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Microsoft Grants XP Anti-Virus Software a Reprieve

A dialogue box from the Windows XP version of Microsoft Security Essentials.

A dialogue box from the Windows XP version of Microsoft Security Essentials.

Microsoft has backed off the impending XPocalypse — at least a little.

The company has reversed last week's decision to end anti-virus updates for the Windows XP versions of its in-house anti-virus software packages on April 8, when Windows XP is expected to receive its final security patch.

That would have been a serious blow to many Windows XP users, leaving them doubly exposed to malware and attackers. It's estimated that between 20 and 30 percent of personal computers worldwide run Windows XP today, and tens of millions of users aren't expected to have upgraded to other operating systems by April 8.

Instead, Microsoft will continue anti-virus definition updates for its Windows XP anti-virus software until July 14, 2015.

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"For enterprise customers, this applies to System Center Endpoint Protection, Forefront Client Security, Forefront Endpoint Protection and Windows Intune running on Windows XP," stated a Microsoft blog posting today (Jan. 15). "For consumers, this applies to Microsoft Security Essentials."

Most third-party anti-virus software makers plan to continue support for Windows XP well beyond April 8.  A list compiled by German anti-virus software testing firm AV-TEST finds that of 26 third-party vendors, 22 plan to continue XP support for at least two more years.

However, as the Microsoft blog post notes, "the effectiveness of anti-malware solutions on out-of-support operating systems is limited."

Microsoft Security Essentials is a free anti-virus application for consumer users of Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7, but users must manually download and install it.

In Windows 8, a successor application called Windows Defender is built in, but will go dormant if a third-party anti-virus product is activated.

Microsoft's blog posting did not specify whether the Windows XP version of Microsoft Security Essentials would still be available for download after April 8.

The Microsoft Malware Protection Center did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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