It has finally come to the point in time where Microsoft is about to retire another portion of Windows XP; and that is SP2. Now this doesn’t mean that on July 13th (tomorrow) you have to stop using your XP2 PC or that it is just going to stop working. It does mean, however, that Microsoft will no longer be making any patches for the nearly 6 year old OS version. This is a big deal to someone that works in the IT support field, because without patches, as new exploits are discovered there will be no fixes coming to help protect you, no matter how severe or dangerous they may be.
You can of course update your PC to SP3, and why shouldn’t you? It has many improvements over SP2, and at the time of its release it claimed to speed up XP based systems by almost 30%. If you do upgrade to SP3, support will continue until April 2014, including all the patches you need to keep your system safe. Another important piece of information you need to know is that if you do decide to stay with SP2, Microsoft will not be patching any of your programs for that OS version. This includes IE in any version, even if there is a patch for SP 3, you will be out of luck. One important exception is if you happen to be running a 64bit version of Windows XP SP2. In this case, you will still be covered for the time being, as there was not SP3 for 64bit XP.
If for whatever reason you must continue using SP2 or you refuse to upgrade to the next version, there are a couple of things that you should do to keep your PC safe. One is to switch your web browser. With no more patches incoming for IE, for you to continue to use the browser on that version of Windows would be like playing with fire. If you do switch browsers, it is also brings up another important fact; you should continue to manually patch all 3rd party programs -- including the new browser you choose to use. I am partial to Chrome, but Firefox 4 beta is looking pretty sweet (however, that’s a topic for another day). Also, Flash, Acrobat and Java are good examples of programs that need to be up to date to protect your computer as much as possible.
I hope this article shed some light on what you can do beyond Windows XP SP2. Don't forget...you can always upgrade to Windows 7, and we can help!