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July 21, 2014

XP Users Can Still Get Effective Antivirus Protection

XP Users Can Still Get Effective Antivirus ProtectionAs of April this year, Microsoft officially ended support for Windows XP. Those still using XP won't get any more security patches. Well, there was one in May for an egregious Internet Explorer bug, but that's not likely to happen again. An XP system without antivirus protection is a sitting duck, ripe for attack. On the plus side, the latest test results from AV-Test Institute show that many popular security products remain quite effective under XP.

Three-Part Test
AV-Test regularly releases lab test results organized into three categories: protection, performance, and usability. Products can earn up to six points in each category, in half-point increments, with a maximum possible score of 18 points. In order to receive certification, a product must achieve a total of ten points, with no category score below one point.

To measure protection, AV-Test researchers install each antivirus on a clean system and then expose that system to malware in a variety of ways. For testing, they use both very new zero-day malware and a collection of very widespread malware. Quite a few products managed 100 percent protection in both parts of this test. A few clunkers dragged down the overall average to 97 percent for zero-day samples and 98 percent for widespread samples. Microsoft Security Essentials (included as a baseline) and AhnLab both turned in scores below 80 percent protection.

Nobody wants antivirus protection at the expense of system performance. AV-Test's team measures how long it takes for a standard clean system to perform 13 actions reflective of real-world computer use, such as downloading files, running popular applications, and installing programs. They run these same tests after installing the antivirus and note any slowdown. About a third of the tested programs scored slightly worse on this test than on the previous test, which used Windows 7.

For a perfect usability score, an antivirus product must completely avoid identifying any valid website or file as malicious. At best, false positive warnings can confuse users and diminish their faith in an antivirus product's effectiveness. At worst, the antivirus might prevent installation of a legitimate application. All of the tested products scored 5.5 or 6.0 points in this test, with the exception of Comodo. Comodo's over-enthusiastic behavior-based blocking system knocked its score down to 4.0 points.

Three Champions
In all the time I've been tracking AV-Test, I've rarely seen a perfect score, and I don't think I've ever seen three at once. Yet that's exactly what happened in this test. Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and Panda all earned six points in each of the three categories. If you're stuck using XP, consider one of these three champions to protect your system.



June 1, 2014

Microsoft Cautions Against Using Registry Trick for Windows XP Updates

Why You Should Ditch Windows XP Now

Well, that was easy. News of a new hack for Windows XP users has been making the rounds this week — and trust us, it's a good thing if you're one of those holdouts who is now using the operating system in the Wild, Wild, West. Which is to say, you're still running your day-to-day operations on Windows XP, even though we've passed Microsoft's cutoff date for support, patches, updates, and what-have-you.

According to numerous sources, a simple registry tweak allows you to fool Microsoft into thinking that your version of Windows XP is actually a version of "Windows Embedded POSRready 2009" In doing so, you'll set yourself up to receive updates from Microsoft all the way through April 9, 2019. That all said, the company hascaught on that this trick is in use, and it has an as-you-might-expect warning for anyone giving the registry tweak a shot:

"We recently became aware of a hack that purportedly aims to provide security updates to Windows XP customers. The security updates that could be installed are intended for Windows Embedded and Windows Server 2003 customers and do not fully protect Windows XP customers. Windows XP customers also run a significant risk of functionality issues with their machines if they install these updates, as they are not tested against Windows XP. The best way for Windows XP customers to protect their systems is to upgrade to a more modern operating system, like Windows 7 or Windows 8.1," reads Microsoft's statement.



May 1, 2014

Microsoft Fixes Nasty IE Bug, Even for Windows XP

Windows XP Update Reprieve

Earlier this week PCMag reported on a zero-day bug in Internet Explorer that would allow cybercrooks to run arbitrary code on users' PCs. Just visiting a malicious website would suffice to allow the attack, and the bug affected all versions of IE from 6 to 11. Worse, given that XP has reached its end of support, those holdouts still using XP would be permanently vulnerable. Good news! Not only has Microsoft released a patch for all versions of IE, they're even patching XP's Internet Explorer 8.

According to a Microsoft post, the patch started rolling out around 10am (Pacific time) today. If you have automatic updates enabled, you don't need to do a thing. If you've chosen to have Windows Update await your confirmation before installing updates, be sure to give it that confirmation as soon as you see the notification. Of course, if you've turned off automatic updates altogether, you'll have to perform a manual installation.



April 13, 2014

Dell, Microsoft, Best Buy Offer XP Trade-In Discounts

Dell Inspiron 3000-series

If you need to upgrade from Windows XP, but don't want to jump to Windows 8 just yet, Dell has a deal on a Windows 7 desktop.

As part of an Easter Sale, Dell is offering the Inspiron 3000-series with Windows 7 pre-installed for $599.99, after $150 on-site instant savings. Add coupon code HDB?TLKS7SXTMM to get another $50 off for a final price of $549.99 and a total of $200 (27 percent) in savings.

This Inspiron 3000-series sports a fourth-generation Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory, and a 1TB hard drive with two memory slots. The minitower desktop comes pre-installed with 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium and MY Dell, a support tool that continually provides valuable information about the PC. Other features include an Intel HD integrated graphics card, tray load DVD drive, and an integrated 8-in-1 media card reader.



April 8, 2014

Microsoft Issues Final XP, Office 2003 Updates for Patch Tuesday

Microsoft Patch Tuesday

Microsoft released four security updates fixing 11 vulnerabilities in Windows, Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Publisher as part of its April Patch Tuesday release. The security bulletins for Windows XP and Office 2003 are the last publicly-released patches for these two products, as Microsoft ended support today.

Seven of the vulnerabilities affect Windows XP, and four affect Office 2003. "This is an important Patch Tuesday for users who rely on the outdated platforms and applications that move to self-support this month," said Russ Ernst, director of product management at Lumension.

The top bulletin addresses three vulnerabilities in Microsoft Word (MS14-017), including the recently discovered zero-day vulnerability in the RTF (Rich Text Format) parser. If an attacker successfully tricks the user into opening a malicious RTF document in an unpatched version of Microsoft Word, the attacker can remotely execute code on the system. The other two vulnerabilities are flaws with the Word 2007 and 2010 File Format Conversion Utility and a stack overflow bug in Word 2003.



March 22, 2014

Microsoft Sweetens ‘Buy a New PC’ Deal for Windows XP Users with $100 Savings

Windows XP $100 Promotion

Well, if the stick doesn't work, try the carrot. At least, that seems to be Microsoft's latest inspiration for getting the many, many users still clinging to Windows XP – with 17 days to go before the operating system reaches end-of-life status – to switch on over to a new operating system.

Or, in this case, a new computer.

Microsoft's latest promotion has the company dishing out a $100 on-the-spot discount for those looking to purchase a new PC or Windows Surface device priced at $599 or more. As always, there are a few catches with the promotion.

First off, you have to actually be browsing Microsoft's store using a computer that's running Windows XP in order to even see the offer to begin with. That, or you can take the more fun approach to the promotion: If you physically lug in a Windows XP to a Microsoft Store, they'll give you the $100 savings. (Here's hoping your ancient desktop computer is a wee small.)



February 8, 2014

Microsoft Asks Windows XP Holdouts: Upgrade to Windows 8 Already

What Happens to Your Antivirus When Windows XP Is Dead?

Windows XP has but 59 days left to live – officially, that is. On April 8, as we've reported numerous times previously, Microsoft is officially pulling the plug on the operating system. The not-so-insignificant number of users running the legacy OS will still be able to use it, but they won't be able to count on Microsoft for patches, updates, security fixes, and other forms of support past the cutoff date.

That's not quite news. What is news, however, is Microsoft's renewed efforts to convince these (stubborn?) users to switch over. We can only imagine that the flurry of communications, warnings, and outright insistence from Redmond will grow as we approach various milestones closer to the shutoff date.

At 60 days out, Microsoft's big communication is a new blog post that asks tech-savvy readers to help out those who need a little assistance making the big switch.

"As a reader of this blog, it's unlikely you are running Windows XP on your PC. However, you may know someone who is and have even served as their tech support. To help, we have created a special page on Windows.com that explains what "end of support" means for people still on Windows XP and their options to stay protected after support ends on April 8th," wrote Microsoft senior marketing communications manager Brandon LeBlanc.



February 3, 2014

Sorry Windows 8, XP Is Still in the Game

Windows XP

In news that Microsoft would probably rather not hear, its aging operating system - Windows XP - gained market share in January at the expense of Redmond's newest OS.

The month ended with XP at 29.23 percent global market share, up from 28.98 percent in December, according to stats from Net Applications. It landed at No. 2 behind Windows 7, which had 47.49 percent of desktop operating system share in January. But that too was down ever so slightly from December's 47.52.

News of XP's stay power comes as Microsoft prepares to stop supporting it as of April 8. But given that so many PCs still run the older OS, Microsoft last month announced that it will continue updates to its antimalware signatures and engine for Windows XP users through July 14, 2015.



January 11, 2014

When Windows XP Dies, So Does Its ‘Microsoft Security Essentials’

Microsoft Security Essentials 2.0

Bad news for those still planning to cling to their legacy Windows XP systems after the operating system's official "death" on April 8, 2014: While the OS will certainly work come April 9, you're going to start heading into the wild, wild West of viruses, exploits, and other unfriendly computer hijinks.

Not only is support for the operating system ending, but you will also lose your ability to benefit from Microsoft's free antivirus and anti-malware app, Microsoft Security Essentials.

Microsoft's official, end-of-support date for Windows XP shouldn't come as news for anyone who has touched a computer in the past five years or so. In fact, we can recall a pledge the company made back in 2008 that it would support Windows XP all the way through 2014.

Well, almost all the way. April 8 is the official cutoff, which means that Microsoft will publish a grand total of zero automatic updates for the operating system after the fact. You'll still be able to activate your version of Windows XP, you just won't receive any new patches – and likely won't be able to find any updated drivers – for your operating system. Companies will still be able to pay Microsoft for additional support after-the-fact; normal users will almost certainly be out of luck.



January 2, 2014

Windows 8 Tops 10 Percent, Still Behind XP

Windows 8.1More than 10 percent of global PCs are now running Windows 8, but Microsoft's new operating system still has a long way to go to catch up to its predecessor.

In December, Windows 8 market share hit 6.89 percent while Windows 8.1 was at 3.6 percent, or 10.49 percent in total, according to data from Net Applications. That's up slightly from November, which put Windows 8 and 8.1 at 9.3 percent of the market.

Between November and December, Windows 8 actually dropped slightly from 6.89 percent to 6.66 percent, while Windows 8.1, the newer version of the OS picked up steam, from 2.64 percent to 3.6 percent.

At this point, however, Windows 7 still reigns supreme at 47.52 percent of global OS market share, up slightly from 46.64 in November. Windows XP lands at No. 2 with 28.98 percent (down from 31.22 percent) - four months before Microsoft plans to end support for the aging OS.