Windows 8 is here, and of course Microsoft wants you and everyone you know to upgrade to its newest operating system. Heck, Microsoft's even taken some of the sting out of upgrading by putting in place several promotions, such as offering Media Center as a free download to Windows 8 Pro users until January 31, 2013. But hey, if you're of the opinion that Microsoft will have to pry the Start menu from your cold, dead installation of Windows 7, then more power to you. Just be aware that you aren't likely to see a second Service Pack, so for all intents and purposes, what you currently see with Windows 7 is what you get.
So here it is, folks, the first of what is likely to be many bugs affecting unpatched versions of Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), which of course will remain unpatched since Microsoft cut off support for XP SP2 and earlier.
According to a security advisory (2286198), "the vulnerability exists because Windows incorrectly parses shortcuts in such a way that malicious code may be executed when the user clicks the displayed icon of a specially crafted shortcut. This vulnerability is most likely to be exploited through removable drives," Microsoft says.
While disabling AutoPlay lessens the risk, users with an infected USB thumb drive can still fall prey the attack if they were to manually browse to the root folder. And because it can run when AutoPlay and AutoRun are disabled, Sophos senior security advisor, Chester Wisniewski, warns that the bug is particularly "nasty," pointing out in a blog post that "it bypasses all Windows 7 security mechanisms, including UAC, and doesn't require administrative privilege to run."
We've touched on the impending demise of XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) on a couple of occasions in the past week or so, and if you were still caught off guard today by Microsoft ending support, then extend your leg and swing it back as far and as fast as possible, with the goal being to kick yourself in your own ass for failing to pay attention.
Whether you were ready for it or not, what happens now? For starters, Microsoft will stop sending out updates and security patches for the now-defunct version of Windows, leaving XP SP2 users vulnerable in a number of areas, including IE, WMP, and Outlook Express.
You do have some options, however, the most obvious one being to upgrade to SP3. If for whatever reason that's not an option and you're simply stuck on XP SP2, you can make the best of a bad situation by first and foremost getting rid of IE. It doesn't matter what version of Microsoft's popular browser you're running, you won't be receiving updates. Instead, consider (strongly) switching to any of the alternatives, such as Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or Opera, all of which will continue kicking out updates.
Other steps you can take: update other programs, install AV software (if you haven't already), keep your firewall running, and cross your fingers.
Just last week Microsoft released SP2 for Windows Vista, and it would appear that many users of the update have noticed some massive changes in their free disk space.
Now, when I say ‘massive changes’ I’m not just talking about 500MB here or there, but there have been reported cases of people freeing 40GB and more. One user wrote on PC World’s forums, “Wow! I didn't notice that til now. I went from about 88GB free to 122GB free. That's a significant change 'under the hood,' isn't it?” The biggest recorded case was another user that managed to regain 130GB.
Vista SP2 includes a command-line cleanup tool (compcln.exe) that is used to remove older system files and restore points, therefore freeing up space. Many think that the SP2 installer automatically runs this, but there’s been no official confirmation from Microsoft.
Have you installed SP2, and if so, have you regained any of your hard drive space? If so, let us know!
At long last, Microsoft has confirmed that Service Pack 2 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 is complete, by releasing it to select manufacturers. It even hit torrents, hours before it was officially announced on the Windows Vista Team Blog.
As for an official download, it’s not clear when Service Pack 2 will be available. They’ve stated that they will push the final version to customers through Automatic Update over the next few months, but those that aren’t ready can still use Microsoft’s service-pack blocking tool.
Along with this, Microsoft has started pushing Vista SP1 to users that had previously blocked it, in order to prime them for SP2.
For those wondering, Service Pack 2 will bring Windows Search 4.0, the Bluetooth 2.1 Feature Pack, the ability to record data on Blu-ray natively through Windows, Windows Connect Now (a simpler WiFi tool), the addition of support for UTC timestamps in the exFAT file system, as well as various security and performance updates.
It seems as though many enthusiasts are biding their time with Vista and have already begun looking forward to Windows 7. In some respects, so has Microsoft, who doesn't need much coaxing to talk about the new OS, whether it be about the refined UAC experience or explaining where the Windows 7 naming scheme comes from. But that doesn't mean Vista's being kicked to the curb.
On the contrary, it looks as though Vista's second Service Pack will make a debut before Windows 7, suggests ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley. According to Foley, select hardware and software partners have already received a beta of SP2, and while the murmurs are unusually quiet regarding what the new Service Pack will bring, Foley's sources have indicated that Microsoft's goal is to deliver SP2 before Windows 7 in an attempt to lessen confusion among users mulling whether to deploy Vista or wait for the new OS. And what does Microsoft have to say on the matter?
"Microsoft is working on a second Windows Vista Service Pack (Windows Vista SP2) and will share more details in the coming months," a Vista spokesperson wrote.
Hit the jump and let us know what you're most looking forward to: Windows 7 or Vista SP2.