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Microsoft Updates Service Pack Support Policy

Microsoft announced a slight revision on Tuesday to its end-of-support policy for software service packs.

The revised policy adds "limited troubleshooting on unsupported service pack versions," according to Jared Proudfoot, group program manager for Microsoft support lifecycle. In the past, when support expired on a service pack, Microsoft's customers received no support -- meaning no phone support, no security updates and no hotfixes for nonsecurity issues. Microsoft considers products that fall outside its lifecycle support timelines to be "unsupported" products.

With the new policy, the emphasis seems to be on the word, "limited." If Microsoft's customer service and support personnel can't resolve the issue, then customers will be left with little recourse except to upgrade to the next service pack or to the next version of the product.

Proudfoot spells out what Microsoft means by the revised service pack support policy in a blog post. "Limited troubleshooting" has three key concepts:

  1. "Break/fix support incidents will be provided through Microsoft Customer Service and Support; and through Microsoft's managed support offerings (such as Premier Support).
  2. "There will be no option to engage Microsoft's product development resources, and technical workarounds may be limited or not available.
  3. "If the support incident requires escalation to development for further guidance, requires a hotfix, or requires a security update, customers will be asked to upgrade to a supported service pack."

Some IT shops may have issues upgrading to the next service pack, but Microsoft's revised policy appears to offer no easy solution in such cases.

The new policy change comes at an appropriate time. April 13 marks a banner day for expiring support. Extended support ends on April 14 for Windows Vista release-to-manufacturing version. (An RTM version is a version to which no service packs have been applied, according to Microsoft's definition.) Vista users may have the option of upgrading to Service Pack 2 to continue to get support.

As Microsoft previously warned, support will end for Windows XP SP2 and Windows 2000 on July 13, 2010. After that time, Windows 2000 users will get no more automatic deliveries of security updates or even more service packs, as explained in this blog by Steve Chen, a senior support engineer for Microsoft SharePoint.

Windows XP users still have some time if they can upgrade to Service Pack 3.

The clock is ticking for Windows Server 2003 users. On July 13, 2010, they will move from the "mainstream support" phase to the extended support phase. Security updates will still flow during the extended support phase, but nonsecurity hotfixes will require setting up an agreement with Microsoft.

Chen summed up how to think about support as follows: "Currently support status for Windows XP is at least XP SP3 and for Server 2003 at least SP2," he wrote.

For more information on the mainstream and extended support phases of Microsoft's software lifecycle, and what it all means, see this Microsoft blog. Microsoft directs consumer users to this page for information on expiring support for Windows products.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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