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Think Microsoft is letting Windows XP die too soon? You’re not alone.

Recently, we asked what seemed, to us, to be a no-brainer: do you agree that Windows XP needs to die? Do You Agree That Windows XP Needs to Die? [We Ask You] Do You Agree That Windows XP Needs to Die? [We Ask You] We think Windows XP should be put out to pasture forever. The time has come to let it sail off to Valinor. Read More . We expected most of you to say “yes”, but your responses surprised us Long Live Windows XP! [We Ask You Results] Long Live Windows XP! [We Ask You Results] We asked: Do You Agree That Windows XP Needs To Die? Turns out you don't. Read More . A lot of readers are still using XP, and deeply wish Microsoft would extend support. Some of you also think Microsoft stopping support is a cash grab.

But what if I told you that Windows XP is the longest supported operating system in Microsoft’s history? And that there’s not really an operating system you could have bought in 2001 that’s still getting security updates today?

Let’s say you paid $200 for Windows XP in 2001. You’ve been getting security updates for $1/month, and that doesn’t even include the initial cost of the operating system.

Does that change your mind, even a little? Maybe not, but it’s still remarkable how long Windows XP has been supported. Let’s review a little.

A Long Time Ago…

When Windows XP was released for retail, on October 25, 2001:

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  • AOL had 24 million subscribers, and most people heard this sound before getting online:

  • The iPod was a brand new product pundits weren’t sure about.
  • Wikipedia was less than a year old.
  • Barack Obama was a member of the Illinois Senate.
  • The first films in the Harry Potter and The Lord of The Rings franchises were upcoming.
  • Halo: Combat Evolved – the first Halo game – was a launch title for Microsoft’s upcoming video game console, the original Xbox.

  • No one had heard of Firefox, released a year later in September 2002.

Windows XP support will last 149 months, or almost 12 and a half years. That’s longer than:

  • The entire recording career of The Beatles (7 years).
  • Calvin and Hobbes’ complete run of publication (10 years).
  • World Wars 1 and 2, combined (4 and 6 years, respectively).

XP Lifespan Compared To Other Windows Versions

Anyone can make 12 years sound like a long time with tidbits like that, but how unusual is XP? How long does a Windows operating system get updates?

It varies. It’s worth noting there are typically two kinds of support: “Mainstream support”, during which updates deliver new features, and “Extended support”, during which only security updates and major bugfixes are offered.

windows-95-first-run

Here’s a list of how long “Extended Support” has lasted for the versions of Windows leading up to XP, starting from the date of retail release:

  • Windows 3.1, 117 months: April 6, 1992 to December 31, 2001
  • Windows 95, 76 months: August 24, 1995 to December 31, 2001
  • Windows 98, 98 months: May 15, 1998 to July 11, 2006
  • Windows 2000, 127 months: December 15, 1999 to July 13, 2010
  • Windows XP, 149 months: October 25, 2001 to April 8, 2014

So Windows XP is the longest supported version of Windows to this point; only the mostly-identical Windows 2000 is even close (within 22 months). Compared to Windows 95 and 98, support for XP has gone on for an eternity.

Think of it this way: when Windows XP came out, Microsoft still supported Windows 3.1. An OS that basically predates the Internet was getting updates in 2001. That’s a long time to support software, but Windows XP has been supported 32 months longer at this point.

Microsoft has gone above and beyond for XP, but support for Vista and 7 won’t go as long:

  • Windows Vista, 125 months: November 8, 2006 to April 11, 2017
  • Windows 7, 123 months: October 22 2009 to January 14, 2020

If this keeps up, XP might go down in history as the longest supported version of Windows, ever.

XP Lifespan Compared To Mac OS X Releases

Many in our thread suggested that switching to Mac would be a good idea, but that’s not obvious at all. If you bought a Mac in 2001, you’d have stopped getting security updates in 2012 at the latest.

Macs sold at that time use PPC processors, and Apple stopped supporting those processors after 2007’s Leopard. The last security update for Leopard I could find dates to 2012, and basically just deletes outdated version of Flash. Before that, the most recent update is from 2011. This leaves every PPC Mac – every Mac up to 2005 – completely without access to security updates of any kind.

So, in terms of the time that they got security updates, XP users are far better off than Apple users.

Today, of course, Apple’s a much richer company than they were in 2001. Have things improved? Sort of. Support for Snow Leopard, released in 2009, recently stopped completely. This is partially made up for by the fact that Mavericks, the latest version of the OS, is now free OS X Mavericks is Free: Here's How To Get It & Why You Want It OS X Mavericks is Free: Here's How To Get It & Why You Want It Apple really outdid itself this time. The words "software sells hardware" never rung more true, and now that OS X Mavericks is free to all, isn't it about time you got on-board? Read More . But Macs made before 2007 don’t meet the requirements for running Mavricks, so even that isn’t completely ideal.

The result: a PC user who started using XP in 2006 got security updates longer than someone who bought a new Mac that same year.

XP Lifespan Compared To Linux

Other readers suggested XP users switch to Linux, which isn’t a terrible idea – distros optimized for older systems will likely run better than Windows 7 or 8.

Still, let’s talk about support. I’m fairly certain there’s not a single Linux release from 2001 still getting security updates today – unless you count rolling releases like Slackware. Still: Linux distros are free, and users are expected to upgrade regularly if they want security updates.

But how does support compare? Most Linux distros for desktop users offer support for a few years, expecting their users to upgrade regularly. Ubuntu, long considered a standard, offers two years of support for most releases and five years for Long Term Support releases.

XP obviously beats the 5 year mark, but Microsoft isn’t offering free upgrades to the latest release of Windows. So Linux isn’t a bad alternative in terms of security releases, if you’re willing to upgrade to a new version semi-regularly.

Nothing Lasts Forever

windows-xp-not-found

There’s not a single operating system that will be supported forever – but Windows XP has come close.

Of course, Windows XP still has plenty of devoted users today: some estimates say 30 per cent of computers still run this ancient operating system. All of them will likely be vulnerable to zero-day exploits Microsoft will never patch.

Should Microsoft be blamed for that? I don’t think so. They’ve supported XP for a long time, but can’t be expected to do so forever. Still, it’s worrying that future security fixes for Vista, 7 and 8 could act as blueprint for attacking XP systems. The only fix is to update.

Not convinced? Complain about Microsoft in the comments below, then read our list of ways to bulletproof XP forever 4 Ways To Bulletproof Windows XP Forever 4 Ways To Bulletproof Windows XP Forever Windows XP is slated to be exterminated for good by Microsoft in April of 2014. It is the last stage of a multi-year effort to kill off the operating system. Windows XP is one of... Read More .

  1. Jason Policy
    December 21, 2015 at 8:39 am

    I don't like the use of words "life" and "dying" in this context. They turn discussion unnecessary emotional, and support Microsoft's advertising and desire to actively "kill" the OS. Software can get discontinued and then remain in use as long as there is an application for it.

    Certainly Microsoft shouldn't be expected to continue developing XP and giving it away for free. What they could have done is patch it up to support modern technologies and sell as a new product. The opposition they would get for selling what appears to be a service pack, which looks and feels mostly the same as before, might be less than the current privacy scandal around Windows 10.

  2. Michael Weldon
    December 5, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    I used XP for a lot of years....nearly from its date of release. I switched to Linux last year, a fortnight after XP went EOL; switched overnight.

    I still use XP; but's it's a severely locked-down, offline version which I just use for a handful of specialisr graphics applications. Notice what I said; 'OFFLINE'. That's right. I don't connect to the net at all, in any way, shape or form. It's essentially a frozen, stand-alone workstation.

    It'll never catch owt, that's for sure. It's the most secure XP I know of..!

  3. Rachel Rueff
    May 22, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    It would be nice and even fair in some other reality if a large company like microsoft would consider that some of its users didn't actually purchase the software alone but that it came with the computer and they might be unemployed at some point. They may be having difficulty getting employment or might be getting a low pay so then they are expected to fork out some of their food money to upgrade a system just to keep the bugs out. I still run XP because I can't afford a new operating system in favor of food or clothes. It was hard enough to get the computer and when a part fails I will have to replace that. I am all for a system that just upgrades from time to time.

    • Justin Pot
      May 22, 2015 at 8:33 pm

      That's the approach Microsoft is taking with Windows 10: there will simply be upgrades until the machine dies.

      • Donna Cheltenham
        September 27, 2015 at 6:54 pm

        Yes but it is rumoured that Windows 10 will turn into "windows" and will be subscription based. Also Windows 3.1 is the longest supported April 6 1992 - November 1 2008

        I will stick with my Windows 7 until 2020 I think

        My children's computer is on XP

        • Willie Jenkins
          October 7, 2015 at 5:29 am

          Windows 3.1 was only supported until December 31, 2001 even though they sold OEM licenses for embedded systems until the date you said. So support = ended. Sales = continued. It is an interesting history and difference for sure.

          Windows 1.0 I believe is still the longest running supported version of Windows at 16 years (192 months).

        • Justin Pot
          October 7, 2015 at 2:15 pm

          I don't think there's going to be a subscription for Windows any time soon, but sticking with Windows 7 until later is probably a good idea if you like it.

  4. John Williams
    August 20, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    Look and feel.
    Never had Vista - but I turned Aero off for a few people.
    It didn't take me long to make Win 7 look like XP - "adjust computer for best performance" - tick.
    It appears it isn't that difficult to get a start menu back on Win 8 and turn off Metro - probably by "adjusting for best performance"
    There's probably even a "Classic Windows" skin to get Win 8 to look like XP.
    Once you have your old pale blue desktop back, or the picture of your wife / kids / mum / Cat and your folders lined up in a row again, you can relax, ignore the OS and get back to doing something useful with your PC instead of messing with the desktop.

    Looks like XP? check. Like it's looked for over ten years? check. Ok, all's well with my computer? I can facetube all day now, knowing that some pesky new "feature" is going to pop up and embarrass me - just when my kid comes in the room.

    Just thought of another advantage. As the kids move on to "wave at the screen" systems, they'll forget how to use my old technology. They'll have to come to me for my ancient "right click" wisdom when they have "history of computing homework" ....

  5. A G B
    March 21, 2014 at 9:42 am

    As Far As I Am Concerned, You Can Add WORLD WAR III To Your Total.

    XP, FOREVER !

  6. DE Parkins
    March 21, 2014 at 6:31 am

    Ya forgot the VERY short life of Windows ME...

    • Tim B
      March 29, 2014 at 12:13 am

      Which is exactly what Microsoft wanted!

  7. Wantoo Sevin
    March 20, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    Big deal? XP is just one release of Windows, which itself has been around since late 80s. Mac has been around since the 80s. UNIX around since '69. What's the point? that computer vendors make software and then support it?

    And XP being one release with continued support is not at all surprising. As the article states as an after-thought, Linux has been around prior to 2001 and has received security updates (the article is incorrect in saying that Slackware is a rolling release). But why choose XP and Microsoft's methodology of releases to judge "how well supported" something is? If I use a Linux release from 1994 and continue upgrading it, "technically" I'm no longer on the '94 release, but it's still the same "vendor" providing me updates that continue to work on a computer from '94.

    I just don't see the point of this post.

  8. John
    March 20, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Maybe all those hackers who have been attacking XP for all their teen years will now reverse engineer the source code and set up a pirate security update website to secure an income for themselves as they get older. They would probably have to live in TOR and be paid in Bitcoins, but if the Pirate Bay can hold off all the Hollywood and RIAA efforts to close them after all these years, I'm sure the XP preservation society can evade Microsoft's attempts to gag them ....
    I see a day when people start nostalgic antique computer restoration societies like the guys who fix up steam trains for fun.

    • Justin P
      March 20, 2014 at 5:39 pm

      On the one hand I'd love to see this, but on the other hand I'm not sure I'd trust it for anything but hobby computing. I certainly wouldn't bank on an XP machine with user-submitted patches.

  9. Antonio N
    March 20, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    Great Job to Microsoft for XP. I think 7 is way Better and the jury is out on Windows 8. Even though there are a lot of haters out there, I personally like them. The integration with Windows Server 2012 is very nice. I really like the search feature when you hit the windows button... part of me likes the fact that we've removed the start menu as well. the new tile menu can do a lot more and it's all in front of your face. I like the customization feature in there as well.

    We'll see what happens next.

  10. andycrofts
    March 20, 2014 at 7:54 am

    Funny, Eric N that you mention that...
    I'm sitting in an internet cafe, accessing my Pi at home, Xforwarding Iceweasel reading this article...
    Sure it's slow. Not as slow as my XP is now, after Service Pack 3.
    XP will be missed. For all its shortcomings, it wasn't bad.
    Hasta la Vista! (No thanks)

  11. Eric N
    March 20, 2014 at 2:09 am

    I cannot agree with you more, Justin. Exactly what I've always thought when I read about people complaining that Microsoft is discontinuing a mainstream OS that was made to run on a system that couldn't even as close as to matching the Raspberry Pi.

  12. Howard B
    March 20, 2014 at 12:52 am

    Drat... "149 *is not equal to* 200.

  13. Howard B
    March 20, 2014 at 12:52 am

    "When Windows XP was released for retail, on October 25, 2001...most people heard this sound before getting online." Uh, no. I'm in a backwater of Northern NY, and I'd been on Time Warner RoadRunner more than 2 years at that point, running Windows 2000.

    "Let’s say you paid $200 for Windows XP in 2001. You’ve been getting security updates for $1/month, and that doesn’t even include the initial cost of the operating system."
    "Windows XP, 149 months: October 25, 2001 to April 8, 2014"

    Hmmm....149 200, when I went to school; is this the New Math?

    • Dave P
      March 20, 2014 at 1:20 pm

      $1.34, because that 34 cents makes all the difference.

    • Justin P
      March 20, 2014 at 5:37 pm

      You're right, I messed that one up. Drat.

  14. dragonmouth
    March 19, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    "No one had heard of Firefox, released a year later in September 2002."
    Is that the release date of a browser with a name of "Firefox" or is that the release date of "Phoenix" which was the first incarnation of FF?

    The lack of "security" updates for versions of Mac O/S and Linux distros released in 2001 does not signify that those O/Ss are dead and buried. Even the decommitting of official support from the developers does not kill the O/S. They are all alive and kicking. Support for Linux distros can always be found online.

    XP may be the longest running Microsoft O/S but Slackware, Debian and Red Hat were released in1993/94 time frame and are still going strong. Nobody is trying to drive a stake through their hearts. HP-UX was released in 1984 and IBM AIX in 1986. While those early versions will not run on today's hardware without some help, neither will XP. The thing is that the Linux distro and the Unices have been continuously updated as technology changed. They were not created with an expiration date, like XP.

    Just because an O/S is older than X years does not mean that it is obsolete and ready for that Big Bit Bucket in the sky. That is the Microsoft/Apple business plan so that they can guarantee themselves a steady revenue stream. Following the logic of when it's old, it's worthless, when people reached 65-66 years of age, instead of giving them a retirement check we would give them the needle and put them out of their "misery."

    • Justin P
      March 19, 2014 at 9:13 pm

      I acknowledge that Linux is probably a good way to go, don't I? And I'm not sure what you're getting at. Debian and Red Hat still exist sure, but no release from that long ago is still supported. The specific versions, unless it's a rolling release, eventually stop getting security updates – at which point you need to upgrade.

      XP is a specific version, and like any Linux distro it can't be supported forever. At some point you have to upgrade to keep getting support.

      But I'm not sure what Microsoft is supposed to do here. Should they just provide security updates forever, with no revenue stream? I'm honestly curious, Dragonmouth.

    • Carlos
      March 19, 2014 at 11:16 pm

      What's your point?
      The first Windows in the XP series is NT 3.1 (to match Windows 3.1) and dates back to 1993.
      Sure, the name has changed between versions, and the NT name is gone, but even Windows 8.1 identifies itself as Windows 6.3, so much so that you can still run the original Program Manager and File Manager from NT 3.1 in it.

    • dragonmouth
      March 20, 2014 at 12:31 am

      Justin,
      What Microsoft should do and what it will do are two entirely different questions.

      What Microsoft should have done was to make Win 9x or Win NT into a rolling release O/S. However, being a virtual monopoly at the time, they figured they were in position to guarantee themselves a steady revenue stream by creating a limited lifespan O/S every couple of years and forcing the users to upgrade. Their emphasis was on quanity, not quality. Granted, had Windows been rolling release, M$ would not have made as much money as quickly. However, the product would have been much more polished and the upgrade path would have been much easier and much less disruptive, both to M$ and to the users. There would have been no dramatics about XP in 2009 and again 2014. It is much easier to update a program or a system than it is to re-write it every few years. In addition, the user base would have become more loyal and there would have been no Evil Empire feelings among them.

      It will be interesting to see what the corporate XP users will do come April. Will they cave in to M$ and upgrade to Win 7 or will they dig in their heels, as they did in April 2009 and force Microsoft to do something it does not want to do? Microsoft may be the 500 pound gorilla (they lost weight since XP came out) but 30% of the total Windows user base can be a force even a gorilla will succumb to. As they say in Latin "Nec Hercules contra plures" even Hercules must yield to overwhelming odds.

    • dragonmouth
      March 20, 2014 at 12:40 am

      Carlos,
      Maybe the Program Manager and File Manager can be run in Win 8.1 but they are only a very small part of Windows. Try running Office 2000 in Win 8.x or Office 2013 in XP. Along with forcing users to buy new versions of the O/S, Microsoft forces the users to buy new versions of applications. Please do not say it is necessary because it is not. M$ wants to maximize profits and doesn't give a rat behind for useer satisfaction.

    • Jon B
      March 20, 2014 at 3:06 am

      XP had a good run

    • Rich
      March 20, 2014 at 5:25 am

      Microsoft should never stop supporting any of their products. If I want to use Internet Explorer 3 on Windows 95, that's my right. Why won't Internet Explorer 3 run in Windows 18? I don't like how the buttons look in Internet Explorer 6, so why make me upgrade, Micro$oft? While we're at it, why doesn't makeuseof.com support Internet Explorer 3? Just rewrite the site so I can use it. It can't be that hard to support 11 versions of Internet Explorer instead of 4. Stop trying to make the buttons float at the top and the side of the page so they don't lay in the middle of what I'm writing. Also, Office 2013 crashes when I try to install it in Windows 95. When is Microsoft going to create a separate version of Office 2013 for Windows 95? Just hire a new team of programmers to create it. You're abandoning us. Right dragonmouth?

    • Dave P
      March 20, 2014 at 1:18 pm

      Rich wins the Internetz.

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