Registry Hack to Keep Updating Windows XP

The End of Windows XP

Microsoft announced back in April 2013 that, as of April the 8th this year, their Windows XP operating system will no longer be supported. What this basically means is that fixes, patches and updates will no longer be made available for what has been, arguably, Microsoft’s most successful operating system.

Microsoft’s solution to the problem of end users continuing to run this (now) obsolete piece of software is to either upgrade their operating system to a more recent version or buy a new computer. The cynics out there would point out that this is the expected response; “we’re no longer supporting a product that you’ve been happily using for up to 12 years now so pay us more for the inconvenience”. In an age of technology-based mistrust over the likes of Google, mobile Apps and various government departments, Microsoft paved the way for cynicism in technology vendors in the way that they pushed everyone to upgrade to their latest systems, allegedly for profit alone (something brazenly parodied in the Bond movie “Tomorrow Never Dies”).

The alternative solution is to do what the British government have done. They’ve merged the two solutions of keeping Windows XP in operation while still paying Microsoft (reported to be £5.5m for the first 12 months) for updates to the operating system.


The Other Way – Hack XP

For those unable, unwilling or who simply can’t afford to upgrade an XP PC to Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 (and wonder what the latest developments are with the on / off nature of Microsoft’s relationship with the Windows Start Menu), there is a registry hack going around the internet at the moment. This involves creating a text file on your desktop, pasting in the text below, renaming the file’s extension to ‘.reg’ and then double-clicking it.

The contents of the file are:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

This is for the 32-bit version of Windows XP, by the way (check your version by right-clicking ‘My Computer’ on your desktop). There is an alternative for 64-bit versions but it’s a little more complicated and involves downloading the update files individually first.

Just for the purpose of covering myself, I do not in any way advocate either of these solutions to enable updates on Windows XP. I’ve not used either myself and there are dangers in carrying this sort of thing out (see below).

What this solution does is to convince Microsoft that your PC is running the Point Of Sale (POS) edition which, I’d imagine for security purposes, continues to be supported.


Job Done?

Well, no. While there will be systems that are stuck on XP, at least for the moment, such as cash machines / ATMs and legacy software packages that will only run on this operating system, this solution isn’t without its dangers. Messing around with a computer’s registry is inherently dangerous in any case because if you don’t know what you’re doing and / if it goes wrong you essentially “brick” your PC (I don’t think I’ve mapped a mobile phone term back to a PC before). Beyond that, you need to ask the question “what’s higher risk – running a PC with no security updates or running one with security updates that is hasn’t been tested for?“. There is no way of knowing the answer to that question until it’s too late.

Finally, Microsoft are already aware of this hack so it may well only be a short-term solution anyway.