Microsoft officially ended support for Windows XP SP2 on July 13, 2010. With the exception of the 64-bit version of Windows XP, those running the SP2 will no longer be able to receive updates–security or otherwise.
But according to a June 2010 poll in TechRepublic’s Windows blog, a significant number of people still refuse to install SP3. As of this writing, 33 percent of the poll’s 900+ respondents still use Windows XP SP2. TechRepublic members gave a variety of reasons for continuing to run SP2; ranging from compatibility issues and upgrade troubles to “don’t fix what isn’t broken” attitudes. “On a couple of occasions I have attempted to upgrade a PC from SP2 to SP3 and after the installation, the PC blue screened on start up – no safe mode or anything” wrote Bleninger.
So, what’s someone running SP2 to do when they want to apply a critical security update, such as patch KB2286198 that fixes a critical vulnerability in Windows shortcut (LNK) files? Well according F-Secure’s Sean Sullivan, you can use a quick registry tweak to trick a machine running Windows XP SP2 into thinking it’s running SP3. In a post on F-Secure’s News from the Lab blog, Sullivan explained how a registry hack used by computer gamers to run GTA IV on SP2, can also be used to apply Windows updates.
Warning! Improperly editing the Windows registry can have dire consequences. Make sure you have a verified backup before making any changes. Also, Microsoft does not support this specific security update on Windows XP SP2. Installing the patch with this hack may make your system unstable.
If you’ve read the warnings, are sticking with SP2, and want to try the hack, here are the instructions.
1. Open the Registry Editor.
2. Navigate to the key:
3. Double-click the DWORD value CSDVersion and change the value data from 200 to 300.
4. Click OK.
5. Close the Registry Editor.
6. Reboot the machine.
The machine will now think that you’ve applied SP3 when you’re actually running Windows XP SP2.