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Reg hack disguises XP machines as ATMs, extends support

ITP.net outlines simple amendment to keep legacy systems current until April 2019

Windows XP went out of support in April.
Windows XP went out of support in April.

Out-of-support Windows XP users now have an alternative to upgrading, as a childishly simple Windows registry hack has been uncovered that will allow an XP machine to masquerade as an embedded industrial OS - such as those found on bank ATMs or point-of-sale terminals - and remain in support for another five years.

In case you have been away on business in the Andromeda galaxy, you are probably aware that Microsoft has stopped supporting Windows XP and that users have been caught in the dilemma of upgrading to Windows 7 or 8, which is expensive, or carrying on without security updates in an age of escalating malware.

Now there is a third option. First reported by BetaNews, it allows an amendment of the Windows registry on certain XP machines, to fool the update system into thinking it is an embedded industrial version of the legacy platform.

The 32-bit version of Windows XP Service Pack 3 is the same OS that forms the foundation for the Windows Embedded POSReady kernel, commonly known as Windows Embedded Industry. This is the modified version of XP that sits on industrial systems such as cash registers and ATMs, but the security updates are the same as for the desktop version and will continue to be pushed out until April 2019.

If you want to try the hack it is very easy. The first thing to check is the version of XP you are running. Open Windows Explorer (your file system screen). Right-click on My Computer and select Properties. If "x64 Edition" is displayed under the System heading, then you are running the 64-bit version of XP and you will need a slightly more complex workaround, which is described here. Otherwise, you are running the 32-bit version and can proceed to the next step.

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It is always best to back up your registry before you try anything. Click Start>Run; type "regedit" and click OK. Select File>Export... and select All from the Export Range box at the bottom. Type in a file name (eg. "myregbackup"). Take a note of the folder location and change it if you want to, and click OK. Now you are ready to try the hack and if something unexpected happens you can restore your registry by simply double-clicking that backup file.

Create a text file (right click on the Windows Start screen and select New>Text Document), but name it "MyHack.reg". Note: you need to make sure it is not a text file such as "MyHack.reg.txt". If it is, you need to change the file extension to ".reg". To do this, go to Windows Explorer again and select Tools>Folder Options..., select the View tab and uncheck "Hide extensions for known file types". After that, click OK and you will be able to right-click on your file and rename it; whatever file extension you type will be honoured by Windows.

Once you have a file called "MyHack.reg" and it has the same icon as your previously created backup file, right-click on it and select Edit and paste in the following text:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\WPA\PosReady]

"Installed"=dword:00000001

Save the file and close it. Now if you double-click on it, your registry will update with the new key information.

Your work is done. After the reg install, Windows will automatically download updates as before. However, Microsoft may find a way to block this tweak and there is also the chance that updates other than security fixes are downloaded that are device-specific and cause compatibility issues.

The XP user now has three options. Do nothing and remain vulnerable to the malware typhoon; upgrade to Windows 7 or 8 (or switch to Linux/Chromebook/Mac), which may necessitate the purchase of a new machine; or try the hack, which may see your system through to April 2019 or may crash your system next week, in which case it may be time for an upgrade. Or you can restore your registry and continue unprotected.

Good luck.

[UPDATE]

Microsoft later released the following statement to ZDnet:

"We recently became aware of a hack that purportedly aims to provide security updates to Windows XP customers. The security updates that could be installed are intended for Windows Embedded and Windows Server 2003 customers and do not fully protect Windows XP customers. Windows XP customers also run a significant risk of functionality issues with their machines if they install these updates, as they are not tested against Windows XP. The best way for Windows XP customers to protect their systems is to upgrade to a more modern operating system, like Windows 7 or Windows 8.1."