Will existing updates still be available after Windows XP support ends?

Someday, Windows XP critical update files will cease to be available. You can continue to use them as long as they are available, and I'll show you a permanent solution.

Does the 2014 end of support of Windows XP include removing the current downloads? For example, security updates, hot fixes, SP3? I’ve a retail CD, XP with SP2, but I still need these current downloads to fully utilize XP, don’t I? I read several answers to the XP end, but I didn’t find the answer to this particular scenario. Perhaps to rephrase, when I reinstall XP after support ends, will the updates, hot fixes and service pack 3 that I need today still be available online?

When support for Windows XP finally ends, the single most important thing to realize is that there will be no new fixes.

Even if a security vulnerability is discovered that impacts people running Windows XP, that vulnerability won’t be fixed. That’s the bottom-line implication of Windows XP support ending next year.

What does that mean for everything that’s already been produced?

What ‘no support’ really means

The downloads that you have (like SP3) will most likely be available for a long time. They don’t require any additional work on Microsoft’s part. Microsoft just needs to keep the files on their servers and make sure they’re are available for download. I’m fairly confident that those will be there for a while.

The problem is we don’t exactly know how long “a while” is.

Microsoft isn’t even required to do that. They could remove those files at any time. I’d be shocked if the equivalent files for Windows 98, Windows 95, or even the original Windows NT are still available online anywhere officially.

Someday, the scenario that you’re concerned about is going to happen.

So what do you do? Well, there are some ways to protect yourself now from that happening later.

Windows XPBack up Windows XP

Normally, when you set up a new machine and have it completely up-to-date, I recommend that you create a backup system image – a complete image of your entire computer that snapshots everything in its most up-to-date state.

The same applies here – take a snapshot of your Windows XP as of today or the last day of support. That way, if you ever need to revert to this old version of Windows XP or reinstall it from scratch (which is the scenario that most XP users worry about), then you would simply restore this backup image. Because everything’s there, you wouldn’t have to reinstall Windows and then search the internet to find the bug fixes and service packs that you need to apply (that is, if you can find them).

When backups won’t work

There is one scenario where having a backup image won’t work: installing Windows XP on replacement or new hardware. The backup image will be specifically for the hardware on which it was created. The drivers and settings for that specific hardware will be there. If you try and take that image to a new or different piece of hardware, there’s a very good chance that it won’t work. You can try it, but it simply may not work.

The interesting thing about that is if your machine is significantly newer than Windows XP, then it may not even have XP driver support. In other words, you couldn’t run Windows XP on it anyway. You would have to upgrade.

Ultimately, what I suggest you do is take a complete image backup of your machine when it’s convenient. Use that as your reference copy if ever need to go back. That’s your safety net.

You can keep using the downloads for as long as they are available. Personally, I think they’ll be available for a pretty long time. And eventually, someday, you’re probably going to end up moving off of Windows XP.

But we can delay that. It doesn’t have to be any time soon.


  1. Ken B

    Speaking of Windows 98, 95, etc…

    Trying to get to “www.microsoft.com/windows95” or “www.microsoft.com/windows98” doesn’t give a “404 not found error”, but rather an “internal server error”. (Trying “www.microsoft.com/windows99” does give the 404 error.)


  2. John G.

    This has been mentioned in other posts in the past, but a good program for applying updates is AutoPatcher (http://www.autopatcher.com/forums/). It will download the update files for the MS OS of your choice and you can put the updates and the program on portable media and apply them to any machine with the matching MS OS. Keep AutoPatcher updated, and once MS kills an OS for good, you will have a full archive of updates for that particular operating system.

  3. J W

    Great article, could you help with ”take a complete image backup of your machine” please. The best way to do it, etc.

  4. Kevin Green

    One solution is to download all the updates now using something like the WSUS Offline Update (http://www.wsusoffline.net/) It can download all the updates and package them so you can install them all without an internet connection.
    It was very handy when I used to prep new machines at the office.
    Free didn’t hurt either.

  5. Michael

    A few years ago, after I got WIndows XP Home (SP2 then), I started collecting the updates and saving them; primarily so that I would not have to send gobs of online time downloading and installing the updates. So, with the exception of a couple updates, I have all the updates for SP2 and SP3 after SP3 was released. I also have the latest updates for Silverlight, MSMRT, DirectX, root certificates, RVKroots, and a few others miscellaneous things. I have saved to USB thumbdrive. I had to use a download manager (Internet Download Manager (IDM) in my case) so that I could redirect the download to a specific location. I still would like to use the “slipstreaming” option for XP but don’t know how to add the updates/patches to the slipstreamed disk/file. But, I guess that is a different subject. After my last “clean” install not too long ago, I did a backup then of XP and, at that time, the updates/patches then. I still have it available should I need to use this backup. And, again, BACK UP BACK UP BACK UP as often as needed. Backups have truly saved me several times; especially from not having to perform a clean install.

  6. James

    What about Internet Explorer? If IE8 is the current version for Windows XP and newer versions of Windows use IE9 or is it 10 now? Does Microsoft have an obligation to keep IE8, or will it disappear at the same time as XP?

  7. Andy

    Now that XP has expired, how can I get SP3 + all the latest updtaes (maybe without the ‘expired’ warning, and slipstream it to CD? Besides using it to reinstall on older, offline systems, I hope to use it with VMware and install it with win7.

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