Want Windows XP SP4? Unofficial versions are on the way

Microsoft withdrew support for Windows XP in April. That's been the cue for some in the developer community to work on new service packs for the elderly operating system.
Written by Toby Wolpe, Contributor

Some five months after Microsoft ended support for Windows XP, a developer is preparing to make an unofficial service pack for the 13-year-old OS available on general release.

Using the project title of Unofficial Service Pack 4, Greece-based developer harkaz started work in September 2013 on bringing together all the official updates from Microsoft in a single package.

Unofficial SP4, which is available in a third beta version, is soon to be finalised in a release candidate, according to harkaz, who said in a blogpost this week, "I have already started working on the SP4 RC build."

In his description of the Windows XP service-pack project, harkaz said: "Many users — including me — who won't be able to upgrade their old machines to a newer OS would like to easily install all Windows updates in one convenient package. For this reason, I started working on a Service Pack 4 package."

According to harkaz, Windows XP Unofficial SP4 is a cumulative update rollup for Windows XP x86. It can be applied to a live Windows XP system that has a minimum of SP1 installed. Alternatively, it can be integrated in any Windows XP installation media.

Estimates vary on the number of desktops still running Windows XP. However, Netmarketshare's numbers for July 2014 still give the operating system, first released to manufacturers in August 2001, a 24.82 percent worldwide share, down from 37.19 percent a year earlier.

One of the places from which the unofficial service pack can be downloaded is Softpedia, whose description of the software carries a note of caution: "Please be advised that this package is not released by Microsoft, who does not recommend computer users to install it."

Elsewhere the site says of the harkaz service pack: "If you decide to install this service pack, keep in mind that it's not related to Microsoft in any way and is just an unofficial release that might or might not help you protect a Windows XP computer against vulnerabilities found in the operating system.

"Of course, Microsoft does not recommend anyone to install this, but such a service pack is clearly worth a shot if you're still on Windows XP and you don't plan to upgrade anytime soon."

The service pack from harkaz contains updates for most Windows XP components, including MCE and Tablet PC. Request-only hotfixes have been included, along with Microsoft .NET Frameworks 4.0, 3.5, 1.1 and 1.0 — Tablet PC only.

"You can also scan for POSReady updates, because the POSReady trick has been included. In addition, all post-eol updates for .NET Framework 1.1, 3.5 and 4.0 until May 2014 have been included," harkaz said. "The .NET 1.x, 3.5 versions are automatically installed/updated in live installations as well."

Other developers have also been working on unofficial XP service packs. Nonno fabio, based in northern Italy, has made available what is called Onepiece's Windows XP Post-SP3 All-in-One QFE/LDR En-US Update Pack.

In January, Microsoft announced that although security updates for Windows XP would end in April, anti-malware signatures and engine updates for Windows XP users will continue until 14 July, 2015.

"For enterprise customers, this applies to System Center Endpoint Protection, Forefront Client Security, Forefront Endpoint Protection and Windows Intune running on Windows XP. For consumers, this applies to Microsoft Security Essentials," the company said.

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