Windows XP won't die without a fight

The aging Windows operating system is still hanging tough in the desktop OS arena. What's keeping it alive?

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Windows XP continues to hang on.
Windows XP continues to hang on. CNET

Microsoft continues to urge people to dump Windows XP as it preps to end support for the operating system next month, but the 13-year-old OS refuses to go away quietly.

XP's cut among desktop operating systems actually rose slightly the past two months, according to the latest Web traffic numbers from market tracker Net Applications. In February, XP's share inched up to 29.5 percent from 29.3 percent in January and 28.9 percent in December.

Of course, those are minor increases, a possible blip in XP's long-term decline. Just two years ago, XP was still the dominant desktop OS with a 46 percent share, according to Net Applications. A year later, that number had dropped to 39 percent before falling to the most recent figures.

A share of almost 30 percent still leaves a hefty number of XP diehards among the more than 1 billion Windows PCs worldwide.

Microsoft will officially curtail support for XP on April 8, which means no more bug fixes, security patches, or other automatic updates. Starting March 8, Microsoft will start nagging XP users with a pop-up window reminding them of the cutoff date.

So why is XP proving so resilient?

Without knowing the specific breakdown, I think it's a safe bet that XP's strongest hold is in the business world. A home PC user can upgrade to a newer flavor of Windows without too much hassle. But businesses face a number of obstacles.

Large enterprises must move thousands or tens of thousands of employees to the new version of Windows. That process requires compatibility testing both for hardware and software, scheduling, user training, and a variety of other tasks. Most enterprises should've already switched to Windows 7 by now. Those still stuck on XP face a time-consuming upgrade process.

Small and mid-sized business have their own hurdles. Many don't necessarily have a dedicated IT staff, so they have to perform software upgrades on their own. Businesses with legacy hardware and software are up against an even tougher challenge.

Think of all the hospitals, doctor's offices, laboratories, banks, and other businesses that use certain equipment tied to a specific version of Windows. Bloomberg recently cited a report from US ATM supplier NCR, which said that XP still runs on more than 95 percent of the ATMs in the world.

Microsoft certainly would like to see XP vanish in favor of Windows 7 and 8, but the old yet still vital OS is likely to stick around for some time to come.