New Hack Gives XP SP2 Users Access to Microsoft Support

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft two weeks ago cut support for its Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), essentially leaving millions of XP users without software updates to patch MS Windows from exploits (and hackers). However, a security researcher has revealed a new hack that can help SP2 users get access to the support many thought was forever lost.

Microsoft's decision to cut tech support for SP2 was a controversial move, particularly when a shortcut flaw affecting the operating system emerged at the same time. SP2 users remain more exposed than users of Windows XP SP3 through Windows 7. (Source:

Registry Hack Disguises SP2 as SP3

Enter Sean Sullivan, security advisor at Finnish antivirus firm F-Secure. In a recent blog post, Sullivan outlined a new strategy that allows SP2 users access to much-needed support.

"It turns out that an SP2 system will think it's [Service Pack 3] if you edit the registry key: 'HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ System\ CurrentControlSet\ Control\ Windows,' and edit the DWORD value 'CSDVersion' from 200 to 300, [then] reboot," Sullivan said in the blog post. (Source:

In essence, Sullivan's hack would appear to masquerade SP2 as SP3 so that Microsoft's security updates are automatically applied when patches become available. Sullivan says he was able to use the hack to have last week's emergency patch (addressing that nasty Windows shortcut flaw) installed on an SP2 computer.

Sullivan then used the shortcut attack to try exploiting the SP2 machine -- as a way to test his SP2 to SP3 hack -- and everything worked out just fine. "It did not infect the system after the patch," Sullivan said.

Hack Is Strongly Discouraged

We (at do NOT recommend you apply this hack if you are running XP Service Pack 2, as this hack is not supported by Microsoft. In short: any subsequent SP3 patches applied to such a system will likely compromise your PC stability and/or you may be completely locked out of Windows.

"Remember, this update is not officially tested or supported by Microsoft for SP2," Sullivan said. "Hacking the registry and applying updates is likely a very quick way to destabilize your system. You really should update to Service Pack 3 if at all possible." (Source:

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