Why Would Anyone Use Windows XP Today, Anyhow?

By  |  Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 10:15 am

Windows XP Splash ScreenAs the world celebrates–or at least acknowledges–the tenth anniversary of Windows XP, I wondered why so many people continue to use an operating system that dates from an utterly different era in the history of personal technology. So I conducted a quick survey to ask XP users…well, to ask them why they’re XP users, and whether they intend to continue on with the OS forever. Bottom line: A plurality of them use it because it’s what their employers provide. But most of them seem to be reasonably okay with that.

(Standard disclaimer: This was an informal survey, and the results reflect only the experiences and opinions of the people–almost 900 of them–who happened to take it. I’m not claiming their responses map to the world at large.)

Here are the responses to the questions I asked.

More than half of respondents say they’re still using XP not because they want to, but because their employer makes them. Almost forty-five percent say it still gets the job done. But only nine percent say it’s better than more recent versions of Windows.

Almost two-thirds of respondents are at least reasonably happy with XP–they say it’s good or very good. Only ten percent say it’s poor or unacceptable.

Respondents who use XP only at work–presumably because their employers want them to do so, not by choice–don’t like it as much as those who decide to use XP. But they don’t hate it either. Over 50 percent say it’s good or very good, and only 14 percent think it’s poor or unacceptable.

Will these XP holdouts move to Windows 7? More than a third say it’s up to their employers. Just 17 percent want to actively avoid it indefinitely, but only a little over five percent plan to get it soon.

As for Windows 8, a healthy percentage of respondents reasonably want to know more about it before they make any upgrade decisions relating to it.

Here are some representative verbatim comments from folks who took the survey:

It was around for so long, that I am very comfortable with it in the context of the apps we use it for at work. I am a commercial printer prepress technician, and although we prefer Macs for creating and editing, Windows has always been better at heavy lifting.

I’m a web designer, don’t want to pay for Win 7. But the latest IE will only run on WIn 8 – so will have to buy. Expect to hate it as much as I hate XP. The contempt I feel for winxp is the same level of contempt Microsoft seems to feel for me, the end user.

I use XP Tablet Edition on a Toshiba M400 and it still does everything I need from a portable art and music machine. Plus it’s such a hassle for me to re-install all my esoteric apps and plug-ins … I’ve got a text file with about 30 serial numbers in it that I have to reference every time I start fresh. I did purchase Windows 7 for my desktop, however, as it shipped with Vista.

Only had one blue screen of death this year!

We have machines running XP because many of our clients are still using Win XP. We are a software company that sells to Municipalities that are very slow to embrace new technology.

From an actual usability and productivity standpoint, there is nothing compelling my employer to upgrade to a newer version of Windows.

It’s served the world well, but Windows 7 is most definitely superior, not to mention more secure. The world really needs to move on.

Some government programs do not run on anything but XP, a year after Windows 7 came out they “upgraded” to Vista. But we still have systems that require XP to run and will be running XP for at least another couple of years.

Although I use mostly Win 7 at work, I also use Win XP at work as well. I am a software developer and we support XP. Of all the Windows versions, XP is my favorite. It’s the right balance of sophisticated and straightforward, and it’s stable enough. Win 7 works fine, but it’s more difficult and counterintuitive to use, in my opinion. I will have to use Win 8 when it comes out for the same reason I use Win XP, but I am truly dreading it.

I find that the Windows paradigm is most perfectly embodied in XP, and consequently most easily embraced despite its relative age…Vista and 7 are, to me, merely improved versions that are better in ways that are tangible but ultimately easily discarded. I could envision downgrading to using my XP computer daily (and often do, when traveling) without missing much of anything interface-wise, while I cannot say the same about other OSs, including Android and iOS. I realize that they are not directly comparable, but the limited gardens of both systems make me feel claustrophobic on a secondary device, while XP offers a fuller and more easily tuned experience.

I prefer the no-nonsense Windows Classic look, not easily achievable on W7. Also going through the driver hunt for a new W7 installation on my Thinkpad is daunting.

I have Windows 7 Professional on my main computer at home, and prefer it to XP in a lot of ways. My HTPC runs Win XP Media Center edition, and I have a netbook that came with XP preinstalled. I don’t think it will spec for Win 7.

It’s finally somewhat stable. That’s the overwhelming priority.

When I decided to conduct this survey, I’d forgotten that I’d done a similar one back in August of 2009, when the Vista mess was fresh in folks’ minds and before Windows 7 had shipped. The two surveys involve different questions and different respondents, so you can’t compare them in any serious way. Still, I find it intriguing that back then, very people said they were using XP only because it’s what their employers provided–and with the current survey, that’s the #1 reason. I know that not all the people who choose to stick with XP are crazy dead-enders; some of the most sophisticated tech users I know still run it. But in 2011, the lethargy of IT departments may be the biggest single factor keeping XP relevant.

 
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32 Comments For This Post

  1. Stynkfysh Says:

    I used to upgrade my computer every year – for many MANY years I did this. I have not upgraded my desktop computer hardware since June 2008 and I don't have plans to at all. There is no need. It works fine. The platform has matured to the degree that there isn't anything else I need out of it so I could care less if Intel comes out with a processor that is waaaaay faster. It wont help me. It is like any other tool now – like a rake. My rake works just fine. A newer, shinier rake doesn't do anything for me. That is why I do not buy a new rake – or new computer.

  2. MJPollard Says:

    These days, that “lethargy” you speak of is probably more likely due to economic factors than anything else. Money is tight nearly everywhere (I won’t get into a political diatribe; this is a tech forum), and many companies have to make do with what they have. In this case, it means older PCs that still run XP, or sticking with XP rather than paying the licensing fees for Windows 7 upgrades, or whatever. (And yes, in many cases XP still does the job that’s needed, so even if it’s old, why mess with what works? “Just because something’s old, doesn’t mean you throw it away,” to quote Geordi LaForge.)

    IT is notoriously lethargic for reasons of compatibility and standards testing within their departments, that’s very true, but let’s not forget the economics involved here. In this day and age, it affects everyone, not just the casual home user (whose belt is, if anything, even tighter than the corporate world, but again, that’s a political issue not appropriate to this forum).

  3. Kyle Says:

    I work in a Service Delivery team in a software development company – and the main reason we haven't deployed is due to the age of most of the machines in the business. IT have been seriously underfunded for close on a decade and only this year have we been able to start a standardisation program. As part of that all new machines will ship with Win 7 as we've had the licenses for at least 18 months now.

    However there has been push back from the rest of the business – most of the non-technical staff (admin, sales, marketing, etc) are very set against Win 7 as they are comfortable on XP. Most users haven't had to adapt to a new OS in 8 or 9 years so this has quite a few of them scared about learning something new. Some of them have never used a different OS – XP was standard when they started to use PCs at school!

  4. Benj Edwards Says:

    The only reason I upgraded from Windows XP to Windows 7 64-bit (last year) is that I wanted support for volumes over 3TB in size. Were it not for that, I would still be using Windows XP for my main desktop machine.

    Win 7 has a number of nifty improvements, but it also went backwards in terms of functionality, especially in cases where it is supposed to give the user status information about what's going on (I especially hate the obtuse way it handles WiFi networks). I also like the simple classic Windows look, and Win 7 kinda gimped that as well (though it does it way better than Vista did).

    Windows 7 is priceless in a way, though, because it will auto-rename duplicate files in bulk without prompting you every single time. Finally!

  5. Jim Says:

    Yes! This exactly. XP works. Why do I need to spend a significant amount of money, in the worst economy in decades, to buy something that does the same thing as something I already have?!?!?[

    For the record at home I have a laptop with Windows 7 as well as a desktop with XP.. The only advantage of the Windows 7 machine is that has newer hardware so it runs a bit faster than the XP machine.

    At work, where I am the IT manager, we still have all XP machines. We are a small not-for-profit and simply do not have money to run out and buy new PCs so we can run something other than XP just for the sake of upgrading. XP is doing everything we need it to.

  6. Dave Says:

    It's just not that big a leap except perhaps cosmetically unless you need to use more ram and get the 64bit version and not many programs need more than 4 gigs other than photo/video software.

    Now if people this poll was taken after XP came out and asked people why they were still using Windows ME, that would be another thing.

  7. MJPollard Says:

    In a way, Microsoft is a victim of its own success. It wanted to create an operating system that was free of the DOS legacy, one that worked well in both home and corporate environments, and they succeeded wildly with XP… succeeded so well that, 10 years later, they can’t convince people to climb back onto the upgrade merry-go-round to save their lives. :-)

  8. Amelia@IT Management Says:

    I've never had any issues with XP and I still use it on some old machines that I have. It still gets the job done and has never failed me… yet. I always say that if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

    I use Windows 7 but I've never really taken the time to differentiate the two in terms of functionality. The one thing that bothers me with XP is its native blue color but a few tweaks and downloads from third party geeks always solves the problem.

  9. davnel Says:

    I have my main machine arranged to allow plug-in boot drives. I keep one drive set up with XP because I have two pieces of design software that won't run under Win7 unless I want to drop $3000 for an update, which I can't. I mostly use Win7 otherwise, along with Linux in various flavors.

  10. Brandon Backlin Says:

    I keep Windows XP in a virtual environment because I don't feel like messing around with Dosbox to play my old games. Running the OS native on either of my machines would seriously hamper them, with DX9 and 4Gb of RAM or less. These media programs and games need all the hardware the computer offers.

  11. Mason Says:

    http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/help/

    That's one reason I won't upgrade. My office has almost 100 workstations reliably running XP and what appears to almost 100 nightmares ahead of me when the time comes to upgrade.

  12. Addy@Joomla Design Says:

    No even once did I have any issues with Windows XP. That's the degree of reliability that I vest in Windows XP. Its handy, I am familiar with it and this is what I have been using for quite a few years. Though i agree that the new windows 7 is fast and nice to use as I use it in office. But at home I have installed windows XP.

  13. Steve Says:

    Here's the real problem: The registry. On Windows, buying a new machine requires you to reinstall all your applications (assuming the old ones still work), and then download and install all the updates that weren't on the initial disk. This can take at least a day on a single machine, and overnight to back up the machine online. And even if you're careful, you may not have all the functionality of the old one when you're through. (Example: What do I do with my Outlook Express email store? How do I get X1 to index whatever the answer is?)

    What's several days of your time worth? Will a faster machine ever earn that back? Unlikely.

    So screw it. There's nothing much that the new versions do better–and Windows 8 is so ugly and misguided thanks to Joe Belfiore's latest idiotic BIG ICONS design that there will be no reason to go there.

    BTW, upgrading to a new Mac is usually just a matter of running supplied software that basically converts one machine to another–or paying some Genius $100 to do it for you. I'd take that deal anytime–and may just do it for my next machine.

  14. hometheatercre8 Says:

    Very cool article, my employer still uses XP, and for my job it works. I have 7 for my HTPC beacuse it integrates netflix and can support the cable card tuners in MCE.

  15. Rick Thompson Says:

    If Windows XP is working, it can feel pretty risky to switch to something that is an unknown.

  16. Tommy Spears Says:

    Win Xp awesome but if your pc can handle 7 then go for it. XP is good but 7 is great.

  17. oakley en mexico Says:

    Running the OS native on either of my machines would seriously hamper them, with DX9 and 4Gb of RAM or less. These media programs and games need all the hardware the computer offers.

  18. rachel Says:

    What Microsoft should have done was to sell a different version of Windows XP say Windows XP Version 1.2 for $20.00. A new version will be release every 2 years of the same Product name. Let's do the math. as of Nov 2011, Windows 7 sales was 400,000,000 at an average price of $135.00 with a total of $5,400,000,000. As of Nov 2011, there are 2.1 billion people with computers with Windows XP. So the total revenue would be 2.1 billion times $20.00 is 420,000,000,000.00. So Microsoft should have made 420 billion bucks for Windows XP of different version, while Windows 7 is only 5.4 billion bucks.

  19. Ian Bespoke Software Says:

    I'm one of those that needs to update his computer regularly or live in fear of missing out on the next big thing. But I work with many others that are still using XP (one close friend still has an old Win95 Dell Desktop PC) and are quiet content at using an out of date OS.

    Personally…its all about Windows 7 ;)

  20. steve Says:

    XP works fine for what I use it for. My machine is 10 years old and still boots in 25 seconds. The windows 7 layout seems to require re-learning, thus maybe it's time to take on a Linux disto… as I will have to spend a few hours learning my way around anyway.

  21. beingthere Says:

    Inteface: programs for external hardware: Basically XP will remain as an open ended Atari or Amiga: fun, flexible and of course not as stabile as those mentioned. I can imagine new games
    being created for XP along the lines of Atari and Amiga: efficient, clever and for more intelligent
    and socially interesting games. This would have been Linux and might be someday. As mentioned above, the speed craze was driven by game bloats and showboat consumers.
    As the haze wears off, it is easy to imagine that XP will take its place as a kind of "flavor" of Linux.

    Now also, there are a lot of people who never really used XP, so its has some "charm" of being
    a challenge. When it is no longer supported, that will give it something that windows 98 and the
    rest never truly achieved for an entire class of hardware that works extremely well all over the world
    today, and will continue to work very well for at least another decade.

    :)

  22. zishami8 Says:

    This can take at least a day on a single machine, and overnight to back up the machine online. And even if you're careful, you may not have all the functionality of the old one when you're through.vehicle donation program

  23. henry Says:

    XP has been running just fine on one of my older PCs… Never even had to reformat the thing and still boots up fine.

  24. Jason Says:

    Three reasons:
    1: You're still using an old computer that came with XP and just got used to it.
    2: You have an old computer that won't run 7 very well.
    3 You have an old computer.

  25. קינוחים אישיים Says:

    I agree with Jim. Not only XP works, but it works great. New isn't always better!
    IVF
    Joe

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  27. larzze Says:

    We have machines running XP because many of our clients are still using Win XP.
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  28. zahidpro Says:

    I use XP Tablet Edition on a Toshiba M400 and it still does everything I need from a portable art and music machine. plasterer glasgow l plasterers glasgow

  29. zahidpro Says:

    I’m a web designer, don’t want to pay for Win 7.window blinds online

  30. Rana Says:

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  31. rugcleaningnj Says:

    XP was the best – it worked with almost everything after SP2 came out. Still run it on a few older machines, but using Windows 7 and looking forward to Windows 8.

  32. rdoctor Says:

    With recent computer hardware, Win XP is noticeable slower than Win 7. Win XP is a better choice for older hardware platforms, especially ones with limited memory.