Whilst Windows 11 has recently landed, this article takes a look at one of the best Microsoft past systems: Windows XP. After a couple of less successful releases, Microsoft launched Windows XP in October 2001. It was an immediate success; its widespread compatibility, excellent user interface, and support for all kinds of programs led to it becoming industry standard across the board. Support for Windows XP was phased out some time ago, but we’d like to remember the world’s favourite operating system as it was. Here are 17 things you might not have known about Windows XP.
1. 0.5% of PCs around the world still use Windows XP
Despite its age and relative obsolescence, you may be surprised to learn that many people actually still use Windows XP. It’s the operating system of choice for many organisations; the American IRS actually still used Windows XP as late as 2015, and there may still be many computers within the organisation using it right now. It’s fair to say Windows XP remains a popular choice!
2. Almost 60% of PCs in Armenia use Windows XP
Armenia is a particularly popular place for Windows XP, as almost 60% of the PCs in that country use it. The next most popular Windows operating system is Windows 10, followed by 7, then 8. Incredibly, 0.02% of PCs in Armenia still use Windows Vista, which sounds like a situation that needs to be immediately rectified as far as we’re concerned given the quality of that OS.
3. The Windows XP wallpaper sold for $100k
If you’ve never known what that rolling hills Windows XP background is called, the name of the photograph is “Bliss”. The photographer, Charles O’Rear, was paid over $100,000 for his time. Interestingly enough, another iconic XP wallpaper, “Autumn”, cost Microsoft just $45, which seems a little unfair. Still, it’s undeniable that “Bliss” is a more well-known photo.
4. Many ATMs still use Windows XP
When you go to withdraw some cash from your local ATM, spare a thought for the operating system it’s running. Many ATMs still run Windows XP, and terrifyingly enough, many are therefore open to the kind of attacks that we wake up screaming about. There have been efforts to upgrade ATMs to Windows 10, but XP is still the standard on a surprising number of the machines.
5. You can’t call a file or folder “CON”
Windows XP doesn’t allow you to name a file or folder “CON”. This is because there’s an important system file with the same name, and renaming your file could cause confusion in the backend. Future versions of Windows fixed this issue, so you’ll be able to do this on Windows 11, for example, but give it a go on Windows XP and you’ll see that it’s impossible.
6. Windows XP has a meaning
Just like in video games, XP actually means “experience”. The OS was originally codenamed Whistler, before it was officially unveiled in February 2001 to an expectant audience. A Microsoft press release says that the “experience” part of the name is supposed to symbolise the “rich and extended” user experiences people can get when using Windows XP.
7. The XP recycling bin could only hold 10% of your hard drive space
By default, XP’s recycling bin was only capable of holding 10% of your hard drive space. You might be the kind of person who deletes a lot of things, though, in which case this wouldn’t suit you. However, it was possible to expand this amount through extra customisation options, so if you did want more space in your recycling bin, you could always use this method.
8. The total number of Windows XP licenses is over 500 million
According to TechRadar, the total number of Windows XP licenses redeemed across the operating system’s lifespan is likely to exceed 500 million. We know for a fact that over 400 million copies of the system were sold within the first five years of it being on sale, and it doesn’t take much to go beyond that and imagine all the people who bought it after those first five years.
9. Windows XP was a more popular OS than 95 or ME
Windows XP’s dominance over the ill-fated Windows ME should perhaps come as no surprise. What is surprising is that it managed to top sales for Windows 95 in its early days. Granted, part of that might be because Windows was becoming more mainstream (alongside PCs in general), but 95 was generally accepted as the gold standard for operating systems, so XP beating it is something of a surprise.
10. Windows XP introduced taskbar grouping
Prior to Windows XP’s introduction, if you wanted to group windows together, you’d have to mod your software. However, in Windows XP, it was possible to group windows on your taskbar, saving you space if you had multiple instances of a web browser open (or any other application). Today, this is standard in Windows 11, so it’s hard to imagine how life was before we could do this.
11. Microsoft released over 2000 hotfixes for Windows XP
Despite Windows XP’s status as the golden child of operating systems, it still needed plenty of help to stay on top. Estimates suggest that Microsoft released more than 2500 hotfixes for Windows XP, including security patches and other updates. This equates to over 200 hotfixes each and every year of its operation. Let it never be said Windows XP was perfect out of the gate!
12. China created a system suspiciously similar to Windows XP
If you’ve never heard of NeoKylin, we’d strongly recommend you go and take a look at it. The visual style should look oddly familiar if you’re in any way up on your Windows XP style. Given that Windows XP was hugely popular in China – at one point, statistics estimated that 90% of Windows XP copies in China were pirated – it stands to reason that someone would make a copy of the system once it lost support from Microsoft.
13. China got hit by WannaCry thanks to Windows XP
Remember the WannaCry attacks? The ransomware was levelled at a huge number of PCs back in 2017, including many that were situated in China. This was largely because many Chinese PCs were still running Windows XP at the time, and because of the security vulnerabilities inherent in XP’s software, WannaCry found no problem at all in worming its way (pun intended) into those systems.
14. Windows XP still has the longest support cycle
When comparing how long Microsoft supported Windows systems for, Windows XP still takes the crown. It got support for a staggering 12 years, beating Windows 7, Windows 10, and Windows Vista, all of which were supported for ten-year cycles (Windows 10 will lose support in 2025). Hilariously, Windows 8, which is often considered one of Microsoft’s worst systems, was supported for only three years.
15. People still try to make Windows look like XP
Even now, you’ll find lots of people still trying to make their versions of Windows look like XP. As recently as Windows 8, people were trying to get the visual style to resemble XP more, changing the system so that the colours were different and the icons resembled their Windows XP counterparts more closely. Many people likely upgraded away from XP on sufferance, and wanted to keep their old operating systems as close as possible to the system they were used to using.
16. Most apps now don’t support Windows XP
The earliest version of Windows you’ll likely find most apps supporting is Windows 7. It’s unlikely that you’ll see many systems supporting operating environments older than this, because the security flaws are so critical that they don’t want their apps anywhere near systems like Windows XP or Windows Vista. Despite this, many still remain loyal to XP, using it despite its myriad security vulnerabilities. It’s shocking to think about just how many public and government systems remain compromised thanks to XP.
17. Many apps are only compatible with Windows XP
Despite the above, it’s still the case that a lot of programs and apps are only compatible with Windows XP. These are usually apps created in a proprietary sense for companies rather than those publicly available to consumers, but it’s still very worrying. Those companies won’t update their apps, which means that public institutions also don’t want to update their operating systems for fear of losing compatibility with the apps they need to run on a day-to-day basis. Unsettling, no?
We hope you’ve enjoyed our collection of 17 Windows XP facts! This operating system may be old by today’s standards, but it still has lots of lessons to impart when it comes to visual design, many of which even modern developers could learn from. We know that Microsoft won’t be releasing Windows XP 2.0 any time soon, but we sure would like to see a throwback-style system (or at least a skin) harking back to the good old days of Windows XP, MSN Messenger, and many of the other programs available at the time.
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