Government refuses to upgrade ageing IT systems, signs Windows XP deal with Microsoft

Microsoft will provide the UK Government with emergency cover for the thousands of PCs it still has running XP as the end-of-sale date for geriatric OS looms.

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Security patches will be released to Whitehall by Microsoft until 8 April 2015. The patches will also provide cover for Office 2003 and Exchange 2003, two more out-of-date pieces of software still used by the Government.

The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) lauded the deal as value for money for the UK taxpayer, demonstrating "the benefits of government working as a single customer".

Microsoft's listed price for custom XP support for one year is $200 (£120) per desktop. The cost of the deal has set Whitehall back £5.6 million, according to The Register.

The Crown Commercial Service lauded the deal as value for money for the UK taxpayer, demonstrating "the benefits of government working as a single customer".

That means that at minimum around 46,500 computers in government institutions are still running Windows XP, despite multiple warnings by Microsoft telling customers to migrate before the end-of-sale date.

Sarah Hurrell, commercial director for IT and Telecoms at CCS, however, told The Inquirer that the extension has saved the government around £20 million, as otherwise organisations would have to pay separately to access the fixes (this also implies the number of computers affected is also far higher than estimated).

She said, "This allows us to have continuity for eligible public sector organisations as they migrate to other operating systems."

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The agreement is only a stop-gap, however. Microsoft issues extended support to organisations only if they already have migration plans in place. This contingency is in place to make sure sneaky civil servants don't attempt to sign the deal to postpone possible migration.

A number of government bodies will miss the deadline completely, with NHS England admitting that it simply has no idea what the state of its IT system was, what OS it was running or whether or not it was migrating.