back to article Want to live dangerously? Try running Windows XP in 2023

Warning: the stunts in this article were performed by professionals, so for your safety and the protection of those around you, do not attempt any of the stunts you're about to read unless qualified. A recent blog post by Julio Merino, and the accompanying demo videos which went somewhat viral on Twitter, prompted The Reg FOSS …

  1. jonha

    Not entirely unexpected. There's a reason why I'm still mouse-adverse and why much of what I do (all admin, the music player, some text and all hex editing...) happens in the CLI.

    1. Roopee Silver badge
      Coat

      “There's a reason...”

      Is it that you’re a masochist?? :)

      Mine’s the one with an original Microsoft serial mouse in the pocket (came included with many retail copies of Windows 3.0 because people didn’t usually have one already)...

      These days I wear out mice in a year or two, but back in the day they were built of sterner stuff!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: “There's a reason...”

        The little rolls needed regular cleaning to keep the rubber ball happy though. I don't miss getting that stuff under my fingernails :)

      2. jonha

        Re: “There's a reason...”

        Maybe I'm a masochist... but for many, many tasks most people perform with a file manager or other pointy-clicky GUI tools my zsh is way faster. For some tasks it's an order of magnitude faster.

        And there's a plethora of other CLI tools out there which can be amazingly fast... look at ugrep (not grep, *u*grep) if you want to search stuff, for instance.

        Of course there are things where zsh or other CLI tools are not the best choice... but then I can always switch to GUIs and the mouse.

        1. Roopee Silver badge

          Re: “There's a reason...”

          Agreed that grep (never tried ugrep) is a fast way to find file content on *nix, but XYplorer on Windows is pretty fast and a huge improvement on Explorer in every other way too, and no need to drop to the CLI. :)

        2. parlei

          Re: “There's a reason...”

          I tend to do the same. Both because it is faster, and because it is less annoying *to me*. Yes, I can click in a menu with the best of them, but it is annoying and (again: to me) non-intuitive.

  2. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I don't think a Thinkpad W500 is that underspec to run a Linux distro, you would probably want to up the RAM to the max 8GB that it supports and maybe swap out the HDD for an SDD but then it should run Linux Mint Mate or XFCE edition absolutely fine.

    I have Linux Mint 21 on a 2007 Dell Optiplex with a Pentium E5300, so similar specs as the Thinkpad W500 and it perfectly usable for general web browsing, Office tasks and can even do HD media streaming with Kodi or from a Web browser. Only changes ive made are to add an additional 4GB RAM upping the total to 6GB and replace the DVD drive with a SATA SSD to act as a boot drive.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Facepalm

      As per the article "Our W500 is maxed out with 8GB of RAM, and we recently replaced its ancient 120GB hard disk with a used 240GB SSD which cost the princely sum of 12 quid ($15)."

    2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      [Author here]

      > you would probably want to up the RAM to the max 8GB that it supports and maybe swap out the HDD for an SDD

      Comments like this do make me wonder if people _read_ the article before commenting!

      I specifically said that its RAM was maxed out, it has a newly-fitted (2nd hand) SSD, and then I went out of my way to list all the Linux distros I have reviewed _on the same machine_.

      Did you not notice any of that? I mean you did pick up the make and model...

      1. Robin
        Joke

        Since it's maxed out, it would be a good experiment to try running Windows XP on it

      2. Captain Scarlet
        Childcatcher

        Maybe they have memory like me, which can sometimes be miliseconds (I think I complained on one article that Firefox wasn't tested for something even though I had read Mozilla was tested).

  3. PRR Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    XP lives

    Despite its limits, XP is still used and liked in this house.

    My partner has an enormous XP laptop she uses (w/Word 2003) for novel writing.

    At bedtime I throw a few hands of Junod's WinSolit, made for Win3.0, but my latest platform is a 2008 Dell 910 Mini, $24.00 with a used-once XP.

    And there is a niche simulator program compiled many years ago which will NOT run on 64-bit Windows. Updates have been promised, for years.

    I also have a folder full of Win3 16-bit games and utilities which did run through WinXP but not Win7-64. Including the slightly notorious DRAIN.COM.

    I have also been installing XP in virtual machines, to compare with recent Linux. I forgot how LOOOONG it took XP to do an install, and even on base hardware a decade newer than it. It does almost as much video mode switching as new O/Ses (not back in the day when affordable monitors were 800x600 tops). The desktop reads better, but I was wrong: it comes up bare, you have to opt-in for desktop icons.

  4. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Happy

    XP was great

    I remember installing Windows XP to upgrade the office PC's and it was fantastic! It ran easily and quickly and everyone was so happy after a day or two using it. It was the department "standard" with everyone getting everything done all the time. The upgrade to Windows 7 was not a massive problem, there was no need to throw away the original PC and buy a new one so originally Windows versions were relatively "climate friendly" ...

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: XP was great

      Watch everything these days and think how human life would be if we'd "evolved" the way Windows has done ... "Install the new human upgrade, you will now have eight legs to walk around on, they are required because you will weigh 465 lbs now that we have increased the brain size and butt size."

      1. xyz Silver badge

        Re: XP was great

        >>they are required because you will weigh 465 lbs now that we have increased the brain size and butt size."

        Ah Americans...

        1. TheRealRoland
          Devil

          Re: XP was great

          Shirley, 4.1518 hundredweight you mean?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: XP was great

      I remember finding it overly bloated and deciding to stick to my much faster Windows 2000 install for the time being, tyvm.

      The same had happened previously with NT 4.0 vs 2000, and 3.51 vs 4.0. The eternal cycle of life^WOS upgrades :)

      1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: XP was great

        [Author here]

        > I remember finding it overly bloated and deciding to stick to my much faster Windows 2000 install

        Totally agree; that's why I *repeatedly* note that XP is bloated in the article.

        I prefer W2K, too.

        But there is no x86-64 edition of W2K.

        I may retry this exercise with an even older, slower laptop, but what surprised me is that XP64 can actually fully and effectively utilise a machine from some 7 *years* after XP was released, and you can get current antivirus and a current-ish, fully usable browser, which can run a current adblocker and access current Javascript-heavy websites just fine.

        1. Captain Scarlet

          Re: XP was great

          When i started running Windows 2000 I had 333mhz let alone a 64 bit instruction set, but comparing Windows ME to Windows 2000, I seem to remember 2k was slightly slower but rock solid stability wise apart from some early DirectX games which would just exitr for no reason. But I was into Counter Strike 1.1 by then.

          1. Roopee Silver badge

            Re: XP was great

            Slower, but more importantly NT3.51, NT4 and Win2000 needed MUCH more RAM than their coexistent consumer versions, and RAM was extremely expensive at the time: around 1993 I remember putting off maxing-out my new super-duper NT3.51 PC and started with 4 SIMMs, leaving the other 4 slots unpopulated until the price came down!

            1. Captain Scarlet

              Re: XP was great

              I used Windows ME nuff said, it was only stable when I had 512MB of RAM and thats when I then experimented with Windows 2000 Pro. I assume because I had 512MB at that point I didn't experience this.

        2. snee

          Re: XP was great

          I stuck with W2K over XP for a long time claiming XP stood for 'Xtra Pastel'. I eventually succumbed though, not long before 7 came along.

      2. Binraider Silver badge

        Re: XP was great

        2K never got over the dreadful boot time issue, at least not on period hardware. It was, apart from eye candy I will concede basically the same as XP.

        The big difference is that developers didn't really target 2k because "business". XP took up retail operations and so all the exciting software had to be developed for it.

  5. Roopee Silver badge

    Incidentally...

    Liam didn't mention that there is another lightweight version of XP - "Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs" (yes really, and that's what it says on the login screen!). I only stumbled upon it recently, and thanks to the Internet Archive I now have it running in a really small VM (on Proxmox/QEMU). It is idling at 86MB RAM with <2GB disk used, running as my DVD catalogue server and saving me from having to migrate my 700+ title database.

    But I no longer use XP for anything important - I now much prefer Windows 7 as my desktop of choice, but it took a while (and a lot of tweaks).

    One unmentioned downside of XP on a network is that it can't access SMB 2+ file shares - strictly SMB 1 only, which means it can't participate in a typical Active Directory or Samba (or probably any modern) file-sharing setup without seriously compromising the network. Just thought I'd mention it - not saying it's wrong to still use XP (I'm not a hypocrite!).

    Also, as several other people have mentioned on this and other threads, some old laptops, suitably upgraded (i.e. maxed-out), are still excellent workhorses. All 3 of my Proxmox servers are upmarket i5 laptops from 2010-2013, and all have 2 or more ex-datacentre SSDs running ZFS; likewise my office PCs. Very cheap and very resilient. The main limitation tends to be RAM capacity, not CPU speed. Only the highest of high-end laptops from that era can take 32GB rather than 16 or 8.

    Just my ha'p'orth, YMMV...

    1. PRR Silver badge

      Re: Incidentally...

      > One unmentioned downside of XP on a network is that it can't access SMB 2+ file shares - strictly SMB 1 only, which means it can't participate in a typical Active Directory or Samba (or probably any modern) file-sharing setup without seriously compromising the network.

      Good reminder. MS was VERY slow to understand malware and worms. Hackers?? What's that? (-two guys who hacked their way from mini-computers to PCs.)

      XP is the little old lady/man who is fine inside their own house but can't handle strangers at the unlocked door; and XP was never locked completely. "We're all friends here, right?" "Here, take my files, any files!" "You want me to do what? Sure!"

      Both the XP machines here have wireless and wire networking OFF. Liam can network his boxen because it is Entertainment (for us). Some week he'll have to turn in articles by hand-written postal-mail because a worm ate-up all his machinery, and we'll have a jolly chuckle at his folly.

    2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Incidentally...

      [Author here]

      > Liam didn't mention that there is another lightweight version of XP - "Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs"

      You're right, and that's a good point.

      I *did* know about this, and I think, long ago, I looked at it. If I remember correctly, it's not all that very cut down after all, compared to TinyXP.

      Certainly "Windows Thin PC" shows that nobody at MS really knows how to trim the fat from its OSes any more -- it's not significantly lighter than full Win7, it just has the Aero theme turned off and a few features disabled. It has all the other chrome, the useless accessories etc. and as a result it runs like a slug.

  6. Joe Drunk

    Chromium 86 based browser for XP

    I still have my Compaq V2000 laptop with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. I miss the days of an OS that fully booted in about 30 seconds.

    MyPal 68 is definitely the most updated Mozilla browser that will run on Windows XP.

    Anyway, Chrome dropped support for XP after version 49 but there was an updated version (86) that was backported.

    https://msfn.org/board/topic/184624-arcticfoxienotheretoplaygames-360chrome-v1352036-rebuild-1/

    Good to have both for best website compatibility.

    1. david 12 Silver badge

      Re: Chromium 86 based browser for XP

      I miss the days of an OS that fully booted in about 30 seconds.

      Ahh, a youngster....

      The reason Windows has an opening chime (the Windows Start sound) is because it was inherited from the old DOS machines the developers were used to. Adding a start-up sound to the end of your DOS startup enabled you to walk away and get a cup of coffee while your machine started, coming back when the start sound played.

      1. RAMChYLD

        Re: Chromium 86 based browser for XP

        Man, you must be a rich kid or something.

        I still remember that it takes 5 minutes for Windows 95 to boot on a Pentium 166 with 32 MB of RAM. Especially after you install networking components (needed for Internet access), Norton Systemworks and IE6. Then again maybe the fact that I was using a 2600rpm Quantum Bigfoot TX 5.25" whopper of a hard drive could have played a part in it.

        1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: Chromium 86 based browser for XP

          [Author here]

          > 5 minutes for Windows 95 to boot on a Pentium 166 with 32 MB of RAM

          I benchmarked Windows 95 on a 80386 with 4MB of RAM for PC Pro magazine, in 1995.

          You know what? It outperformed Windows for Workgroups 3.11. When it needs the RAM, W95 can shrinks its disc cache to next to nothing. WfWg can't.

          Me, I ran NT 3.51 as long as I could. I didn't need the Start menu or the shiny. NT 3.51 was faster _and_ more stable.

          But I first deployed Win95 on a Pentium 133 with 8MB, and supported in production on 486s.

        2. Roopee Silver badge
          Windows

          Re: Chromium 86 based browser for XP

          Upvoted, I remember that too, but Pentium?? - you must be a Johnny-come-lately...

        3. SuperGeek

          Re: Chromium 86 based browser for XP

          An old Norton joke between me and my business partner. "Norton Systemworks? No it bloody doesn't!"

      2. simonlb Silver badge

        Re: Chromium 86 based browser for XP

        Adding a start-up sound to the end of your DOS startup enabled you to walk away and get a cup of coffee while your machine started, coming back when the start sound played.

        My understanding is that from Windows 2000 onward, Microsoft gave priority to displaying a login screen as soon as possible during bootup rather than waiting until all the relevant startup items (Services, processes, AV software etc.) had completed their tasks. That's why, even to this day, you enter your login credentials as soon as the login is displayed and can still have to wait two minutes or more before getting a usable desktop displayed. Yeah, you have a login prompt, but until Windows had finished with all it's startup nonsense you can't actually do anything.

        Reviewers who marvel about how quick Windows displays the login prompt on a given system really are missing this.

      3. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: Chromium 86 based browser for XP

        I have fond memories of the BBC B. Switch it on, and it’d be ready with a >_ prompt (and two-note power-on beep) almost before you’d moved your hand away from the power switch at the back of the machine.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Chromium 86 based browser for XP

          And even typing *WORD, and being in a word processor instantly (if you have the ROM fitted)

          But you may have some problems trying to use Google or watching YouTube (and, yes, I have seen the video of a project to watch YouTube videos on a C-64), and even playing your MP3s is more than a bit tricky.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Chromium 86 based browser for XP

        Ah, the Windows opening chime. I remember hearing our family computer make that sound for the first time, when my brother and I installed a sound card into that 486DX33 and booted it up. Went to open File Explorer - not found error, what? Ok, DOS prompt then... not found? Uh-oh...

        Turns out that the hard drive had been on IRQ 5, which was the default for the sound card too, so the Windows startup sound corrupted the Windows directory of the hard drive. Our parents were extremely displeased. And that's the tale of how we ended up with Win95 running (poorly) on a 486.

        1. Roopee Silver badge

          Re: Chromium 86 based browser for XP

          Ah yessss... IRQ clashes...

          I wish I had a photo of the inside of my all-singing, all-dancing VL-Bus 486DX2-66, with all its ISA and VL-Bus fully-populated - not just the VLB caching disk controller and the Viper GPU but cards for the serial and parallel ports, sound, CD-ROM, modem... Motherboards were just that; they had nothing useful beyond the CPU. And there weren't enough IRQ combinations by default, so much juggling and gnashing of teeth was required to get all the cards to play nicely with each other.

          1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
            Windows

            Ah, the good ol' days, when you had to walk uphill to start your PC, and walk uphill to shut it down . . .

            1. David 132 Silver badge
              Happy

              You walked? Luxury! We had to crawl on our knees.

              Bah, these soft Southern pansies…

    2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Chromium 86 based browser for XP

      [Author here]

      > https://msfn.org/board/topic/184624-arcticfoxienotheretoplaygames-360chrome-v1352036-rebuild-1/

      I did specifically mention 360 Chrome in the article.

      It is impressive that it works, but also note the spyware comments... if I were to have to use this OS, I think I would have to nuke and reinstall without it.

  7. TheMaskedMan Silver badge

    Back in the early 2000s I built a lot of XP machines. Most of them went to families with kids, and I spent a lot of time cleaning them up, removing whatever shit they'd downloaded from kazaa this week, and generally ensuring that homework could be done etc.

    Naturally, they were almost all replaced over time as the kids grew up, wanted to play better games and eventually buggered off to uni where keeping their PCs running was no longer my problem.

    But one of them went to an older gentleman who explicitly didn't want or need the internet. The machine was to be used for playing / burning CDs, word processing, household accounts etc. Within the last few years (can't remember exactly when, but within 5 years) I was astonished to get a call from him asking me to come and take a look at the machine. Turns out one of the optical drives had finally failed. Other than that, it was running just as well as the day I set it up for him, and had never given him any trouble up to that point. The drive was replaced, and as far as I know the box is still running.

    1. keithpeter Silver badge
      Windows

      I'm entering the 'older gentleman' demographic (see icon) and I have to admit that the idea of separating concerns is becoming attractive.

      Chromebook or similar (replaced regularly as needed) for Internet consumption and a decent Thinkpad with a good keyboard for actually doing stuff.

      I also have a legal licenced paid for copy of Office 2000 around somewhere (Wine or vm though).

      One to think about...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        For office software, try LibreOffice. It looks and feels like Office 98, but is actually up-to-date with all the modern features, and is 98%+ compatible with Microsoft file types. Oh, and it's free, too.

        1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          [Author here]

          > For office software, try LibreOffice

          Nope. Can't. Requires Win7 or newer.

          https://www.libreoffice.org/get-help/system-requirements/

          Last XP version was 5.4:

          https://wiki.documentfoundation.org/ReleaseNotes/5.4#Windows

        2. Roopee Silver badge

          > LibreOffice. It looks and feels like Office 98

          Office 98 was a Mac version IIRC, I think maybe you mean Office 97?

          Also, it only ‘sort-of’ looks and feels similar - more similar than say Office 2007 did compared to Office 2003. It’s also clearly better in some ways, but I prefer the old-school look and feel and SOP of the early versions of the originals, particularly since on modernish hardware they are so much more responsive because they lack all the modern animations and annoying cleverness. </Grump>

      2. Roopee Silver badge

        Give me Office 2000 any day

        I have used (and have copies of, some more legit than others) every version of Office, (which is all of them from before it was 'Office', just Word 1, Excel 3/4 and Access 1, all of which I bought with my own money) up to v13. My favourite is 2000, so that's what I use as my daily driver, excluding Outlook of course.

        Many years ago - probably when XP came out and I was using Windows 2000 at the time but having problems with new-fangled multimedia stuff - I tried Office 95 and 97 on WINE and was most disappointed that I couldn't get either of them to run satisfactorily, because it forced me to carry on using Windows. I'm sure that WINE has improved somewhat in the intervening 20 years and I'd hope Office 2000 does work and look right; I should give it a another try now that browsers for Win 7 are getting thinner on the ground...

        1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: Give me Office 2000 any day

          [Author here]

          > I tried Office 95 and 97 on WINE

          I've been running Word 97 on WINE for at least 6-7 years now; works perfectly, including being able to install both service releases.

          As of 2016 or so, I needed Word 2003 for a portrait display, and at that time, WINE 2 couldn't run the Office 2003 installer to completion, and I had to use CrossOver Office. I wrote about this at the start of *last* year:

          https://www.theregister.com/2022/01/19/wine_7/

          But since 2018 they've done a major release per year and it's gone from WINE 2 to WINE 8 now in that space of time. It's *much* more capable now than around 2016-2017.

          1. Roopee Silver badge

            Re: Give me Office 2000 any day

            Noted, and thank you very much :)

        2. allyngibson

          Re: Give me Office 2000 any day

          Microsoft will have to pry my Office 2000 CDs out of my cold, dead hands. I still run it daily on Windows 10.

    2. spuck

      My dad is still running Windows XP on the hand-me-down computer we put together for him probably 10 years ago.

      As long as it keeps reading the 3.5" floppy disks he saves his OpenOffice documents to and running Solitare, he likely will never see a need to change.

      His computing needs really haven't changed much from the 286 with WordPerfect 5.0 that he bought in 1988.

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Pint

        My dad, God rest his soul, asked me back in about 1990-2000 or so to build him a PC because he'd outgrown my old Amiga that I'd left him. "What do you need it for?" I asked. "Oh, not much," he said, "just accounts and writing letters".

        Being my dad, he had a budget for it of less than a penny (I won't use the phrase "duck's arse" here, out of fondness for him, but that conveys the gist). So, I scrounged old bits and pieces from work colleagues and after spending precisely nothing except my time, built him a PC that would handle Excel + Word. If I recall, it was a Pentium (or maybe even 486) with 2D graphics, running Windows 98SE. Not speedy, even by the standards of the day, but adequate.

        Well, all went fine until a couple of weeks later when he called me because he'd got a CD from a neighbour and couldn't get it to work. "What's the CD?" I asked, expecting it to be clipart, or maybe a new version of Office.

        "Oh, it's something called Microsoft Flight Simulator. My flying instructor recommended it."

        Which was, and I guess even now still is, one of the most hardware-demanding pieces of software out there. Getting it to run on his word-processing Pentium would have been akin to getting Call of Duty, or whatever it is the kids play nowadays, running on an Eee-PC.

        And so I built something with a bit more grunt, drove all the way back Up North and gave him the new rig (and a bill for the actually decent components). The fact that I sorted out a Microsoft force-feedback flightstick for him a few months later definitely made him feel better about having had to part with actual cash!

        This pint's for you, dad.

  8. spold Silver badge

    Darn new fangled early adopter people - I'm sticking with CP/M. Up yer floppy you geeks.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Running on 8080, of course, none of that modern Z80 'upgrade' stuff thanks!

      1. Bebu Silver badge
        Windows

        Running on 8080, of course,

        cpm 2.2 of course none of this new fangled 3.0 cpm-plus stuff - no one needs more than 64k or a relocatable assembler.

        Ironically cpm was a lot more portable than any microsoft offerings as it ran/runs on 8080/z80, 8086, m68k that I know of but I would guess ported to z8000, m6809 too.

  9. theOtherJT Silver badge

    My takeaway from this article...

    ...is that all modern operating systems have become absolute monsters of bloat and poor design. The more we look at older systems the more obvious it is that things actually were measurably, provably, unequivocally better in the past. Yes, they were also worse. We had to reboot all the time, yes. Drivers were a nightmare, yes. But the consistency of the UI and the speed of operation were just better then than they are now, and frankly that's unforgivable. It didn't have to be like this.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: My takeaway from this article...

      The question is why...

      Maybe something has gone terribly wrong with our compilers?

      Maybe each individual library or level of abstraction has bloated so it all adds up (or even multiplies)?

      Maybe we are perching more levels of abstraction one on top of another?

      Maybe we're even writing software wrong now? (Casey Muratori is not a fan of OOP.)

      Maybe the hardware is working against us and forcing more work to be done in software?

      There seems to be no definitive answer so how can we know where to begin to cut back on bloat in modern software? Apart from throwing out everything built on Electron, of course.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My takeaway from this article...

        Laziness, and the need to use all available resources/space: Back in the day developers needed to fit their whole program (and data!) in less than 600 KB of memory, nowadays they expect the computer to have oodles of GB for them to waste. So, why should they waste their time optimizing their jumble of miscellaneous downloaded 3rd party code snippets?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: My takeaway from this article...

          Its worse than that. They don't just load the snippets, they load the entire libraries even if they only ever call a single function in that library. This is because they don't actually understand what they're doing.

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: My takeaway from this article...

            That sounds like it's a problem with the linker.

            1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Re: My takeaway from this article...

              Linkers no longer do what they used to.

              When you used a linker to produce a statically linked binary using proper libraries (it's interesting that ancient versions of UNIX used the "ar" command to manage libraries, which was extended to create "tar"), the linker would extract each .o file from the library before linking that into the binary. The scope of the .o file was exactly what the creator of the object wanted. You wanted a single subroutine, put it into it's own .o file. You want a large library of subroutines, include them all in the .o. The linker would include the whole of the .o file in the resultant binary (which, because it was statically linked, would load quickly, and so long as the system-call layer from the OS did not change, became largely OS version independent!)

              When dynamic linking started to be used, because of the way that it was integrated into the memory segment model of many systems, it was not really possible to do this at the object file basis. Many shared libraries occupied an entire memory segment, so it was best to make them as large and all-encompassing as possible to reduce the number of memory segments used. The linker really now just becomes a dependency checker, to make sure that all of the symbols required by the program are actually present in the included library, and much of this has to be done at run time!

              And anyway, they were all shared so what did it matter if you pulled in the whole library! You would save space because there would only be one copy of, say, the C library for all of the applications that were running on the system

              This can cause problems. I don't know about Windows, but on Linux and most UNIX systems with shared libraries, it can be difficult to work out the true size of a program. Most simple tools will tell you the size of the code segment(s) in use by a program, but they will count the entirety of the code including the shared libraries. This means that if you are looking at several programs that all use the same shared library, that shared library will actually be counted multiple times.

              There are more sophisticated tools to look at exact memory usage (on AIX there is svmon), but actually untangling what they say is difficult.

              Bring this up to date. Modern applications are built on layers and layers of tools. And each layer will include their own variable, self-modifying code (think things like Perl modules or Java Class libraries) or more traditional shared librarieslibraries And if these are arranged as dynamically linked libraries, with the premise that each library has to include as much as possible, these applications become absolutely huge!

              Add to this the memory space segregation that is required for threaded applications now because of security concerns (remember, the original SunOS Lightweight processes and the following Posix thread model shared the code and data space between threads to make them, um, lightweight), and we now have a situation where every tab in the browser is effectively a full heavyweight process, not really the thread that used to drive it.

              To add insult to injury, current containerized formats like Snap, Flatpak and appimage ship the entire library dependency set in the container for each application. So a large application packaged like this will have it's own extensive set of the Linux userland, meaning that you can have many, many versions of things like the C library, for example, running on your system. This is the diametric opposite of the original thinking behind shared libraries!

              I want to go back to the days of the more-static syscall interface, and static linking of applications, rather than this bloatfest that modern day application development forces us to carry! It does have it's problems, but just think how fast everything would run!

      2. robinsonb5

        Re: My takeaway from this article...

        In my nearest city there are buildings where you can explore celllars which have been excavated to reveal the remains of a whole previous generation of buildings. The current city was literally built on top on them. Modern software reminds me a lot of this; application code built upon frameworks which use APIs delivered by libraries which are built upon now-long-forgotten frameworks which call dusty old APIs that no-one has called directly in a decade or more...

        As for how to cut back the bloat; I think it's too late for Windows and Linux. I'm keeping a weather-eye on the likes of Haiku, SerenityOS, AROS and various other projects - but unfortunately none of them is likely ever to gain enough critical mass or momentum to make serious inroads.

        1. David 132 Silver badge

          Re: My takeaway from this article...

          Seattle?

      3. CommonBloke
        Go

        Re: My takeaway from this article...

        Maybe something has gone terribly wrong with our compilers?

        - Seems to be a problem only with Windows C/C++ and LLVM. Those things are absurdly large beasts in Windows

        Maybe each individual library or level of abstraction has bloated so it all adds up (or even multiplies)? Maybe we are perching more levels of abstraction one on top of another? Maybe we're even writing software wrong now? (Casey Muratori is not a fan of OOP.)

        - This is extremely visible in the web and javascript. Harder to tell with OSes

        Maybe the hardware is working against us and forcing more work to be done in software?

        - Hardware is so damn powerful that most shitty code will run without looking like shit for the end user. It's not working against us, but it sure as hell is making programmers complacent. "Bandwidth is cheap" leads do sites continuously increasing their bloat. "Storage is cheap" leads general program and games size bloat.

        As an aside, seeing someting like SliTaz, which is a fully fledged (and severely driver lacking) distro in roughly 50MB is proof that you still can make lightweight OS in this day and age. I think their main problem is that severe lack of drivers, especially for wifi connectivity. Seriously, of 6 computers I've ever experimented it on, only in 1 the wifi worked "out of the box"

      4. theOtherJT Silver badge

        Re: My takeaway from this article...

        I think we also need to add "Maybe our software designers are complete idiots" to that list.

        I'll be the first to admit I'm no designer, and I'm barely even a developer, but about the most important part of a UI be it text or graphical is surely consistency. It should behave in predictable ways at all times. You can always argue that one design or another is better on it's merits but if you've got one program that's somehow managing to invoke multiple designs at the same time and they don't behave the same way not only is the user going to have a bad time but you kind of have to be using more code and thus making the thing run slower.

        It's totally possible for textual UI's to get this wrong too (I'm looking at you megacli) but it's amazing just how wrong a lot of modern software seems to get it. Windows especially is guilty of this. You can still find things using the windows95 windowing theme hiding inside Windows 11 - which means the code for that theme is still there somewhere and probably a bunch of supporting code for that... and the code for the XP windowing engine... and the one for metro...

        Each release they've added more and more ways to draw things on screen, but no one ever bothered to clean up the mess left by the old one or port all the applications forward. This is absolutely a design problem. No matter how clean and well written the underlying code is (and I'm sure it's not, but that's another issue) if you're invoking a dozen different design paradigms in a dozen different places you're not only wasting huge amounts of memory, but you're going to present the user with an experience that's just plain confusing.

        1. molletts

          Re: My takeaway from this article...

          On "old code" - I was absolutely gobsmacked a year or two back when doing something in Office 2019 (I think it might have been a mail merge in Word) and a vintage Windows 3-style file dialog popped up, complete with the drop down list of drive letters! I think I might even have had to map a drive to the UNC path from which I was planning to open a file before I could access it.

      5. Grinning Bandicoot

        Re: My takeaway from this article...

        A point that I might add could be called - 'it would kinds neat to have this little item just in case'. This is endemic to engineers and their ilk. It extends beyond software and is more than likely the direct cause of military projects making budgets a laugh not excluding the extra paperwork in the removal of the unneeded. If you're wondering I suffer with it also

    2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: My takeaway from this article...

      [Author here]

      > all modern operating systems have become absolute monsters of bloat and poor design

      https://www.theregister.com/2022/11/02/plan_9_fork_9front/

      Only the mainstream ones.

      This article too is a bloated monster, but as it is, I cut about 500 words off the end of it, about how and why, and what alternatives there are.

      The less mainstream the OS is, the less bloated it becomes.

      That is why I wrote these -- the URLs will tell you the subjects -- in order of shrinking bloatedness:

      https://www.theregister.com/2023/04/13/freebsd_132_openbsd_73/

      https://www.theregister.com/2022/05/20/freebsd_131/

      https://www.theregister.com/2022/10/21/openbsd_72_released/

      https://www.theregister.com/2022/04/22/openbsd_71_released_including_apple/

      https://www.theregister.com/2022/08/10/netbsd_93/

      https://www.theregister.com/2022/11/02/plan_9_fork_9front/

      And there are *much* lighter, faster options than these out there -- but not much on x86!

      1. keithpeter Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: My takeaway from this article...

        OpenBSD is wonderful. I like they way the project is not afraid to cut stuff out of the base and to change the way the base works from version to version.

        But.

        Take a fresh install of OpenBSD 7.3 and then run

        pkg_add firefox xfce evince

        and watch the dependencies roll in. Gbs of them. Then read the pkg_readmes...

        I think that the 'bloat' issue is to do with our expectations of what a graphical desktop should actually do. Leading to all sorts of the freedesktop.org plumbing (pkgkit, dbus et all).

        Icon: waves stick at the clouds

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My takeaway from this article...

      I learned programming on TI graphing calculators. If your code was more than a couple k, it simply wouldn't fit, and if it wasn't processor-efficient, it wouldn't run at a reasonable speed. It was a good education in time- and space-efficient programming.

      Well do I remember a Flash ad that rendered flames - it took up so much processor time that it dragged the entire computer nearly to a halt. One ad in one page. It really, truly, can be (and probably usually is) the programmer's fault.

      As for "all modern operating systems have become absolute monsters of bloat and poor design", there are definitely major differences. The desktop I was using yesterday used to be my WinXP machine, built back when XP was supported, and converted to Ubuntu a year after XP's EOL. A fully patched and still-supported copy of Ubuntu, with up-to-date software, still runs better than XP ever did on the same hardware. My laptop is a hand-me-up from my nephew when he decided it was too slow - the 2012 reviews referred to it as a budget machine. Runs Ubuntu 20.04 tolerably well. But Win10 or Win11? Yeah, right, no way either machine meets the minimum system requirements.

    4. Roopee Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: My takeaway from this article...

      > consistency of the UI and the speed of operation were just better

      I gave you a thumbs-up, but not sure I agree with all of it: UI consistency definitely, but speed...

      My ~2 MHz VIC-20 didn’t take long to start, but any non-trivial program ran like treacle. My first PC, a 20 MHz 386-SX with a massive (certainly massively expensive) 5 MB RAM, was so slow running Windows 3.x that I spent at least as much time learning and trying to get it to run faster, because I thought Windows was fantastic but it was so frustratingly slow, even “just” running a graphical word processor (the first big program I bought was Lotus Ami Pro).

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: My takeaway from this article...

        I have to agree with this. I wasn't around for the earlier generations of computers, but I got to try some of those things that are lauded here and they weren't always fast. I have also seen lots of historical complaints about the hunger for resources of Windows 98, XP, early distros of Linux, or basically anything new. Years later, when computers naturally came with more resources, and when there was a new new thing to complain about, the old one would be praised for its prudence in comparison.

        Sure, XP runs quite nicely on a 2010 machine. It also ran nicely on a 2003 machine. I had a while where I was running it on a 2000 machine, though, and it wasn't so fast. It was usable, but I would spend some time waiting for things to complete because I had gotten used to some actions taking longer than they looked and ignoring my typing until they completed. Startup times were quite long, applications would take a while to load, and it couldn't handle large operations anywhere near as well as more modern computers could. For example, I remember an animation that Microsoft added to the search feature, possibly because you would be waiting for several minutes and they wanted to avert boredom. On modern Windows, file search even on my disk with hundreds of thousands of extra files takes a few seconds at most. That's not to say that everything added to a modern OS is for the better or justifies the high resource requirements, but nostalgia is often incorrect about how good something really was.

    5. Nugry Horace

      Re: My takeaway from this article...

      I remember when my work laptop was running Windows 10 from a 128Gb SSD. The drive kept filling up, and in the end had to be upgraded. What concerned me was that I remembered running Windows NT 4 on a system with a 2Gb hard drive, and while Windows 10 is clearly an improvement, is it really such an improvement that it needs 64 times the space to run in?

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: My takeaway from this article...

        How much of that was Windows and how much was it files that you or an application stored there? Yes, Windows did get much bigger, but so did all the files I store on my computer, both in individual file sizes and in the quantity that I tend to store there.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My takeaway from this article...

      " ... is that all modern operating systems have become absolute monsters of bloat and poor design".

      Today itself, I attended a nice pres. about Cloud carbon emission reduction. Interesting, it was all about optimizing code in order to reduce CPU cycles and all. Very nice.

      It was from someone working at ... Microsoft (I'm not even kidding) !

  10. spold Silver badge

    ... and I could never get it to install properly on my VAX 11/750 - oh well I converted that into a programmable beer fridge which it looked like anyway.

  11. PhilipN Silver badge

    Thanks for the links

    Not long ago I bolted together some old bits and some new bits and installed XP. Had to remember where I put the driver CD's for the USB bluetooth dongle and the USB wi-fi dongle. But it all worked. Until I fired up Google Chrome.

    Apart from that, the trouble is I sat there looking at the familiar wallpaper wondering what to do next.

    Then found that some old things from the era for which I needed XP to run would run perfectly OK in an XP VM on 7,

    Eventually binned it. Sigh. I guess like a lot of people here I have too many computers.

  12. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    XP64 felt not merely usable, but good: fast, responsive

    " XP64 felt not merely usable, but good: fast, responsive"

    I wonder how much of the apparent speed up is because XP doesn't have the mitigations for the various CPU hardware flaws discovered since then, such as Spectre, Metldown, Rowhammer etc.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: XP64 felt not merely usable, but good: fast, responsive

      Some, but probably not that much. The AV indirection layers that effectively examine every packet in and out of the system and even looks into disk traffic in real-time is probably a bigger resource hog.

      I wonder if stripping these things out of a modern Windows (if it is even possible) would be another dangerous but interesting experiment.

      1. DrollLeek

        Re: XP64 felt not merely usable, but good: fast, responsive

        I switched off the Spectre et al mitigations on an airgapped machine I use as a recording studio.

        Before and after audio rendering tests showed a consistent 3-4 percent speedup, for whatever that datum is worth!

  13. Roland6 Silver badge

    It only ever got to SP2, its own special release.

    There were two releases…

    SP2a supported a new range of licence keys (the only addition/difference to SP2), used primarily by OEMs such as Fujitsu Siemens in their last few releases of XP x64 compatible systems. This caused problems.if you didn’t have the OEM media and wanted to reinstall without having to key in a licence key…

  14. RegGuy1 Silver badge
    Linux

    Why? Really, why?

    Why would anyone ever want to install a Microsoft OS on anything? Have people never learned?

    I can see it's fun as a recreational activity, but to be honest I'd rather spend all that time working with a real OS (and that will never include not M$).

    1. david 12 Silver badge

      Re: Why? Really, why?

      That "real OS" line was the one used by the IBM dev-ops to describe unix -- the cut down toy operating system without virtualization, segmentation, isolation, or proper multi-user security.

      You can still tell that the description burned.

      1. Tim99 Silver badge

        Re: Why? Really, why?

        Yes, the people from DEC/VMS said something similar...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why? Really, why?

          Much of Win NT was based on VMS design...

          1. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Silver badge

            Re: Why? Really, why?

            I think that's PR more than anything; it doesn't really resemble VMS. I know Cutler was involved but he's often given too much credit.

      2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Why? Really, why?

        References?

        UNIX had segregated virtual address spaces from at least Edition 6 in 1976, which used the segmentation design of the mid-to-large PDP-11 models very effectively (I used V6 on PDP-11/34 in 1978, and these were really not large systems). These were isolated virtual address spaces, which meant that as a normal user, you didn't have the ability to look into the address space of another process, and you appeared to have a linear address space for your program, regardless of where it was in memory.

        UNIX was a multi-user OS in the same time frame, and although the privilege model was quite simplistic, it did give significant protection to both OS components and other users when used correctly. Of course, it was not the multi-level ring design that came from Multics (which VMS pretty much adopted), but that was part of the design ethos of UNIX to not be Multics.

        What UNIX did not get until after VMS was demand page storage virtualization, which appeared in BSD 4.2, and was rapidly added to System V (I think SVR3 was the first mainline release from AT&T which did it, but R&D UNIX 5.2.6 had it), and people like Sun pretty much made it a feature of their early releases. Other UNIX vendors also incorporated it at a similar time (early '80s).

        I can imagine that IBM may have said something to this effect to increase FUD in the very early days of UNIX, but remember that they did have UNIX ports on the Mainframe in the '70s (IX), and of course AIX on 6150 and PS/2 in the '80s, and then the RISC System/6000 so even as they were disparaging towards UNIX, they were also adopting it! What they were afraid of was small, capable department level office systems that were cheaper than anything they were prepared to offer.

    2. RAMChYLD

      Re: Why? Really, why?

      The only reason Windows ever took hold of the world: games.

      The things I'd do just to have another round of The Movies. Some people managed to get it working in Wine but I've ever only gotten a black screen, regardless of if I use Wine or Wine-GE.

      Doesn't help that fewer and fewer companies bother with Linux anymore ever since Valve made Proton mainstream either. Some idiot devs like Bungie even outright thumb their noses at Linux users.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Why? Really, why? @RAMChYLD

        That's pretty much rubbish.

        What initially drove PC development was IBM cashing in on departments in companies wanting to get away from the stranglehold that their Data Processing departments had over the computing resources.

        On top of that, smaller companies that could not justify even a departmental mini-computer were able to do business tasks on PCs. This market was opened up by Apple (with the Apple II) and others with Z80 based CP/M systems, and parts of IBM wanted to be able to grab some of that market (although other parts felt that the dominance of the Mainframe was threatened by those systems, which ultimately proved correct).

        At the time, games were a very small part of the PC market (if you ever played games on a PC with CGA graphics and the built-in speaker for sound, you will know that a Commodore 64 was a better games platform!)

        I know it was a little different in the US, but the cost of a PC in the early days dwarfed that of 8-bit micros by a factor of at least 5.

        PCs ate into the home market when the very cheap clones stared to appear (like the Amstrad PC1512 in the UK, and probably the Tandy 1000 in much of the rest of the world, although there were others), which were only 2-3x the price of the 8-bit micros, but rapidly took over as it was one common platform (ish) verses all of the disparate 8-bit systems available at the time. Once there was effectively a single platform, that is when mainstream games development came to PCs, and the rise of fast graphics adapters and high function sound cards cemented the PCs place alongside consoles. I would place this in the early 90's.

  15. jonfr

    Windows XP Pro

    I have Windows XP Pro machine. I use it for old games. I just don't connect it to the internet or the local LAN either. It doesn't bother Windows XP not to be connected to the internet. Unlike Windows 10 and newer versions.

    1. Scotthva5

      Re: Windows XP Pro

      I keep an old Mac SE/30 around just so I can play the original Might and Magic for Mac. Laughable "graphics" but hundreds of hours of old fashioned RPG game play. I've yet to find its equal.

      1. gryphon

        Re: Windows XP Pro

        I've got one of those sitting in a box in the loft.

        Probably need to get it 're-capped' before turning it on by all accounts.

  16. leppy232

    There's always ReactOS if you want to redo this article in a decade, or 15 years for the 25th anniversary of XP's EOL. It's already got one or two Vista functions and it might be closer to 50% by the time it actually releases, even if the last version it would be 100% compatible with for the 1.0.0 release is Server 2003.

  17. chivo243 Silver badge
    Coat

    At first, I hated it!

    But by the time SP3 made a debut, I was neutral, it worked, people could get their work done. My manager piloted Vista, brave soul he was! We rode XP to the end, perhaps a bit longer?, it was oh so long ago... In order to be Win7 ready, which in the end didn't take as much work as we were led to believe. My Windows Desktop experience since then is also a Winter Olympics skiing event.

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. This post has been deleted by its author

  20. This post has been deleted by its author

  21. Tim99 Silver badge
    Windows

    XP on VM

    I'm retired and occasionally use XP on an Intel iMac with Parallels. The system is set up with 1.5 GB of memory with the networking disabled. It runs old software that I have written, mostly based on SQL Server 8.0, and the performance is fine. It uses "Windows Classic" mode so it looks like Windows 2000 (The last "decent" Windows?). Turning off the "Fisher- Price" XP interface and having a monochrome screen background seems to make everything run faster. File downloads and uploads are done with the parent iMac OS, the only sharing is with the iMac clipboard and dragging and dropping files between the WIndows and the iMac desktops. The VM has been running now for >12 years (including on a previous iMac). As well as running my old stuff, has been useful for checking and Excel & Word files with the MS Viewers and, if necessary, printing them to PDFs.

    As might be expected, Windows 10 (in a 6GB VM) is noticeably slower. The later Windows 10 Patch Tuesday's incessant nagging about the machines inability to run Windows 11, and why I should use MS Edge instead of FireFox, has reinforced my intention to move away from Windows completely when the iMac is replaced...

  22. 897241021271418289475167044396734464892349863592355648549963125148587659264921474689457046465304467

    @Liam Proven: Sony VAIO P SSD upgrade

    Thank you for writing about how to get sound working for Windows XP on the VAIO P, using it's integral sound hardware - it's a very annoying issue. I had a go, but sadly was unable to remove or rollback another driver, one of many, which I had tried installing before... therefore the update failed. I deleted all HD Audio .inf files, didn't work, tried to find *.pnf files to delete those too, for that non-functioning device with no details to no avail. It appears to be there till the end of time itself, and beyond.

    On my SSD upgraded VAIO P, XP is pretty much an instant on mode, and faster booting than the old Corel Linux "instant" OS it shipped with (on HDD - I didn't install that on the mSATA, as it could have complicated or confounded my tri-boot masterplan). XP is very handy for playing music via an external Novation NIO 2/4 sound card - I use it as a HiFi, outputs to my huge floorstanders. The quality of the NIO is great, noise free too because it's located several feet away from the VAIO P and other electrical devices. The other way to get the VAIO's sound hardware working in XP, is to get it working on Windows Vista, then downgrade to XP. However, installing Vista drivers on XP doesn't work... therefore there must (?) exist XP drivers somewhere in the Vista downgrader installation files, but I haven't found them.

    I'm sure you're sick of my saying this yet again, but you really must replace your Sony VAIO P's HD with a mATA SSD! (Or maybe you shouldn't - keep reading) Not an old SSD intended for the your VAIO P either, because you probably want fast and robust. Mine flies now, even when running Windows 7 Professional. MX Linux is less snappy, but works at an acceptable speed. I regret not trying Tiny 10. The only post-upgrade problem is due to that tiny, proprietary and delicate SATA ribbon cable - it's too thin to be held by the MSATA to SATA converter. This necessitated the use of heat-resistant Kapton tape to thicken the mSATA directed business end of that ribbon a bit, and it worked. Unfortunately it's new thickness isn't quite the perfect size, and occasionally the only screen you'll see when switching the VAIO on, is the BIOS - this is because the ribbon contacts are not connecting and the "Hard disk" isn't detected. If this happens (it does every so often) I simply press on the area of the keyboard above where the mSATA SSD is located, restart, and the VAIO P boots presenting three choices of operating system: Windows XP Professional, Windows 7 professional or MX Linux. Finding a brand new replacement for that ribbon cable is of course impossible. I used the right converter, but I suspect the mSATA converter's clasp has been updated to fit modern ZIF cables. I could try to source an old one. I may yet replace the Integral mSATA with a Samsung, if the Samsung has a thinner profile, to see if this intermittent issue goes away. With a mSATA installed in your Sony VAIO P, all of the operating systems you try could be much more enjoyable to use, or facilitate speedier misery (depending).

    p.s. My daily driver runs XP Pro lol. Really.

  23. Captain_Cretin

    360 Chrome

    My wife had this installed on her PC when we first met; it was part of a suite of "360" branded programs replacing standard M$ offering with Chinese government approved versions, and they were FULL of spyware.

    Just to be warned; the spyware was so intertwined, it couldnt be removed without trashing the entire PC.

    I was still using XP on an ancient Asus 901 Netbook until 2018; as a PC for my overseas travels; I never had any virus issues on it; even plugged in to some Chinese networks of dubious origin.

    1KG netbook in the largest Laptop bag you could get, meant an extra 5-10Kg of luggage on a plane; as airlines didnt count laptop bags as hand luggage, and didnt weight them either.

  24. Hans 1
    Windows

    XP always sucked

    When XP came out, I too went to FOSS, mostly FreeBSD, Slackware, Suse (7.2 pro), and Mac OS X, I got a Powerbook. When I took the Powerbook to the office one morning, the founder came around to have a look at it. Mac user ever since. I tried to stick to Windows 2000 at work for as long as I could, when they forced XP on me, I installed Solaris in a VM and used that, I turned off everything I could in XP to keep it as lightweight as possible - why Solaris ? Just to show that it could be done.

  25. bikernutz

    XP on HP NX6325

    It came with XP installed when I was given it by a brother who's work place was throwing it out. Because they couldn't get Windows 7 to install on it.

    XP had become bloated and slow beyond belief, after cleaning up it ran very well. But I wouldn't want to use it online.

    Label on the front said Vista compatible. Although it has had various OSes installed in the last few years.

    Recently installed Windows 10 on it so my wife can use it in her craft room for accessing the embroidery designs for her machine.

    It runs faster than it did with XP, though part of that is it now has an SSD installed. It can run the versions of software she needs to use and it can access newer than SMB1 shares.

    It also means the new i5 laptop bought last Christmas for her stays less bloated, faster and away from her craft room where it might get accidentally damaged.

    So her indoors is happy for multiple reasons and an old piece of kit still has life and not become land fill.

    Inkscape/Inkstitch is unusably slow for creating or modifying any of her/my designs, but they can be done on other faster computers in a more comfortable part of the house!

    I don't think there is anything wrong with using old technology it can be much more fun.

    I would still love driving around in my 1972 mini if I had it, but I wouldn't want to tour Europe or get anywhere fast and in comfort using the mini. I have boring modern technology for that.

  26. Wanting more

    still run for legacy stuff

    Sadly I still run 32-bit XP in a Hyper-V VM quite often. It's because I have to build VB6 and VB.NET 1.0 code and asp / com websites against IIS. Tried installing very old versions of Visual studio in Windows 10 64-bit and you can get it to just about work after a lot of messing around. But once you start adding in other legacy components / controls it stops working.

    The one good thing is that it's nice and quick though.

  27. MJI Silver badge

    Still valid uses for it.

    My home PC has the video editing software installed on it.

    But of course you can run MSDOS executables on it.

    Full screen too.

    Was the most flexible OS MS had done

    WIN16

    WIN32

    MSDOS

    1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

      Please step away from the rose-tinted glasses.

      > Was the most flexible OS MS had done

      Flexible in what sense? In that there wasn't a lot to it, but it let you do pretty much what you wanted because it was only a step away from- and didn't prevent access to- the bare metal?

      It's not as if MS-DOS was good even when it was new. It was little more than a quick and dirty (*) 16-bit port/ripoff of CP/M that Bill Gates bought in and rebranded. CP/M was designed for incredibly limited 8080/Z-80-based systems in the mid-70s, and its limitations were understandable on *that* basis.

      But even by 1981, that architecture- which QDOS/MS-DOS essentially just copied- was already unnecessarily dated and primitive for a shiny new high-end 16-bit computer.

      Pretty much all the later convoluted complexity and bodges of MS-DOS were due to having to work around the limitations of the original design while retaining compatibility with it. (Well, that and the clunky Intel x86 architecture which was limited by *its* mid-70s origins and convoluted design upgrades in a similar way (**)).

      People like my Dad who used PCs in the 80s/early 90s say "oh, that [i.e. the mess of MS-DOS] was just how computers were back then". No, it wasn't, it was how the crappy IBM PC design and its already-dated OS was.

      MS-DOS was crap then, and it's crap now. Good riddance.

      (*) Hence its original name QDOS- quick and dirty operating system.

      (**) Apparently even the designers of the original IBM PC wanted to use the Motorola 68000 rather than the Intel 8088 for that reason, but were overridden by the beancounters.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Please step away from the rose-tinted glasses.

        Problem is that there was a LOT of software written for DOS.

        A lot never got as far as Windows.

        1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

          Re: Please step away from the rose-tinted glasses.

          I don't disagree with that. I was only taking exception with the implication that DOS' "flexibility" made it a good OS when that "flexibility" was really just a result of how primitive it was, even at the time.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still in Use

    I still have Tier 1 global retail customers using it on their Production PoS systems, paired with Windows Server 2003 as their Back-Office.

    Don’t use it in the 2020’s - LOL. Get real.

  29. DaemonProcess

    nostalgic start

    Your next challenge in os/2 Warp !

    Why? Because you can!

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: nostalgic start

      [Author here]

      > Your next challenge in os/2 Warp !

      I am working on it. Seriously. I have a review copy of ArcaOS, a modernised OS/2, and I am trying it out.

      1. Steve Graham

        Re: nostalgic start

        A couple of years ago I found a stash of installation floppies and even a CD in the attic (I was moving house) and got OS/2 Warp working except that if I booted it a second time, it thought it was being installed from scratch again and asked for all the floppies in turn. I fiddled with it for a while but didn't get any further before I lost interest.

      2. 897241021271418289475167044396734464892349863592355648549963125148587659264921474689457046465304467

        Re: nostalgic start

        Are you trying it out on the VAIO P?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting inclusion of the almost-forgotten and rarely-used x64 version. However, since that *was* effectively such a different beast under the surface (as you mention, it was based on the Server 2003 kernel) compared to the original 32-bit version almost everyone actually used, it's possibly misleading to use it to judge "XP" on a modern system?

    (Mildly interesting sidenote for anyone who cares- there were actually two completely different 64-bit versions of Windows XP; the aforementioned "Windows XP Professional x64 Edition" (i.e. x86-64) and the "Windows XP 64-Bit Edition" which ran on the Itanium, one of Intel's most notorious failures.)

  31. Martin Summers

    Right. Now you've done this and spent so much time getting it ready, connect it directly to the Internet and tell us how long it takes for it to burn to the ground. Go on, please!

  32. Grogan Silver badge

    The reasons Linux distros feel so bloated:

    1) Everything is linked with all possible optional libraries and system components. Unnecessary dependencies for everything.

    I'm painfully aware of this, so when I build a from-scratch system I keep unwanted dependencies out. If I really need something to build a project I want, and don't really want it on the system (e.g. Boost libraries) I'll link it in an alternate location. For example, I build my firefox browser once and use it on all my systems (I keep them binary compatible as much as possible) and it loads much faster on my carefully maintained from-scratch system than it does on Arch. That's because my system libraries (e.g. GTK+) don't load as many dependencies themselves from disk at application load time etc.

    2) Most distros are using anal hardening flags. I want optimizations, not stack canaries... bugger off. I take over hundreds of packages on Arch because of that. Not everything, because it's too onerous, but key packages. Anything where performance matters. (Arch is what I use for gaming and I spend more bloody time working on it than I do gaming lol)

    3) kernel config.

    Sure, XP is older and smaller and it's going to run faster if you can get proper driver configuration. I could stick that in a VM and it would probably be faster than anything modern I have on bare metal.

    I miss Windows XP. It used to make me a lot of money. Not a day went by (I'd have to unplug my phone on the weekends!) that I didn't have to turn callers away because I couldn't take them all. Often the same people, time and again who couldn't run XP for a week without getting stuffed up. Antivirus software often just got in the way of removal back then too.

  33. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Years ago - about 2006, I think - I tried Windows 3.1 on a nice new machine work had given me, in between nuking XP and installing Ubuntu. By golly it ran like the clappers.

    I'm writing this on an elderly Thinkpad X60 with two 1.8GHz cores. It takes about one minute to boot Linux Mint. What 216000000000 things does it need to do, exactly, before it can let me login?

    1. 897241021271418289475167044396734464892349863592355648549963125148587659264921474689457046465304467

      MX Linux doesn't progressively get slower like Mint does.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      "I'm writing this on an elderly Thinkpad X60 with two 1.8GHz cores. It takes about one minute to boot Linux Mint. What 216000000000 things does it need to do, exactly, before it can let me login?"

      I know you're probably joking a bit, but those cores are not both operating at 100% utilization through that process. Some of that process is single-threaded anyway, so your second core is doing nothing then. Most of the process, though, neither core is doing anything, because they are waiting for data to come off the disk into memory, during which they spend a few million cycles doing nothing, and then some of that data is loaded from memory into registers, during which they spend a few hundred more doing nothing. Only then can the cores start computing something useful, such as decompressing some data back into memory (a few hundred more cycles for it to write), verifying the integrity of the system, and creating lists of components that need to be located on the disk and loaded into memory (a few more million). If you attach the same RAM and disks to a very fast processor, you'll get some speed improvement, but if you attach the same processor to a much faster disk and RAM, you'd get a significantly larger improvement. This might not be possible with the hardware you have available, but those are some of the factors that lead to the boot time.

  34. Bebu Silver badge
    Windows

    Excellent training :)

    Getting ancient OSs and software running on modern hardware - bare metal or virtualized is excellent training for the aspiring systems admin/support person. It emcompasses task/problem definition, research, locating and assembling resources, testing and problem solving AND DOCUMENTING all of this so you and others don't parody Ground Hog Day.

    Just demonstrating/proving it cannot be done is a win.

    In the lunacy we call the real world there is hardware (instruments mostly and industrial controllers) that cannot be replaced (no makey now) or impractical to do so (£££££££) but either run obscur(ish) software like OS/9 [m6809/m68k] or obsolete versions of less obscure software [Win3.1, OS/2, mip sysv.4] so this isn't entirely an academic exercise.

    Even getting Solaris 2.4 x86 running on modern hardware is a lot more trouble than one would imagine and even under virtualbox its still a pain.

  35. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Devil

    Bah

    For real excitement, install an old OS with a public IP address then see if you can install patches faster than the bots can hack it.

    I know that MacOS X Server 10.6 doesn't survive.

    A public IP address? Yes, when the router's DHCP recognizes the MAC address from a time when hardened server software was running on the box. (facepalm)

  36. The Spider
    Facepalm

    Can't be too careful...

    All this talk of XP reminds me that when I first came out to East Asia, I didn't have a machine of my own, and had the estimable joy of first trying to use XP first on a Japanese language laptop, and later on a Traditional Chinese-language office PC. Later I built my first Korean PC and installed XP home on it.

    But you couldn't be too careful... later, I bought my first laptop, installed some (well-known) scanning software, and this detected no fewer than sixteen (yes, 16) instances of Chinese spyware. On a new machine, unused for anything at that point; it looked like they were already in place when the thing arrived. And that was XP, which of course came without even a firewall. Which I then installed.

    "Security" and "Windows XP" are words which never went together... no wonder I switched to Mandrake!

  37. Grunchy Silver badge

    Not so dangerous, if you properly sandbox it first. As a matter of fact I'm going to sandbox my entire workstation the same as I did my servers downstairs: within Proxmox. With vGPU and everything.

    "...a lot of readers are keen on running ancient operating systems, and possibly worse still, ancient proprietary operating systems...", well, yeah. I'm trying to figure out how to fire up a Proxmox VM with 1990s era Solaris, and the reason is I'd like to explore some old applications I used to run on Sun workstations. I can do it with QEMU, sure, but Proxmox developers figured people would only run x86/x64 operating systems. I swear they go to more effort to de-feature QEMU than if they had simply left well-enough alone.

  38. sir.gwayne

    I Use XP all the time

    I happily run Windows XP in a Virtual Window using VMWare Workstation Player. Why? I have a suite of BASIC programs that I wrote in the early 80s' in the DOS enviroment.

    They are Horse Racing prediction programs and I need to be able to print information fron the DOS window to a USB printer, which I do with a tiny program called DOSPRN. (Can't do that with a modern machine).

    The VMWare Player also allows me to transfer files to and from my main Win 11 Pro machine. The Player is also connected to the Network and Internet.

    I use Clam Win Portable as my Virus software and the desktop wallpaper is an old HP deep blue affair that I had on my original IBM machine that ran Win XP.

    Blissful, and I even make a bit on the Races!

  39. Bill Gates

    For gods sake, just run Linux.

  40. BPontius

    Tried it

    Bought a copy of Windows 7 pro 64-bit off Ebay, got it installed in a VM but it is useless without compatible drivers for modern hardware. Windows XP is 22 years old, see no benefit or reason to go through the trouble.

  41. Mr. V. Meldrew

    Still use XP!

    As a telecom engineer I have customers who still prefer legacy comms for their business. Panasonic PABX systems are a popular system. You could programme the system using the operator key pad, slow, very slow. You can open a programme and attach the laptop with a serial cable, a GIU showing lines and extension configs.

    Problem is the programme will only run on XP. Hence my old laptop running XP, but never ever connected to the world.

  42. Nameless Dread

    The good old days

    XP in Virtual Box on Mint on a private network (disabled) - runs Lotus 1-2-3 and Notepad - Magic! (So much faster and more eye-appealing than Libre Office !)

  43. RobDog

    I still run XP

    Because where else can I play MS Combat Flight Simulator, on my MS Force Feedback Pro joystick? The latter needs a ‘game port’ interface to run it, but even though you can buy a sound card (eg Trust sells one, or did) you don’t get drivers for the ‘stick in modern OS even if you could probably get CFS to run on Windows 10/11.

    I use the marvellous tool ‘NLite’ to make the XP install as lean as can be. And before anyone mentions VMs, you can’t get the display working properly in CFS.

    Sometimes the old ways are the best.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like