/ Technology

Are you nostalgic for Windows XP?

Windows XP logo

Windows XP has divided software history in two – before and after XP. But with popularity for XP showing no signs of abating, isn’t it time for Microsoft to relaunch it and give its customers what they want?

People hardly remember Windows 98 or ME but after all these years, not only has the almighty XP stuck in people’s minds but more importantly, it is still the most used operating system in the world.

According to W3Schools, XP has almost half of computer users on its side (47% Dec 2010). Quite impressive if you bear in mind the XP platform has its days numbered – the extended support ends in 2014.

Why is XP so popular?

After almost two years on the market, the massively improved Windows 7 hasn’t been able to win the popularity contest in the mind of millions of users. So what’s behind this massive support for XP? Could it be down to its groundbreaking interface, speed and security?

Maybe it’s to do with the fact that its successor wasn’t very successful – it’s widely acknowledged that Vista got a fair amount of backlash (although I have to say my experience with it was ok). Could this have contributed to the XP popularity, making users nostalgic of the “old” technology?

I can’t deny that for a product that’s been around for more than a decade, XP is still current and keeps up with emerging technologies. Even though trends are changing, (at this year’s CES, most new products were touchscreen tablets using a brand new version of Android) I reckon businesses will hold on to XP for more years to come.

XP and home users

This love affair with the old platform is reflected repeatedly in the emails we receive via the Which? Computing Helpdesk. Windows users often struggle so much with younger OS models that they have a change of heart, wishing they had never switched.

We even get requests to help people make the brand new Windows 7 look like the old XP. Funnily enough, you can find very comprehensive guides online to do exactly this, suggesting it’s a more popular activity than you might think.

And I’m pretty sure Microsoft acknowledges all this. One of the selling points of Windows 7 was – and still is – the option to run an XP mode in order to minimize any compatibility issues.

So am I the only one wondering if all this nostalgia and affection for XP can be harnessed by Microsoft, with the development of a brand new OS “XP 2012”? That, I reckon, would be a great business idea for Microsoft.

Would you ditch your current operating system in favour of a new XP 2012?

Yes (47%, 466 Votes)

No (33%, 329 Votes)

Not sure (21%, 207 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,003

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As far as I’m concerned – I do not change an OS just because there is a new one out – unless the old one was very defective. I’ve been using PCs since DOS.

Win XP has virtually no faults and is robust – allows easy recovery – and works very well with my latest Computer – a fast piece of kit indeed – So why should I change?.

Win Vista was rubbish – Win 7 is no better than XP for all of my requirements. I want software that I can use for all of my requirements – without having to learn new “tricks” for the “updates”

It is why I do not use Microsoft for anything except the OS.

Corel Wordperfect is far superior to Word in all respects. – As is Corel Paint Shop Pro.

The only other OS really available is a form of Linux and honestly I find that not as easy to use as XP though I use if for a Laptop

The only reason I will change from XP is when my usual software upgrades will no longer work with it. But even then I would be inclined simply not to upgrade anyway – unless the upgrade was far far superior to the previous version – and that has been very rare indeed.

Unless a new operating system (or any software) is offering big improvements in areas I am interested in why should I change.
I will only have to spend a lot of time finding out how it works and where all those useful or important options have been moved to again.

More importantly hardware is no longer the limiting factor for most people’s use of a PC so many people carry on happily using machines several years old with XP.

Windows Vista must be responsible for a lot of the reluctance to move to Wiindows 7. Microsoft should have given every user of Vista a free copy of Windows 7 and an big, big apology.

Installing Windows 7 on a computer running Windows XP is not a simple matter and Microsoft recommends a ‘clean install. No problem for experienced users, but a challenge for most of us.

Anyone with an older computer is going to find Windows 7 slow by comparison with XP. Not as bad as Vista, but a very obvious decrease in performance.

Many companies and government organisations (which represent a lot of computer users) still provide their staff with Windows XP. (Even worse, they may have no alternative to Internet Explorer 6, which is a bit of a joke in 2011.)

As computers are replaced, Windows 7 will grow in popularity and more users will experience the advantages of a more modern operating system.

I don’t think we need a new version of XP (or DOS, or CP/M ….. ), unless there is a surge in interest in the history of the personal computer.

Have to say when I replaced my computer – the new one came with Win 7 – I immediately replaced it with Win XP – haven’t regretted it.

Mike Minh says:
12 February 2011

Do not underestimate the power of Microsoft. By introducing new and unnecessary file formats (like .docx) soon they will get their way and XP will eventually die. Why do they do this? They want a firm grip on the user with digital rights management, file formats which can be controlled (watch the battle between Silverlight and Flash). If MS could replace PDF they would certainly do so. Etc etc etc. The border between the OS and the applications gets more and more blurred. Just ask an average user “What text software do you use?” Surprisingly often the answer is “Windows”.

MS wants to control what they call the user experience. The aim is to limit choice, not to widen it.

As for XP to come back in whatever form, sorry to be blunt, dream on. That’s not going to happen.

Amused says:
13 February 2011

I don’t disagree with the facts, but I draw the opposite conclusion! Their determination to keep their revenue streams flowing by churning out new versions of Office and (to justify these) yet newer versions of existing formats is their fatal weakness. Remember, they originally refused to provide conversion plug-ins or a “Reader” program for .docx for exactly these reasons, but it had the OPPOSITE effect… most wouldn’t upgrade to the new Office because so few recipients could use the .docx documents it produced. Result? Microsoft caved in and provided what it had originally refused to produce, but it was too late. I personally just return .docx documents to the sender and ask them to send it as a .doc or (preferably, if it doesn’t need editing) a .pdf, largely because I’m a Linux user.

The same thing happened with Silverlight, which was doomed to an early death because there was no version for anything other than Windows. Microsoft was forced to leverage its relationship with Novell, and to support Moonlight (Silverlight for Linux), but again it’s too late… Flash is too well-established and even Microsoft has tacitly admitted that HTML5 is now attracting its strategic attention, much to the dismay of all of those companies that committed to Silverlight on Microsoft’s earlier assurances.

But you are spot on about their obsession to “control the user experience” – that’s their Achilles Heel. It was why, for years, the marketing people were always able to override their security people, and look where it has taken Windows. Completely unfit for purpose from a reliability and security perspective, and we now have a new generation that thinks re-booting your PC two or three times a week is a natural part of computing (I have a Linux server that was last re-booted around Easter 2010).

I still use use XP and Windows 95. I have dos relational database ( a very good one), in which I have over 31,000 records, and which I can still back up onto 2 floppy disks. The new versions of my database are over £700, which I cannot afford. Ir runs light lightning and will do far more than Access, as it can be either menu driven or programmed. So why would I change when a new programme would take up over 10 times the space and not run as fast.

I have also had real problems with updating Windows Internet Explorer, and each time have had to go back to V.6, which although it hangs on some websites still works with most.

Perhaps Which could run a series on how to update various software progs without getting in tangle.

There is no doubt that a lot can be done with very old computers, but newer models and operating systems are more versatile.

Being stuck with Internet Explorer 6 is a compelling reason to update. This browser encouraged many users to turn their back on Microsoft and move to better browsers.

Amused says:
13 February 2011

I agree that XP will continue to be popular for some while, but I continue to be amused that so many people happily spend out considerable amounts of money for anti-virus products because all versions of Windows are, and will always be, fundamentally broken. Microsoft knows that, from a technical perspective, the commercial requirement for “backwards-compatibility” means that a complete re-write is out of the question: yet, without such a re-write from scratch, the lack of any formal security model within the operating system can never be remedied.

Because Linux and other Unix derivatives started out as multi-user operating systems, they were written on the basis that the superuser (“root”) is God and every other user had be regarded as hostile potential attackers, hence the formal security model that completely separates the two (this doesn’t exist in Windows, which started out as a consumer product and cannot ever truly be “multi-user”). That is why there will never be a Unix or Linux virus… these have vulnerabilities and malware also exists (malware protection for the Mac OS/X is wrongly packaged as “anti-virus” protection by companies that should know better but can’t resist the marketing advantage of scaring users by using the V-word!) but never a self-replicating virus.

I’m even more amused that Microsoft can churn out buggy software that’s vulnerable to virus infection and riddled with security flaws, and then produce additional software (Live OneCare) to cater for these!

And modern Linux distributions as Windows-like and user-friendly that they are ideal for installing on a PC for a non-IT-aware relative that doesn’t want to have to worry about viruses when sending/receiving e-mails and/or browsing the Web. More and more vendors (e.g. ebuyer.com) sell PCs (and also laptops) without an operating system, so that you can install your own, and you therefore also save the £80 “Windows Tax” that you pay additionally for a Windows-loaded computer – saving money is always a delightful bonus!!

Bemused says:
13 February 2011

I’ve been using MS products since DOS 3, I remember windows on 80286 processors right through to current tech (well, Intel Core 2 quad and i3 laptop) )and am right now in the amusing position of deciding whether to run win 7 or xp on some old systems to help a family member learn the basics of computing without buying him a whole new system.

Having now tried both for comparison, and enjoy this all you doubters, XP with all service releases & current patches is slower on an Athlon XP2400+ than Windows 7, I guess in no small part due to the fact that W7 is being that bit smarter about what it loads and when. If I were building a basic rig for home use, I’d go W7 every time now. Unlike Vista, it is a pretty big step in the right direction.

Bemused speed may well be the result of all those device drivers not available for Win7 not having to load to run all those devices he will need to buy a new version of to get support in Win7. XP has been around a long time and has enormous support in the add-on devices. I have several, DVB-S card, DVB-T card, FM xmitter come to mind, that are not supported in even 32bit Win7. The device vendor expects me to buy a new “better” device to use with Win7. Not a chance.

Clive says:
15 February 2011

I am still using the original XP, indeed that’s what I am writting this on. As the standard Demon (my ISP) software is Turnpike and this is incompatable with Windows 7. I have a comuter which is nearly a year old but because it has Win 7 on I only use it for surfing or to play Solitare.

I had to replace my computer in June, and bought another one which came with Windows 7 already installed. I was dubious at first, but once I was used to it, I liked it, and would now be hesitant to change back to XP, which I’d been happy with for over five years.

Knut Knutsson says:
15 February 2011

I’ve had an Imac since 2007 and thankfully none of these problems affect OSX. Oh Happy Days.

MsDos was the biggest, most expensive (for the consumer) cul-de-sac in technological history. It still lurks behind every version of Microsoft OS each new manifestation of which is trying to make it less of a turkey From the posts so far it seems they can’t even manage that.

Ken Rock says:
15 February 2011

Vista caused me so many problems I ditched my pc after 2 years and purchased an iMac. I just wish I had done it 2 years earlier!

I still run a netbook on XP for a couple of old programmes that will not run on the Mac (I refuse to risk contaminating it by using one of the Windows options). Last week I needed to restore the netbook and ended up paying £40 to get a reloaded programme to work.

I really like XP, and avoided Vista like the plague it was – same for Office 2003 vs 2007.
MS got it right second time around with W7 and Office 2010, but instead of selling an unfinished product they should have had an extended beta period. The two latest products are incarnations of their predecessors with most of the bad bits taken out.
XP is sound, and we still have it on most of the computers at the workplace, but 7 is better on newer machines.
I agree with others re Linux, but couldn’t implement it in the workplace because I don’t have time to teach everyone a new OS. Overall I would say that I was nostalgic but have moved on now.

keith says:
15 February 2011

I’ve been an avid avoider of all things Microsoft since back in the day…

Seem to remember that the comments above are the same as 20 years ago… and also remember that the OS was cyclical with windows 3.1 being ok.. 4 was ****.. 5 was ok, 6 was **** etc…

I hated Publisher for the arrogance of thinking that RGB was ok to foist on the unwary, I dislike Word for becoming too sophisticated and unwieldy when it was originally a great word processing programme. I just like to blame them for all the ills of the world!

Microsoft went the wrong way, they should have bought Apple and or Adobe but I’m glad they didn’t.

keith says:
15 February 2011

* hahaha!…. **** for a very innocuous word… ending in rap.. The censoring system here seems a little sensitive? Reading my post one might imagine that I had sworn or used an inappropriate word!

Yes, sorry about the Keith – our profanity filter can be annoying at times 🙁

I still use XP on both my machines [ desk and laptop ] and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I see no point in switching to XP2012 as my existing version of XP allows me to do all I want to.
My wife has a laptop with Windows 7 on it and it drives me mad when she asks me for technical support.
I used to work in IT support and find the rush to upgrade to the ‘latest’ OS or version of an application as daft as changing your car every year just because a ‘NEW MODEL’ has hit the market place

Windows 7 is vastly superior to Windows XP. It can be made to look like XP if you feel nostalgic.

Now if you want to champion a cause, BRING BACK OFFICE 2003 MENUS.

I am still using XP and as far as I am concerned is still the operating system of choice. It is fast, stable, reliable and secure (if set up correctly). It is the best OS that Microsoft have produced and once they stop producing security updates I would probably switch to Ubuntu or other Linux OS which work fine on single core PC’s.

Forget Vista and their latest OS Windows 7, which is just CPU gobbling bloat-ware that requires a dual core processor or higher to produce equivalent XP or Linux speeds.


I’m still using XP and am happy with it. I had the option of the then new Vista when my computer was purchased. I decided against an untested product, which seems to have been a good decision.

I’ve seen and briefly used Win7 and am impressed, so will probably choose Win7 for my next computer. My main concern is how much else will I have to replace, and how much time will be required?

I bought a Dell Win7 computer for my sister then discovered her Dell printer would not work with it. Dell confirmed the model would not work with Win7 and offered to sell her a new printer. A tour of the internet showed that in fact the old printer would work with Win7 and is now doing so. It’s the thought of dealing with this type of problem that puts me off changing.

You can have the best of both worlds – retain all the advances brought in with Windows 7 and still have the look and feel of good old Windows XP, by installing one of the free shells that are available – I recommend Classic Shell, which is open-source, easily configurable, and is downloadable from http://classicshell.sourceforge.net/

Janet Arblaster says:
15 February 2011

I purchased a new Dell computer with Windows 7 this year thinking it would be much better and faster than my old XP. I spent months on the phone with Dell sorting out different problems, one was a floating curser. To be fair, Dell sent another computer but it has the same problem, so I’m living with that, I just use my old XP computer 99% of the time. I am not technically inclined so I have difficulty finding my files on Windows 7 where XP was so easy to use. Even thought this computer is less than a year old, I’m thinking about having someone load XP on the new computer for me.