue, however. Microsoft has previously pointed out that there's a "significant risk" that updates intended for embedded systems could cause ordinary XP computers to stop working properly, or cease to function completely. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Would you resort to using the Windows Embedded hack if you thought it meant being able to continue using XP, even if experts warn of significant risk? Have you thought about replacing your old Windows XP system with an up-to-date and free alternative, such as Linux? If you own an old XP system, do you plan to replace it with a new computer in the coming months? If so, will it be a Windows-based system, Apple product, or an Android-based system, such as a tablet or Chromebook?

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bobf0648's picture

I need XP for a dedicated use, which neither Linux, which is my main OS,or Win 7_8 which I have,or Mac OS10 which I also use, support. So I guess I'll use the hack< carefully, for now. The only computer at risk, is the one I run the XP on.

LouisianaJoe's picture

I have one XP PC that I use to support a couple of old applications that I wrote in VB6 and Powerbuilder 9. I never use the internet from this PC and only turn it on to support my customers. The VB6 program has been in use for 10 years and the Powerbuilder program has been in use for 20 years. My customers see no need to spend money to replace programs that work without problems.

kevinb478's picture

I would Like to upgrade my windows XP machine but the prices for the new windows 7 or 8 is too expensive for us low income people and I have I lot of games I occaisonally like to play
if I upgrade to windows 7 or 8 they may not work anymore so then I'll have a bunch of usless games sitting around that I can't play anymore cause they may not work and I can't afford to buy another computer either

pmuise_3482's picture

Sorry some of this is over my head. What should one look ?

hrsdad's picture

although I have upgraded my 6 computers to Windows 7 (and one Windows 8.1), I think Microsoft is a giant pile of quicksand sucking in as much money as it can. Our vehicles can be repaired and maintained for 20 or 30 years (althugh parts may be hard to find after 15 years or so), why can't our operating systems do the same? All this hullabaloo about XP being "unsafe" is just a marketing ploy to get people to spend another $300 or $400 on a new opsys. As many users are aware, the older versions of programs designed for Windows 2000 or Windows Vista or Windows XP has a difficult time running on the new hardware and operating systems. So it isn't just "Go out and purchase a modern operating system", but also go out and purchase new versions of software that you have been using for many years. The dollars begin to stack up pretty fast. And none of the above spending includes the cost of new HARDWARE to run that "NEW! And Improved!" operating system. It would appear that Microsoft is determined to kill off the best selling opsys in its history just so it can sell more opsys to those users and it will use whatever means is needed, such as warning a specific "hack" won't work. I suppose if a company were to provide the service of updating and malware protecting the XP systems out there, Microsoft would most likely say the company was akin to the devil or Russian hackers or a very black hat operation. Just so they could sell Windows 8.1, which will be soon updated, for a price, to Windows 10.

blueboxer2's picture

Well, I went and munged the MBR while removing Ubuntu from my desktop machine, and dropped the backup external drive on a hardwood floor, but will sort it sooner or later - and then keep using XP with a paranoid browser, good antivirus, a couple of well-rated malware cleaners, all sandboxed and maybe through a VPN. And if I ever put anything that would interest a black hat on it, it will be encrypted behind a password. I'm pretty sympathetic to the comment above. My old XP Pro laptop is security rigged for travel so hard to crack and little loss if swiped. My older XP Home laptop may yet be repurposed to play with Linux.
My most-used computer runs Windows 7 and there is a licenced disc image of Win8 on it should I choose to downgrade. But assuming I live so long maybe after it's been out and proven for a few years I'll contemplate Windows 10 for it. Maybe.

petershaw's picture

hrsdad: You may be able to continually repair and replace parts on vehicles but at what cost? How much have you paid Microsoft for their oil changes and spare parts? Did Ford or anyone else offer you upgraded components in their cars at no cost? Don't lose sight of the fact that Microsoft (with all it's faults) is a business and businesses are set up to make profit.

Dennis Faas's picture

That's a great point.

One thing a lot of folks don't seem to be considering here is that technology changes and older hardware simply isn't capable of running the new technology (example: touch screen, multi-core processors, 64 bit operating systems, vast amounts of RAM, PCI express x16 and newer generation video cards, etc).

The old hardware might still work and could be configured to work for decades with its current software, but it's no longer supported because newer technology exists. At some point, the old technology needs to be retired (and no longer supported by Microsoft) in order to make way for newer and better things. Otherwise, people will simply forget about Microsoft and Windows, and move onto something else (like iOS and Android).

I really don't think it's Microsoft's fault for retiring a 13 year old operating system - it's plenty old and it served its purpose well. That said, anything that is past 5 years old is (for all intents an purposes) a dinosaur when it comes to technology. A good comparison is cell phones - my 5 year old 'krazr' phone from Motorola still works great but compared a smartphone, it just doesn't cut it anymore.

apc32024_3681's picture

I have older hardware (commercial Scanner) that prevents me using a newer Version of Windows. Win XP is what i am forced to use. I do use Linux in a dual boot with it
I have found keeping a good firewall, antivirus. Not using Internet Explorer
removing java from the PC has helped to mitigate against a lot of attacks

I don't think any Operating system, patched or not is immune to viruses / Malware etc. Not even the venerable Win 8.1. All one can do is mitigate the best you
can to avoid it and follow safe practices on the Web.
That does more than anything to help

andrewbontrager_'s picture

First, I bet I've used Windows XP longer than those "experts"--from 2002 to the present.
I am here to say that I will not be planning on upgrading the three computer systems I have from Windows XP in fifty years; then I'll be looking at another fifty. I'm a medical transcriptionist, and I deal with medical records on a daily basis. The company lets us choose to run XP. I can just see the experts shaking in fear and I love it.
I've tried Windows 7 and found the following:
Outlook Express (along with other older functional programs) flat out can't be instaled.
The file explorer is less than instantaneous in navigation by the keyboard, as XP is.
Windows 7 is more prone to viruses and malware than XP. This shouldn't be surprising given 7's five-times-larger code base than XP's and it's immaturity compared to XP.
Outlook Express is a superb email client. Find me an email client program that has the following, and I could justify upgrading:
- Support for profiles.
- Support for DBX files to store emails.
- When reviewing the inbox, display the entire subject line.
- When sending and receiving, a window that gives status such as messages remaining and the number of kb in all to be downloaded.
All the above requirements must be met. Windows live mail is a joke.
I must remind the distinguished experts: A computer is made to do work, not to be the most secure castle in the kingdom.
For all the fearmongers, imagine a 12-foot poster with the Windows XP logo in bright red. That's my feeling.