RIP Windows XP: the 'zombie' operating system that came to haunt Microsoft

Microsoft's most popular operating system – Windows XP – has come to haunt the corporation. Thirteen years after it launched, it's being laid to rest

If you hear a faint whoop of jubilation from across the Atlantic in a couple of weeks' time, don't be surprised. It will be the cry of Microsoft executives celebrating finally having achieved what, for years, seemed impossible: the laying to rest of its mighty Windows XP operating system.

Within computing circles, XP has become known as a zombie: the operating system that Microsoft, despite its best efforts, just could not kill. The software launched in 2001 is still installed on a third of all PCs. Only Windows 7 (released in 2009) has managed to have any real impact, being installed on just under half of all PCs today. But even then, Microsoft would much prefer that people were using the very latest OS, Windows 8.1.

So, come 8 April, executives will be cheering. On that day, Microsoft will finally cease its support of XP. The zombie OS really will become the walking dead, as the wolves, in the form of hackers, viruses and malware, start to circle. Computers running the operating system will become more vulnerable as Microsoft stops releasing security patches, and there will be no more automatic updates. Meanwhile, hackers may look to reverse-engineer security updates that appear for Windows 7 or 8/8.1, hoping to find unpatched exploits that they can use to gain access to systems. The zombie OS will start to haunt its users, becoming unpredictable and dangerous.

XP's demise has been a long time coming – Microsoft even released an XP End of Support Countdown Gadget – but there will surely be some sadness tinged with the relief. Perhaps, during its countdown, Microsoft could spend the hours reminiscing about the dark days in 2007, when disgruntled users sent Vista, XP's successor, packing back to Redmond (just under 4 per cent of computers have it installed). Or it could recall the more recent struggles, which have seen Windows 8 users left staring at their screens in search of a start button.

But how did XP fall so far from grace in Microsoft's eyes? Its problem is that it became too popular. A gap of six years between its release and Vista was far too long. During that time, new computers were being shipped with XP pre-installed, and by January 2006, 400 million copies were in use. It coincided with an explosion in PC sales so, for many, it was their first taste of Windows.

It gave XP ample opportunity to gain a real foothold in the market on a scale that utterly clouded any computing success that had gone before it. Given that some companies don't update their machines for years on end, the numbers stacked up and it became even more difficult for subsequent releases to knock it off its perch.

To make matters worse for Microsoft, people have become used to the interface. Some businesses don't want to spend money on replacing systems that work, nor do they want to fork out on retraining their staff. IT professionals aren't helping much, either. Online IT community Spiceworks says 76 per cent of IT consultants are still running Windows XP on at least one system. "Folks don't like change," says technology analyst Rob Enderle. "And Microsoft is less aggressive in forcing change than Apple. So the folks that hate change the most just didn't move."

So what happens now? For a while, not much. Windows XP will still continue to run on people's machines. It will even continue to benefit from anti-malware measures – Microsoft announced in January that it may be scrapping automatic updates, service packs and tech support but it will carry on battling against viruses and hackers until 15 April 2015.

There are solutions. Users could switch to Apple, install the open-source operating system Linux or just upgrade to a more up-to-date Windows. This latter option may mean buying a new computer, although some users will just be able to buy a copy of Windows 7 or 8. "The problem is," says Enderle, "Windows 7 is already obsolete and has been superseded by Windows 8. And Windows 8 is such a big change, thanks to the fact it is touchscreen and has a new interface. Plus, once people move, Microsoft will have another problem: getting them to move again in the future."

You sense that, if Microsoft had its way, the monster it created would already be under 10 feet of concrete and peppered with a few silver bullets, just to be on the safe side.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
ebookAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    (Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

    Recruitment Consultant - Bristol - Computer Futures - £18-25k

    £18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Real Staffing - Leeds - £18k+

    £18000 - £27000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sales - Trainee Recruitment Co...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester - Progressive Rec.

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Progressive Recruitment are cu...

    Day In a Page

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup