Microsoft to end support for Windows 2000 XP SP2

Microsoft is about to end support for some of its older Windows operating systems.

In particular, the clock is ticking for Windows 2000 (server and client) and Windows XP Service Pack 2. Extended support for those products will end on July 13, 2010, according to a Microsoft blog posted on Sunday. The blog includes tips to help with OS migrations.

Microsoft typically changes the level of product support based on the product's status in its overall product lifecycle. Typically, these support phases last about five years each for enterprise software. Every product starts with "mainstream support" for five years, followed by "extended support" lasting another five years. After extended support ends, IT organizations can get help for the software only by entering into paid custom support agreements with their Microsoft representatives.

The end of extended support means that Microsoft no longer issues regular free security updates for those operating systems. So, if a hotfix is needed for them after the cutoff date, organizations would have to pay for a custom patch.

Users of XP SP2 have the option to upgrade to SP3. Extended support for XP SP3 will end on April 8, 2014, according to Microsoft's XP lifecycle page.

IT shops also face a wind-down on their ability to run XP with new PCs. Downgrade rights from Windows 7 to XP are scheduled to end 18 months after Windows 7 gets released (approximately April 22, 2011), or when the first service pack appears -- whichever comes first. After that time, to get new PCs running XP, IT pros will have to purchase "volume license copies of Windows" with those new PCs, according to a Forrester Research report.

Testing represents another time factor for IT orgs to consider. Forrester cautions that IT shops typically need about 12 to 18 months for application compatibility testing on a new OS. The bottom line, according to Forrester, is that IT orgs should plan to get off XP by the end of 2012 to avoid such potential problems.

Microsoft no doubt is well-aware of this ticking time bomb scenario for IT pros. The company has been rolling out advice to help organizations move from Windows 2000 and XP. Unfortunately, neither of those OSes have a direct upgrade path to Windows 7. Microsoft's blog recommends first upgrading to XP and then migrating to Windows 7 using the Microsoft User State Migration Tool, which is available as part of the Windows Automated Installation Kit for Windows 7.

While there's no upgrade path, it's still possible to migrate data and user settings from XP to Windows 7, as described in Microsoft's TechNet migration guide. For a more strategic approach to OS and application migrations, Microsoft provides a guide called "Choosing a Deployment Strategy."

If all else fails, there's Microsoft Services, which offers consulting services to enterprises. Microsoft or its partners provide the support, which includes desktop planning, application compatibility testing, desktop imaging and desktop deployment.

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