back to article If there's a lesson to be learned in these torrid times, it's that civilisation is fleeting – but Windows XP is eternal

Welcome to a bork with a difference as we find an old friend still running even as the world around it has been put on hold. Where were you in 2001? Things have changed a bit in the decades since Windows XP first nosed its way out of the Redmond gates. A good deal more stable than its predecessor, Windows Me, the OS no longer …

  1. Piro

    If it's not internet-connected, and access to the network is well controlled, it will probably work better than newer versions of Windows, and it will save them money on hardware costs. Hardware that can run XP fine is plentiful and dirt cheap. Just go on ebay and snatch a stack of ex-corporate Core 2 desktops, and you'll have machines that'll probably work away on small tasks like a display screen until the heat death of the universe.

    1. BenDwire Silver badge

      That's a big 'IF', but assuming someone has done their job right I would agree with you.

    2. Peter2 Silver badge

      As you say, as long as it's not on the network then it's not really a problem.

      I decommissioned an NT4 box that was running the site voicemail at the beginning of this year. It's only external connectivity was communicating with the onsite PABX via a pair of 4 port modems imitating phone lines in a very, very old application. It ran 24/7 from ~1997 to 2020. In that time, it required one replacement PSU in (IIRC) 2007. After that, it had a yearly dust to keep it in good condition (I think a decades worth of dust did for the first PSU) and it ran pretty well.

      My additions to the setup was configuring it to logon automatically after power failures (it wasn't on a UPS) and having a script that ran that automatically started the voicemail application if it rolled over and died, which it did usually one every few months in it's last few years due to the hardware having started getting somewhat defective.

      In a funny note, the replacement VOIP system is universally considered to be a step down in functionality, usability and flexibility compared to the 23 year old system it replaced.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "In a funny note, the replacement VOIP system is universally considered to be a step down in functionality, usability and flexibility compared to the 23 year old system it replaced."

        It feels like maybe it's from HP. They like to fire their lowest 10% every year. So maybe they remove the least used 10% of functions/features every year too. This will lead to an evolution of the "fittest" which will be a programme that loads up, displays the corporate logo then just sits there. The ultimate in efficient apps that do only what is required and no more. Of course it will be bigger and more bloated than any previous version, only be available by an even more expensive daily subscription, updated every week and the biggest and best bug list. And you WILL be happy to install it.

        1. jtaylor

          "HP. They like to fire their lowest 10% every year."

          Hah. I worked at a company that did that. It was a GE thing. We couldn't fill the vacant positions as quickly. At an annual "all-hands" employee meeting, I asked the CEO whether we could re-hire someone who had been culled, if they were the best candidate to fill the empty position. And whether they would get their original pay or what was on offer for the opening. (Trick question, because employee pay scales didn't change with promotion, people who rose up were paid far less than peers.)

          Sounds like you had a similar experience. Cheers!

    3. ThatOne Silver badge
      Devil

      > it will probably work better than newer versions of Windows

      B-But, it's so old...

      Old things are gross, everybody says so, and still they insist on inflicting their disgusting presence on the rest of the world.

      /s

      1. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge
        Windows

        "Old things are gross, everybody says so, and still they insist on inflicting their disgusting presence on the rest of the world."

        I'm old and gross, and still insist on inflicting my disgusting presence on the rest of the world - and proud of it. As the tramp once said on Rowan and Martin's Laugh In, "Dirty old men need loving too".

        Oh! and I still use XP too.

  2. davenewman

    Tell us the story

    of the prosthetic legs and the rest of the flight.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Tell us the story

      The way I hear it they didn't have a leg to stand on.

    2. well meaning but ultimately self defeating

      Re: Tell us the story

      Sounds fake

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "long after Cuenca should really have said goodbye"

    Well, if we imagine that XP is being used to control screens and has no possible connection to the Internet, then it should be okay, no ?

    It would be no worse if I had a standalone XP machine in a corner of the office without any network connection whatsoever. Sure, it's XP, but it's invulnerable from remote attack, so, who cares ?

  4. _randomandy_
    Coat

    Not the successor to Windows Me

    At the time, Microsoft had two operating system streams...

    Those that ran on top of a DOS kernel - Windows 3.1(1), Window 95, Windows 98 and Windows Me. The more stable (allegedly) platforms which used the NT kernel so Windows NT, 2000, Vista, XP, 7, 8 and 10.

    Mine is the one with the MSDN subscription in the pocket

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not the successor to Windows Me

      Surely it went 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10. ISTR 2000 was the successor to NT4, and XP the successor that merged the DOS (aka Me by then) and NT (aka 2000 by then) lines into one. Vista tried to then move forward but had too many issues with legacy use, mostly sorted by the release of 7. Having got everyone (mostly) happy, MS needed 8 to stir things up :)

      1. Annihilator Silver badge

        Re: Not the successor to Windows Me

        You're forgetting Windows 8.1. But I really wouldn't get into it too deeply. There have been terabytes of forum storage lost to "windows version sequence" discussions in the past! (All kicked off by "what happened to Windows 9?" chats as I recall. Possibly even back as far as "why is it Windows 7?")

        1. Peter X

          Re: Not the successor to Windows Me

          Also forgetting 98SE

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not the successor to Windows Me

            And 95 OSR 2.5!

            And 95 OSR 2!

            And 95 OSR!

            And NT 4.0 Service pack 6a!

            And NT 4.0 Service pack 6!

            And NT 4.0 Service pa... [radio squelch noise]

            (By the time XP SP2 came about, it was pretty refined compared to XP RTM.... Windows 8.1 is certainly just a service pack, and seemed a bit like an excuse to EOL as many Win 8 machines as possible as quickly as possible)

      2. Martipar

        Re: Not the successor to Windows Me

        Technicall Xp 64-bit was actually a rebadged Server 2003 (it even only took Server 2003 updates and not XP ones) So really it goes 2000, XP, XP-64bit, Vista, 7, 8, 10. As the differences between XP and XP-64bit were as great if not greater than the difference between 2000 and XP.

    2. davidp231

      Re: Not the successor to Windows Me

      From a consumer point of view, XP is the successor to Me. Power users and businesses generally used NT, every day consumers had 9x.

    3. DutchBasterd

      Re: Not the successor to Windows Me

      Windows 98 was pretty great if you had some decent hardware. I ran it on a P-II 266 for quite a while, but I had to upgrade to 2000 after sticking in more than 256Mb of RAM, because 98 really could not handle that. 2000 was great after SP3 and the inclusion of directX. Windows ME is one of the shittiest pieces of software I've ever seen.

  5. Blackjack Silver badge

    That's cute but you are wrong!

    "before the company finally ended extended support in 2014."

    Virtual versions of XP and embedded Windows XP got patches for a few years more.

  6. FBee

    DOSbox didn't work...

    My wife is Receptionist/Billing Clerk/Etc... for an older about-to-retire 80-year-old Doctor who refuses to upgrade to a federally-mandated "modern" billing system, for good reason as he will soon be Former Doctor.

    At any rate, he insists on using a home-grown billing system his buddy wrote up in DOS back in the 80's-90's who knows when? A couple of years ago, with his old non-supported Windows XP machine still online, and Win7 about to be decommissioned as well, and my concerns over OS security (medical office and all that implies...) I finally convinced him to buy a new computer.

    Well, he was at least willing to upgrade to a used Win7 machine (why should I but new? I'm retiring soon...) but, alas, the DOS biller would not run under Win7. Even DOSbox would not resolve the problem. I finally set up the Win7 machine as the main office computer for online use including the all-important printer/fax machine and attendant answering service and, via a KVM switch (for my wife's convenience) the XP machine with its DOS program. With the XP machine now totally offline, but still needing to print billing receipts etc. I used a crossover cable attached to a newish printer (no printer port as on the oldish XP machine) so now my wife simply swaps between XP/Win7 until that fateful day when BOTH get switch off for good!

    1. Blackjack Silver badge

      Re: DOSbox didn't work...

      Try to set a Freedos virtual machine then.

      https://www.freedos.org/

      Freedos is actually made to be an alternative to Dos while Dosbox is made to run games.

  7. karlkarl Silver badge

    Windows XP is modern compared to the French equivalent.

    https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/7xakd9/windows-31-is-still-alive-and-it-just-killed-a-french-airport

    If they are offline then they are more secure than an always connected Windows 10. Since Windows 10 "is a service" and the DRM dictates it must be online every few months at least, then I would trust the Windows XP solution more.

    Also, anyone using Windows for non consumer stuff, is an amateur. It is a consumer operating system, intended for gaming and web surfing.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "A good deal more stable than its predecessor, Windows Me"

    Even my psychotic ex-girlfriend is a good deal more stable than Wndows Me.

    Anon, so nothing near me bursts into flames in the near future.

  9. DutchBasterd

    I helped my boss out a few weeks ago. He had some domotica thing that would only work on Windows XP and a serial port. A real serial port. And a real Windows XP. Fortunately I have a computer scrapyard and found a compaq evo 6000 dual xeon who was more than up for the job. Scored big points with that maneuver.

  10. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    I still think that Windows XP is the best OS that Microsoft ever made, which is why I still use it (firewalled thrice, lots of ports and services blocked, many programs disabled, on a PC not used for anything other than sufing with Javascript, Flash and Java disabled or not installed). If I could shoehorn it into my i7 4790 box, I would. XP is so much more usable, easy to navigate and immediate than Win7 or 10.

    Never 10.

  11. martinusher Silver badge

    Meanwhile, in industry.....

    Windows has been the platform of choice for many years in industry and as with many things in life "If it works, don't mess with it" is the Golden Rule. So I'm going to crank up a little industrial PC in a little while to run some tests and it will be running XP. So what? Its not on the Interweb -- its not even networked except to the units its working with -- so nobody's going to mess with it.

    Why don't we industrial sorts upgrade every five minutes? The reason's pretty straightforward. One of our customer (for example) builds a big medical system, an open MRI scanner, and the software for this was originally developed for what could be thought of as the ultimate Hell Brew of OSes -- VxWin. (That's VxWorks cosited with Windows XP). There's now an effort to bring the system up to date, more because of VxWorks than anything else, but the work involved is daunting -- not only are you shooting at a moving target (Windows 10 isn't exactly a stable platform) but there's a huge amount of work involved in porting, rewriting and, of course, test and certification. So even if the application did eventually move to Win10 its bound to be well obsolete by the time the years have ticked by on this project. (Personally, I think the smart choice would be to select a LTS version of Linux and be done with it but Institutional Inertia being what it is.....).

    An airport information system is a relatively simple application. I'd leave it alone until the smoke escaped.

    1. J. Cook Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Meanwhile, in industry.....

      This times many hundreds.

      FWIW, The two codebase progressions for windows were:

      Dos, Win 3.x, windows 95/98/98SE/me

      NT 3.5.1, 4.0, 2000(aka NT 5.0), 2003/XP, 2008/vista/7, 2008 R2 (7 with a specific KB rollup installed ), 2012 / 8, 2012 / 8.1, and finally 10, which depending on the build, is either server 2016 or 2019

      Server 2008 was the last 32 bit OS; 2008R2 and later were all 64 bit native for server; Desktop? There is (sadly) a 32 bit port for 8.1 and 10 IIRC, although TBH if you are running windows 10 on a sub-4 GB machine you need mental help. :)

      As far as industrial systems? @martinusher hit it right on the head with "test and certification". That's why you have, say, HVAC controllers running windows XP embedded. Or point of sale terminals running Windows 7 Embedded (or the POSReady build, IIRC) It's what is termed a 'supported configuration', and the company who wrote the application running on that OS is willing to deal with that OS's quirks, instead of some random consumer level OS that the app is running on because the beancounter was too cheap to buy the proper OS for it. :) (or various other reasons, like "I don't need people browsing the internet on the Haas while it's turning a $70,000 block of titanium into an aircraft part, but I need it to be on the internal network to pull the g-code files"...)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Meanwhile, in industry.....

        Not sure why one would describe them as 'ports'... they're just builds, done in much the same way as they've always done multi-architecture builds (MIPS, Alpha in days gone by, ARM today). C/C++, in which I imagine they still primarily write the most important guts, tends to be pretty portable. But agreed, hardware that would only support the 32-bit versions of 8/10 would be terrible.

        The only real applications for them is likely software with SysWOW64 compability issues, and anything that might require NTVDM - it's still available in the Win10 64-bit build.

        Also, for 10, seems like the cutoff for CPU feature support is somewhere in the middle of socket 478 P4 lifespan.

  12. Timbo

    Samsung monitor w/embedded Win XP?

    The photo used seems to show a Samsing monitor, displaying Windows XP.

    What's the betting that is actually a Samsung Pro monitor, that has built in (embedded) Win XP ?

    The 320MXN-2 (for instance, and it's siblings) could be booted off it's internal 4Gb FDM which ran Embedded XP and could be used for displaying PowerPoint or other slideshows/video on it's built in media player, so ideal for use in shops and with it's built in ethernet port it could display live info from a local or web-connected server.

    https://www.samsung.com/ph/support/model/LH32MGULBC/XD/

  13. Daniel von Asmuth

    Sustainability?

    XP is a sweet unstable teenager of an OS. It is used in ATM machines in our country, and the banks have not revealed what lives inside the new yellow 'geldmaat' boxen.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Sustainability?

      > the banks have not revealed what lives inside the new yellow 'geldmaat' boxen

      If every time you try to withdraw cash they want to install some update and reboot, you'll know it's Win10...

      Seriously, even if they are brand new, chances are it's Win7, since I guess that was the OS they must have been initially designed around.

  14. Nick Roberts

    Back in February, before the world changed, I went with my son on various applicant days for physics courses at various UK universities. One was showing us a particularly specialised bit of kit in one of the labs, and I spotted that several of the PCs connected to it had the XP screensaver. Nobody could get the control software to run on anything else, apparently. Worried me somewhat about their technnical capabilities...

    And then in lockdown, I was tiding my office prior to redecorating it. Found my ancient Eee 904HD netbook - the battery was dead, but on plugging it in to the mains, XP booted straight away. Or rather incredibly slowly, but without issue. Hadn't used it for 10 years, according to file dates. No idea what to do with it.

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