While Microsoft is keen for us to move to Windows Vista, we've got other ideas. With a brand-new service pack and a slew of useful add-ons XP works better than ever. Here are 50 tools that can extend XP's useful working life still further.
Windows XP – your rights
First laid out in 2001 and revised in 2002 and 2004, Microsoft's support guidelines defined a three-phase lifespan and created a division between business desktop software and consumer desktop software.
Mainstream phase: In the prime of a product's life, Microsoft provides both free and paid-for live support, support for warranty claims and online self-help support information. Software support and maintenance is extensive and free, with downloadable fixes and updates, service packs and freely available support for problem incidents, as well as requests for design changes and new features. Business customers can pay for additional support.
Extended phase: Free live support and warranty support end and free maintenance of consumer products is limited to security fixes. Self-help support remains available online. Pay-per-incident live support remains available. Software patches and updates continue for business desktop software.
End of life: Online support information is removed. Patches and updates cease.
These phases were set in a schedule with definite dates and durations. Business products would be supported for 10 years: mainstream support for five years, then extended support for another five. Consumer products would get five years of mainstream support, but no extended support.
But there are two other factors in a product's lifecycle – service packs and the availability of a new version of the product.
Service packs have a lifecycle of their own. Support for each ends two years after the next is released – support for XP Home Service Pack 1 (SP1) support, for example, ended in 2006, two years after the release of SP2 in 2004 – or at the end of the product's support lifecycle, whichever comes first.
When it looked like mainstream support for XP might run out before the next version of Windows made it to market, Microsoft amended the policy so that mainstream support would last for either five years or for two years after a successor version is released, whichever period is longer.
While the product lifecycle guidelines set definite limits on product lifespans, Microsoft has shown a willingness to move the goalposts when it's put under enough pressure. When XP shipped in December 2001, mainstream support was slated to last until December 2006. Microsoft's internal problems with launching Vista forced it to extend the period to April 2009 and to eliminate the distinction between business and consumer versions, so that Home will have extended support too.
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