Microsoft has confirmed that all existing security patches and updates for Windows XP will still be available after support officially ends. This means that after the 8th April 2014, you’ll still be able to use Windows Update to download all existing security patches.
However let’s create an WINDOWS XP SP3 disk now after for safekeeping
STEP 1 – DOWNLOAD XP SP3
First, you’ll need to download the Windows XP SP3 Network Installation Package, which is the standalone install for XP. Click the Download button and, when prompted, select Proceed with this download and click Next. Click No thanks and then Continue and the file will be downloaded to your hard disk. If you’re using Internet Explorer, you may have to click the security warning to allow the download; make sure you click Save, so that you keep the file.
STEP 2 – DOWNLOAD ALL OF THE XP UPDATES
Next, you need to download all of the Windows XP updates post SP3. It makes sense to do this after XP support has ended on the 8th April 2014, so that you get absolutely everything.
Fortunately, there’s a rather clever tool to do the job for you. Download the Updates Downloaded, Check and Add-on Creator (UDC) script. The page lists the date that the script was last updated, so make sure you grab one dated for the 8th of April or later, in order to catch the final XP updates.
Extract the Zip file, go into the UDC folder and run the latest UDC batch file. Follow the on-screen instructions, ignoring the warning about Nlite (we’ll come to that next) and the file will download all of the updates to the current folder. It will take a while, so leave it to do its job. When completed, the window will go green. Move the files that start WindowsXP-WindowsMedia-KBxxxxxx-x86-ENU.exe into a temporary folder on your hard disk, otherwise you’ll find that XP gets stuck in an installation loop. We’ll show you how to copy these files to your new install disc later.
STEP 3 – DOWNLOAD AND INSTALL NLITE
Now you need to download and install nLite. This clever bit of software is used to take your XP installation disc, SP3 and updates you’ve already downloaded, and create a brand-new XP installation disc with everything already applied.
When it’s installed run the software from the Start menu to start the wizard, which will take you through creating your new installation disc.
STEP 4 – PICK XP INSTALLATION
Click Next and you’ll be asked to provide the location of your Windows disc. This can either be an ISO file or you can just put your XP installation disc into your PC and browse to the drive.
Click OK and you’ll be prompted to select a folder to store the temporary files in. We created a folder called XP in the C: drive. Click OK, and the XP files will be copied to the temporary folder and Nlite will show you which version of XP you have and the Servicer Pack version (if any) included. Browse to the folder you created and, inside it, create a new folder called Media Updates. Copy the update files you moved to a temporary folder in Step 1 into this folder. This will mean that the files will be copied to the installation disc, allowing you to run them manually later.
STEP 5 – ADD SP3 AND UPDATES
Click Next and you can load any previous nLite presets, if you have any. Click Next to select the additional files you want to create, so click Service Pack and Hotfixes, Add-ons and Update Packs. With nLite, you can also integrate additional drivers, select an unattended installation, which inputs your CD key automatically, and more, but we’re not going to cover that here. Instead, click Bootable ISO to tell nLite that you want to create an install disc. Click Next to go to the Service Pack selection screen.
Click Select and use Explorer to select the XP SP3 file you downloaded earlier and click Open. NLite will automatically slipstream the files into the installation. Click Next to go to the add-on screen. Click Insert and browse to the files you downloaded in Step 2. Press CTRL-A to select all (don’t worry about the files that aren’t updates, as nLite will deal with them automatically) and click Open. Click OK on any warning messages and click Next, then Yes to get nLite integrating the updates.
STEP 6 – CREATE ISO FILE
Once the process has completed, you’ll be told how big the new installation file is. In our case, it was 604.16MB, which should still fit on a blank CD; if yours is bigger than 640MB, you’ll need a blank DVD instead. Click Next to go to the Bootable ISO screen. NLite can write straight to disc, but we think it’s better to save the ISO file, so you can use it again and again. Leave the Mode as Create Image and click Make ISO. Select where you want to save the file and click Save. It will only take a short time to make the disc, which will be called WinLite.iso, although you can type any filename that you like.
STEP 7 – MAKE AN XP INSTALL DISC
You can now use the same dialog box to burn your installation CD, by selecting Direct Burn and clicking Next. Alternatively, if you’d rather do the job yourself, you can use any bit of disc burning software to burn your ISO to disc. We like CDBurnerXP, which you can download and install using the Ninite software.
Browse to your ISO file, right-click it and select Open With, CDBurnerXP. In the next dialog box, select your CD/DVD writer in the Target device drop-down menu, make sure you’ve inserted a blank disc and click Burn disc. You can now use this to install an up-to-date version of XP. Make sure you backup your new ISO, so you can create a new disc whenever you need it. You can now install Windows XP from your new disc, and manually apply the Media patches, too.
To stop flaws in Windows XP being exploited, you need to have proper security software installed on your computer. This will help negate the impact of no longer having security updates coming from Microsoft. You need to choose carefully, though, as your existing security might not be good enough.
Although Microsoft has said that Security Essentials, its free security package, will continue to get XP updates until July 2015, you shouldn’t rely on it, as it always comes near the bottom in our AV tests. Instead, you need to install decent security software to protect against threats.
If you want free protection, Avast! 2014 Free anti-virus is a far superior product. However, if you can, you should buy a security suite. Kaspersky Internet Security 2014 is our favourite security suite, blocking all the live threats we put against it. In addition, Kaspersky will detect many exploits, preventing criminals from being able to take over your computer.
As we pointed out, it can be other out-of-date bits of software that create security holes criminals can exploit. For this reason, you need to make sure that you keep all software completely up-to-date. A lot of software will automatically update itself, but not all will.
To save manually checking, you can use a free software updater instead. These scan your computer for installed applications, then check online to see if there’s a newer version installed. There are a few programs out there, but Secunia PSI and Update Notifier are two of the best.
Device drivers have been known to contain security flaws, which can be exploited, so it’s important to keep these updated, too. There are free tools, such as Device Doctor, which will scan your computer for drivers and let you know if there’s an updated version available. Make sure you decline all the other bits of software Device Doctor asks you to install when you run its installation program.
If you’re using Internet Explorer under Windows XP, it’s time to stop. Windows XP only supports Internet Explorer 9, which means that it’s at least two versions out of date and vulnerable to some exploits.
DISABLE JAVA FOR WEB BROWSING
Java has had a bit of a kicking in recent times, with big failures in its security causing a lot of problems. One of the most sensible things you can do is disable Java from running in browsers, which means you can still run standalone Java-based apps, but your browser won’t run this content online. To do this go to the Control Panel and select Java from the Classic view. Click the Security tab and deselect the ‘Enable Java content in the browser’ tickbox. Click OK to apply the setting. You’ll be warned that you’ll need to restart your browsers for the changes to take effect.
SWITCH TO A LIMITED ACCOUNT
Limited accounts are a great way to use Windows XP securely. As the name suggests, these accounts have restrictions on them, so they can’t install or remove all applications, or make system-wide changes, such as changing a hard disk’s partitions. However, a Limited account also means that software you encounter can’t do any of the above things, either. So, if you’re running a Limited account and run some malware, it will be as limited as you are.
There are a couple of tricks, which we’ll show you, for running things as Administrator when you need to. This means that you’re protected day to day, but you have Administrator tools ready when you need them.
To create a Limited account, first you need to log in as an Administrator and make sure the account has a password. Go to Control Panel, User Accounts and select your user account. Click Create a password and enter a new password twice. Enter a hint if you want, then click OK. Next click Home, then click Create a new account and give it a name, click Next, then select Limited and click Create Account. You’ve now got a Limited user account. You can set a password for it by following the steps at the start of this paragraph. You can now restart your computer and log in as the Limited account.