Windows XP 'Unofficial Service Pack 4' brings updates to Microsoft's obsolete OS

Back in April, Microsoft finally pulled the plug on Windows XP, bringing an end to its support for the elderly OS. The company has since issued critical patches for XP - including one to address issues that prevented PCs from booting up, and a security patch for IE - but it has also stressed that these are the exceptions rather than the rule, and that routine support for the OS is no longer provided.

With around 25% of PCs still running Windows XP, that's a big issue for the millions of users whose systems are no longer receiving regular updates. It's a problem that a developer known as 'harkaz' is addressing, with the upcoming release of what he calls 'Unofficial Service Pack 4'. 

harkaz has been working since September 2013 on the project, which aims to bring together all of Microsoft's official XP updates and patches into a single unified release. It is already available in its third beta but, as ZDNet reports, a Release Candidate will soon be available, ahead of its full release. 

"Many users - including me - who won't be able to upgrade their old machines to a new OS would like to easily install all Windows updates in one convenient package," harkaz said. "For this reason, I started working on a Service Pack 4 package." 

In a forum post, harkaz explained that Unofficial SP4 is "a cumulative update rollup for Windows XP (x86). It can be applied to a live Windows XP system with SP1, at minimum, installed or it can be slipstreamed (integrated) in any Windows XP installation media." The package includes: 

  • Most Windows XP components, including Media Center Edition and Tablet PC
  • Request-only hotfixes 
  • .NET Frameworks 4.0, 3.5, 1.1 and 1.0 (Tablet PC only)
  • All post-end-of-life updates for .NET Framework 1.1, 3.5 and 4.0 up to May 2014
  • Ability to scan for new updates (using the Windows Embedded POSReady 'trick', which Microsoft advised against using)

Needless to say, Microsoft won't be supporting Unofficial Service Pack 4 in any capacity, and users who choose to install it on their systems will be doing so at their own risk. We've seen many times before how even small glitches can create huge problems when installing Windows updates and patches - sometimes requiring Microsoft to temporarily pull them to investigate the issues further. 

This is not the first example of the developer community pulling together Microsoft updates into a collective package, and it probably won't be the last. The lack of Microsoft support for Windows XP means that many users - especially those who cannot afford to buy newer systems - are turning to unofficial sources to get the support that they need to keep their PCs running. 

But while we have no reason at all to believe that harkaz has any malicious intent whatsoever in creating Unofficial SP4, it's not difficult to imagine how this kind of thing could be used to spread malicious software under the guise of providing helpful free updates to desperate users. With no single official source for these distributions, it will be difficult for less experienced users to easily distinguish between 'clean' copies and those that have been corrupted with malware.

In ending its support for Windows XP, Microsoft may have unintentionally created a 'black market' for free software that may potentially expose users to greater risk. 

Source: Windows XP Unofficial SP4 forum post via ZDNet

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The funniest thing I came across this year was Microsoft saying "Urgent, Upgrade from Windows XP as support is coming to an end"

Then, they say "System Centre 2012 R2" the latest deployment and management system for the enterprise. Use this to upgrade your client machines

You know what's funny.....2012 R2 doesn't support XP lol they urgently had to release a hotfix as they 'assumed' nobody would still be running XP.......you know, I mean I guess nobody in the enterprise would be performing a major OS upgrade around the time MS stops support for XP

seem to remember the hotfix, and change of the bootsect file in the boot image was a pain to get working

I feel sorry for those who found out the hard way, as prior to getting the error message, the task sequence had already changed the boot sector rending the client machine useless. Hopefully everyone tested it well in advance, although I'm sure there were businesses who had a lot of downtime from this.

Thanks MS

ThisIsStockerHD said,
To be honest though, if an IT dept. suddenly just pushed ahead with this upgrade and didn't test it out then that dept. has problems.

oh yeah without doubt

Dropping support means dropping all support, not just updates. That means that MS will not make any effort to make any application work with Windows XP in anyway. Now, I will admit that sometimes it seems like they actively try to block something from working on XP instead of just not supporting it, which isn't very cool, but totally within their rights.

Though I wouldn't advise people to keep using XP unless they're off the net, it's nice the tech communities are giving it some love, it will help ease the transition

If this catches on, it will soon be used for ill intent. Then we will see why MS made it clear that users should move on.

Tha Bloo Monkee said,
As I wrote earlier:
"This could be the case for ANY software out there, not just this. Moot point."

You're right. But a moot point it is not. It just pushes the case more, that this operating system needs to die, and people need to stop using it.

Even though XP is old and unsupported, that doesn't mean it's "obsolete". There's plenty of software out there which doesn't receive updates but that doesn't instantly render it obsolete.

I never understood why Microsoft wouldn't release a EOF Service Pack with all updates included. The problem with this unofficial crap is you get hacky things such as that registry hack.

Yeah, I'd like to see a version without any hacks, and just an SP4 with all official updates and no hacks involved. I tested this out weeks ago and it works great (no more using Windows Updates), but if it were to ever be used on somebody else's machine I'd be removing the POS2009 registry hack... who knows what kinds of problems it could introduce.

"Needless to say, Microsoft won't be supporting Unofficial Service Pack 4 in any capacity"

As opposed to the official SP3 which they no longer support either? What does it matter?

No no no, some of us still use XP in a Virtual PC for soft compatibility... personally I use it for (yep you guessed it) I've been posting for years about it... MIDIs, especially SBPCI128 8MB Wavetable. I don't actually surf the web in a VM, so maybe the security updates aren't THAT useful to me... but... yeah... we use it :p

Meanwhile, there's several versions of XP released each month with integrated updates (including the POS ones) by users that have been doing this for many years. I wonder why this made the news? Is it because he called it "SP4"?

The cost element is most likely a reason why people will not upgrade or why people still stick around. Computer hardware can get expensive.

Anything running Windows XP can't cost that much to replace like for like these days. The cost is what, $250 for a cheap laptop or desktop? It's not so much cost as people are just unwilling to move on. These same people probably have a $500 iPad sitting around, and a $300 phone at the very least. It won't even cost any of that to replace their XP PC.

Not everyone considers their PC a priority like 99% of the users who swing past this site. So no, people are not weird if they don't feel the need to upgrade their machines.

It wouldn't surprise me that some of the users here drive a POS car, yet you haven't upgraded it. Point here: Computers and cars are in the same bucket - money wasters, should only spend money on them if you have too.

Well obviously there's a line where your system is just too old to run anything remotely current, but I've updated a number of systems from XP to 7 to 8, and they still have their original hardware configuration. Granted something from the turn of the century with only 512MB is out for pretty much anything, something that old doesn't even really run XP that well.

Also any other hardware could lose compatibility. Drivers for printers, scanners, etc.. They would also have to purchase those pieces.

Well, win xp still rock and rollin huh. I still agree with most, while i totally hate windows 8 as a "major windows update", I think you can customize it to make it like win7. Also, I think this reason. "low end machine", is a very bad reason to have windows XP. I believe it's possible to install win8, reduce the animation and make it friendly with "low end machines". by low end machines if you mean a machine with 512MB ram, well, why not Linux. Well, I think some people really like the minimalism of windows XP. it's just simple and it works. Microsoft should release a windows edition that has all the new windows core and features, while having a simple minimalistic UI. (oh wait then microsoft would not be able to rule the world)

There are also unofficial service packs for those on 9x. Useful for those folks since WU won't work in any capacity. (I did try inside a VM with a Me install just for the hell of it)

In all seriousness, they need to release a Windows 7 roll-up SP that includes all the patches since SP1, so that installing or re-installing Windows 7 isn't so awful and painful with hundreds and hundreds of updates to apply, reboot, and reply again, reboot again, etc. Ugh.

Roll-up would by good, eventhought Y could use Cloning software like acronis to clone windows partition. Once doing install, updates, reboots and then create image. And after more updates are released then apply to that image if windows is clean. It`s very fast restore compared to to install and update procedure. Windows has own cloning/restoring software but I think that is very limited. I have used acronis about 1,5 years and now that bother me even think about those many windows reinstalls.
In my computer restore operation takes less than ten minutes to ssd disk, after that everything is ready; windows settings, apps and updates (mayby few updates missing)

venomz3 said,
Roll-up would by good, eventhought Y could use Cloning software like acronis to clone windows partition. Once doing install, updates, reboots and then create image. And after more updates are released then apply to that image if windows is clean. It`s very fast restore compared to to install and update procedure. Windows has own cloning/restoring software but I think that is very limited. I have used acronis about 1,5 years and now that bother me even think about those many windows reinstalls.
In my computer restore operation takes less than ten minutes to ssd disk, after that everything is ready; windows settings, apps and updates (mayby few updates missing)

A rollup would help shrink WinSXS a bit. 8.1 tamed WinSXS but not all the new dism features were backported to 7.

Hum said,
Common Sense prevails. :happy:

You must also think using a horse and carriage in lieu of a car is also common sense.

Lol. was just thinking there are most likely places in the world still today where a Horse and carriage still would make more sense due to how well fuel and parts were available\Cost.

This is really bad for 3 major reasons:
-There's no QA done on this or the "POS" updates that makes sure they are compatible with the multitude of configs of systems out there, users may install this thinking its "real" and end up with a bricked system
-This lures users into false senses of security, thinking they are truly "up-to-date", when in fact they probably aren't
-Like the article mentioned, there's a huge chance this will get repackaged with malware by others and distributed around the net as the "real unofficial SP", easily fooling normal users

While this may be fine for power users, its really not worth the risk. I'd rather users move to Linux or something at this point than continue to use XP and apply these "unofficial" patches

LightEco said,
-Like the article mentioned, there's a huge chance this will get repackaged with malware by others and distributed around the net as the "real unofficial SP", easily fooling normal users

This could be the case for ANY software out there, not just this. Moot point.

I'm sure people would care less about it if news sites stopped posting news about it. I remember at one point Neowin seemed to have an XP related article uploaded daily, really??

It's EOL - stop reporting about it, and let the memories fade away. The only news we're going to hear about it is how x % of users still use it. Big deal!

Nice thought for people who can't afford a new system, but its liable to lull people into a false sense of security, thinking they're protected.

I'll probably start seeing support questions for this on the MS Community forums when something goes wrong. People will still expect MS to support it, despite the fact that it clearly states it is unofficial.

Edited by DConnell, Aug 27 2014, 3:45pm :

While it does sound helpful, I would have a hard time trusting something like this. Even if it is proven to be malware free, what happens if you start having strange problems with your computer? It would be hard to not wonder if the 3rd party "service pack" was responsible.

Just install the updates the way MS designed them to be installed. If you need to do a lot of clean installs of XP and want a CD, just create a slip-stream version that includes all of the updates to date. In the past people didn't want to spend the time to make a new CD image every month, but now that there are no new updates coming, the CD image should be very static.

sphbecker said,
just create a slip-stream version that includes all of the updates to date. In the past people didn't want to spend the time to make a new CD image every month, but now that there are no new updates coming, the CD image should be very static.

Exactly.
Not like the instructions on this process are hard to find.

Would be a lot better off just using 8.x with ClassicShell or whatever, get a much better/stable environment than be stuck with a horribly outdated OS "supported" by questionable sources. Or if that's too much effort, 7's still supported for another 6 years.

Max Norris said,
Would be a lot better off just using 8.x with ClassicShell or whatever, get a much better/stable environment than be stuck with a horribly outdated OS "supported" by questionable sources. Or if that's too much effort, 7's still supported for another 6 years.

Even that still nonsense

SHS said,
Even that still nonsense

Uh-huh. Even though day to day use is pretty much identical to XP. Well, no random blue screens for the hell of it, new stuff actually works with it, and no worrying about vulnerabilities not getting patched. Right.

SHS said,

Even that still nonsense

How exactly? With something like Classic Shell removing the "love it or hate it" Modern interface, Windows 8.1's core OS and desktop is undeniably (by any sane person anyway) better in all respects that all previous versions. It's faster, more stable, more secure and has more features like super multi monitor support.