back to article Met Police laggards still have 18,000 Windows XP machines in use

Thousands of Metropolitan Police computers are still running Windows XP more than a year after the force promised to upgrade them, mayor Sadiq Khan has admitted in response to a Greater London Assembly question. Moreover, just eight police machines in the UK capital are running Windows 10, the latest version of the operating …

  1. AndyS


    So, what are the main reasons for slow progress?

    Is it just cash? Or is it the usual mix of bureaucracy and resistance to change that large organisations seem to ooze?

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Why?

      Probably a bit of both but it is no secret that successive cuts since 2010 have hindered councils' ability to invest. At the same time police forces have been forced to taken on additional work partly thanks to government edicts, but more due to heavier cuts in things like social services.

      Of course, no problem now that unlimited funds have been found down the back of a sofa in Downing Street. Financially there is no doubt that the UK is living beyond its means but loose monetary policy has thus far insulated the public purse from this (low interest rates have effectively given the government a larger budget). At some point, whoever is in government, is going to have make some very tough and unpopular choices,

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: Why?

        You never know - they might include attempting to wrest a few shekels from people based in the UK hiding their funds overseas?

        But maybe not - a step too far?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why?

          Inside knowledge:

          We were working on that, then everybody was diverted into sorting out a big mess known as Brexit.

    2. Reue

      Re: Why?

      Source: I was the desktop tech lead consultant during another police force's Windows XP migration

      Multiple reasons for the long delay:

      Internally the police use alot of bespoke software, either written specifically for them by a 3rd party or their own in-house devs who have long since retired, left or been made redundant. Try finding a download link to Windows 8/10 drivers for a taser. for instance.

      All of their builds need to be signed off at the highest security level, ditto for any changes then made. It's a process of producing a build, getting it signed off, getting it tested, having a change requested, making the change, getting the whole build signed off again etc etc.

      I don't know about MET however in my force they were also trying to implement hot desking at the same time, so we also had to engineer and deploy full data/environment/application roaming at the same time as the operating system upgrade.

      And finally; why not go straight to Windows 10? Because the contracts for the XP migration were all signed years ago before 10 was avaliable. It's taking this long just to get on to 8.1.

      1. g00se

        Re: Why?

        Try finding a download link to Windows 8/10 drivers for a taser. for instance.

        Wow! I had no idea you plugged tasers into computers to use them. That's shocking. Do they have a USB interface?

        1. caffeine addict

          Re: Why?

          That's shocking.

          Please tell me that was intentional...

        2. hogsback

          Re: Why?

          Yes, they do have a USB port. It's used for updating firmware, and for downloading the audit trail (charging, loading, check in/out, discharge) of the weapon.

        3. Reue

          Re: Why?

          They have internal storage to record when and where the taser was fired for compliance and potential later use in court.

        4. Chairo

          Re: Why?

          Do they have a USB interface?

          Some special cattle prods might have.

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why?

          Must admit, i'd never thought it through, but there must be some way of working out the time it was fired etc for culpability reasons.

          It would make sense that it includes some kind of logger.

      2. frank ly

        Re: Why?

        "Because the contracts for the XP migration were all signed years ago before 10 was avaliable."

        I'm sure that the supplier of the 'upgrade' to 8.1 had no idea and could not forsee that Win 10 would be released when it was.

        Many years ago when I was involved in writing a spec for a hand held 'equipment manual reader' device, using COTS, for the military, we told the customer that details of the hardware, OS and software should not be settled until a year before delivery, for obvious reasons.

      3. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Why?

        " don't know about MET however in my force they were also trying to implement hot desking at the same time"

        Ahh yes, hotdesking. The eternal fad that provably doesn't work, almost all companies revert within a short period of time at a cost of millions and still just doesn't seem to die. I suspect it won't properly until some of those consults out there do. Let's hope they encounter the BOFH or one of his apprentices.

        I bet the argument was: "Police officers spend most of their time on the street and are not all in the station at the same time, so why have a desk for all of them?". Which ignores the fact that on busy day's when shit hits the fan, all 3 shifts can be in the station at the same time trying to get all their arrest records and mountains of paperwork sorted before finally heading to bed 23 hours after clocking in. (Imagine the London riots for instance). And things take a turn for the worse if all those people don't even have a place to sit and work anymore.

        The same argument in offices doesn't work either. A building has to fit nearly all of your peak load. It's acceptable some of the sales guys on laptops have to find a windowsill to work in but almost all of your peak load should be able to sit at a desk and get work done. Otherwise you are losing money.

        1. PickledAardvark

          Re: Why?

          If you are implementing hot desking with shared desktop PCs, you need to use roaming user profiles. Almost every new release of Windows introduces a different profile version -- you can't apply a Windows 8.1 profile to a Windows 10 user, for example, without strange things happening.

          With clever design you can use Microsoft's roaming profile mechanism for different user OS versions. Users can have access to personal and shared file stores, but desktop settings will vary because you have a different profile for each OS version. Third party profile managers might provide a better experience.

          If you foul up the initial design, you'll have a lot of work on your hands to support two desktop OS versions concurrently.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why?

        Yeah you kind of nailed it there. Used to work with the company that provided that IT support for the MET. A lot of the software was still being ported over when I left almost a year ago and a lot of it wasn't even ready. Not sure about the drivers as I wasn't apart of that team but the company was transparent enough to tell us updates etc.

        They've been hot desking for a long time, I was there for almost 3 years and it was a thing that was normal to them even when I started.

      5. vir

        Bespoke Software

        Such as an encryption bypass tool, which I'm sure will only be used at the utmost end of need.

    3. John Lilburne

      Re: Why?

      Problem will be that changing an OS involves unknown risk. Some key software may no longer work, work differently in some way, or no longer interface with other systems. Fixing these issue can take large globs of cash. Much of the software in use will have been certified and require re-certification which will account for more globs of cash.

      It ain't as simply as upgrading your home machine or the machines in some 10 desk office.

    4. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: Why?

      "So, what are the main reasons for slow progress?"

      Our force advertised the project manager job in charge of the whole migration. They offered the princely salary of £30,000.

      That gives you some idea of why things might not go to plan.

    5. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Why?

      "resistance to change"

      yes. people resist change, especially when it's CHANGE for the SAKE OF CHANGE. You know, like the perfectly fine XP UI that everybody got to know really well, being twisted and manipulated into the Win-10-nic we all know (and generally hate/dislike) today.

      I think cops are busy being cops, not IT professionals, and as such don't want to WASTE THE TIME it takes to re-learn what they already know. I think that speaks well enough for itself.

      The ONLY ones who "benefit" from "all of that re-learning" is MICROSHAFT. For everyone ELSE, it's a HUGE PAIN IN THE ASS!!!

      And don't forget the psychological effects of the 2D FLATSO FLUGLY.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It appears that several thousand machines have also been junked

    The difference may just be the number left in the back of taxis, or stolen from an officers car whilst he attends a spit roast.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's criminal they are still using XP considering how often it locks up.

    1. Vic

      It's criminal they are still using XP considering how often it locks up.

      So ... potential savings on custody officers?


  4. tiggity Silver badge


    Better get the Win 10 licencing right so lots of telemetry can be disabled, a lot of sensitive data on police PCs, do not want the default "send all the typing" Win 10 telemetry mode in use

  5. John G Imrie

    just eight London police machines are running Windows 10

    Considering the general level of data slurping that goes on with W10 I consider this a good thing™

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Could be completely fine depending on how they are configured.

    More likely they are struggling to update legacy application with unhelpful suppliers and an IT department reduced to 3 outsourced part timers

  7. JimmyPage

    Back in April the London mayor set up an "online hate crime" unit at a cost of £1.7m.

    or just under one thousandth of a DUP.

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Back in April the London mayor set up an "online hate crime" unit at a cost of £1.7m.

      £1.7m would buy you 17 copies of Windows XP (Professional Capita) Edition. The one that can only be installed onto a new Dell that has been reverse-engineered to make it XP compatible with 128Bit encryption. As financial units go that equates to a 1/1000th of a DUP, which Capita will tell you is 'cheap at the price'

    2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: Back in April the London mayor set up an "online hate crime" unit at a cost of £1.7m.

      And I am not sure why that even got a mention unless it were an insinuation Khan should not have done that, that it was somehow a waste, not the best use of such money.

      The Met Police budget may be tight, they are facing cuts, but it's still around £3 billion. £1.7m is just a small part of that.

      The Met said it had cost over £12 million just to put coppers around the Ecuadorian embassy to stop Assange fleeing.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: one thousandth of a DUP.

      a.k.a. a "milliDUP".

      DUPs, like Farads are unlikely to be used in anything but the fractional form.

      So milliDUPs, and microDUPs ...

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: re: one thousandth of a DUP.

        I can't help but think of this particular game.

        But the best way to get the DUPs to go through the right door is to run at them... waving £1bn.

    4. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      "or just under one thousandth of a DUP."

      Should have just outsourced all the hate crime to the DUP.

      I hear they can do it wholesale.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Back in April the London mayor set up an "online hate crime" unit at a cost of £1.7m.

      One thousandth of a DUP?

      Yes and just as effective.

      More political window dressing by the Mayor to deflect from his shortcomings. As is SOP for Politicians of all parties.

  8. BebopWeBop Silver badge

    Though the force appears to have met its revised target of getting 14,000 machines running Windows 8.1 – 14,450 are now running the OS – another 2,458 are still running XP, 7, 8.1 and 10. These are said to not be networked, and police sysadmins are apparently unable to separate out which ones are running what.

    A remarkable precise number for non networked PCs (and don't try to persuade me that their inventory is up to date)

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "A remarkable precise number for non networked PCs"

      Don't confuse precision with accuracy.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Welcome to bureaucracy

    The land where everyone feels mighty important and no one is responsible. Because if you follow the rules like a good drone you're the man or woman the system can depend on!

    Yeah, only too bad that it often results in situations as described in this article.

  10. Potemkine! Silver badge

    At least they are wannacry-safe ^^

    Many people don't want to pay taxes, but they want official services to be fully operational when they need them, something demagogues swear it is possible to achieve... till a catastrophe happens.

    Luckily for the demagogues, voters have a short memory.

  11. Flywheel Silver badge

    Y'know, the more I read about Public Service IT the more I'm convinced that we're going to hell in a handcart. How can so many people keep getting it so badly wrong, so consistently? Seriously?!

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Good IT, public or private, is pretty rare.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      I did a VERY short stint in gov IT.

      Never again. Never again.

  12. fobobob

    Windows 8.1 is actually a great choice for the following reasons:

    Extended support until January 2023

    It's not Windows 10

  13. Duffaboy

    They are not the only ones

    Still doing xp rebuilds this year till the win 7 rollout has finished. Bespoke software is the reason for this

  14. TRT Silver badge

    They were just hoping...

    That Microsoft would keep going beyond Windows 7 and 8 and produce Windows 999.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Someone really needs to strap on a pair and decide to ditch Microsoft from Government IT altogether.

    There's no reason they can't require all new custom software to be written in a portable language like Java.

    It would only cost a few million to create an official UK distribution of Linux or BSD, require all UK public bodies to use it and offer training courses so that each department can have real experts in that operating system. It would save hundreds of millions if not billions in the long run.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Dear AC, you really have no idea just how much bespoke shite we run

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I do actually.

      And the point is to replace it with platform independent software.

      I bet they are replacing Windows XP custom software with software that will only run on Windows 8 or 10 etc. Repeating the stupid cycle.

  16. Michael Habel Silver badge

    XP in >2017? Really?

    It's slowly getting to a point where Insurance Companies should void any claims made by those who are too ignorant to understand why you don't run a Six-teen Year old in production. Also in the event of the lose, or outright theft of private User Data, due to such ignorance should be fined out of existence. If only to be made an example of.

  17. ecofeco Silver badge

    So, so wrong

    This is just wrong. Insanity level, wrong.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: So, so wrong

      You'd rather they run Windows 10 with all the "telemetry"?

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: So, so wrong

        Who watches the watchmen?

        1. Aladdin Sane

          Re: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?


  18. Anonymous Coward

    The real reason!

    Anyone who's worked in Met IT knows the real reason.

    Met Commander - "What 'puter thingies are the provincial forces using?"

    IT drone - "Windows 10"

    Met Commander - "No good for us then, this is the Met!"

    IT drone - "Err..."

  19. Stevie Silver badge


    And yet Wannacry did *not* bring the police to their digital knees when everyone else was knobbled.

    Must be doing *something* right.

  20. mags4dorset

    magazine advertising in Dorset are Windows 10 and we are happy surely the police should have the same level of access as potential criminals, unless its standard admin departments and its worded to make the MET seem inept

  21. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    And will happen every time around as 10s of 1000s of desktops X multple bespoke S/W -->

    Total clusterf**k of a migration.

    Each time.

    Every time.

    I am not clairvoyant. It's not an act of $deity.

    It's a completely f**king predictable consequence of the organizational environment. And £30K for the PM for this? Are you f**king kidding me? Big performance bonuses at least I'd have thought.

    When is the time to start planning in the migration to the next generation of desktops?

    Simple, while you're still planning what should be in the current generation upgrade of course.

    Given what the Met does TBH I'd wonder how many of those machines spend all their time just running the Line-Of-Business apps, (IE Copshop-in-a-box) and the users sole actual contact with Windows is when they start it up (or more likely log in, as it's probably not been shut down for a month).

  22. JaitcH
    Thumb Up

    VN Has the UK Plod (and UK Nuclear Subs) Beat! The WHOLE Government Runs On . . .

    XP in the public facing offices. There are some better systems in higher offices of the government bureaucracy. 486 computers are popular, too.

    AND we have the corner on certain output devices - ancient Epson Dot Matrix printers. But at least they can handle handle invasive bugs looking for a new home. C-R-U-S-H!

    Our government also uses Google Translate when dealing with non-Vietnamese speaking people - the only problem is Google's Vietnamese is not perfect!

    1. sitta_europea Silver badge

      Re: VN Has the UK Plod (and UK Nuclear Subs) Beat! The WHOLE Government Runs On . . .

      "XP in the public facing offices."

      Oh, that must be why I see such a lot of these in my mail server logs:

      Jun 2 04:14:01 mail6[3996]: [VN], connect_callback(): [], N=[1], [[]], [Windows XP], REJECTING SPAMBOT BLACKLISTED [VN,2] in ...

      Jun 6 10:22:59 mail6[23885]: [VN], connect_callback(): [], N=[1], [[]], [Windows XP], REJECTING SPAMBOT BLACKLISTED [VN,2] in ...

      Jun 14 18:11:26 mail6[4965]: [VN], connect_callback(): [], N=[1], [[]], [Windows XP], REJECTING SPAMBOT BLACKLISTED [VN,2] in ...

  23. Roj Blake


    It's somewhat ironic that it's the Tory GLA members who are moaning about this when it's the Tory government that's slashed police budgets.

    My ironyometer is registering about 20 kilospoons right now.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No contractors either

    I suspect that there is a lack of people to do any migrations.

    All the police IT jobs I've come across recently are classed as within IR35, so it's very unlikely they will have anyone applying. I certainly won't.

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