Saturday, 3 March 2012

Is XP extinct?

Contributed by Haresh Karamchandani

Windows XP is truly an outdated operating system - at least from a business point of view,  so much so that manufactures like Dell or HP do not offer it pre-loaded on their hardware since 2008. Check out this article: "Dell: We'll install XP for you,  even after the deadline." Official support for XP will end in 2014 according to this article "Windows XP celebrates tenth birthday, Microsoft wants it extinct." 

Windows XP is one of the series of Operating Systems released by Microsoft. It was released way back in October 2001 and has proven to be highly successful. Its market share is still a solid 38.4% according to an article on Wikipedia "Usage share of operating systems." 

This information serves as an introduction to this blog post which will talk about a recent supply to one of our clients. 

The client happens to be a European bank which needed 9 desktops preloaded with Genuine Licensed WIndows XP. The bank was very clear about the necessity of having the desktops preloaded with XP because this OS is used across the board, from HQ to country branches. Their banking applications are also XP-friendly.

After checking with various manufacturers,  such as  DELL,  HP,  Lenovo,  we learnt that Windows XP OS is NO MORE offered and ONLY the latest OS,  Windows 7 comes loaded on computers these days. We went ahead,  since we had no choice and ordered and got the latest model Dell Vostro 260s with Windows 7 Professional Pre-loaded which is a Slim Line Desktop Computer and the latest in the line,  (Manufactured in February 2012!!) from DELL USA with the plan to downgrade to Windows XP. We got it done in the end but it was certainly a challenging experience. 

Our USA supplier shipped out the goods as soon as he received them. After we received them here in Liberia, we contacted Dell Support to seek a solution. Dell support sent us a web link specially created for these kinds of problems. It offered to download Windows XP in Virtual Mode:

We downloaded this 600MB software on all the computers and returned it back to the client. The virtual mode meant that the computer would boot in Windows 7 mode and then the user would have to switch to Windows XP Virtual Machine Mode. This works exactly like a Windows XP machine with all the normal features. The only problem here was that the machine would boot in Windows 7 and the user would have to switchover to XP virtual mode from the start menu. The client insisted that they DO NOT want any virtual mode, and that they would only accept computers that could boot directly in XP.

We again went back to DELL support and they advised that we contact Microsoft Support for a solution. Microsoft support offered that we could DOWNGRADE the system to Windows XP and sent us a link.

After we followed the steps and downgraded the computer to Windows XP the computer started booting in XP mode. But this was not the end of the problem.

Even though the machine was booting in XP mode, there were some critical drivers like Network, Video, Graphics etc that were needed. We went online to find a solution and could not get ANY solution as this Vostro 260s was preinstalled with a brand new LAN system which worked only with Windows 7 OS!!

We then decided to contact the manufacturer of the LAN PCI card (Realtek) and we were informed by REALTEK that yes indeed the PCI card in the new Vostro 260s was unique and was a PCIe card, number Realtek-RTL8111E-VL. They sent us the link for this driver which was just uploaded on the web a few days ago.

We downloaded the driver and installed it in the Vostro 260s and voila! The computer booted in Windows XP and we could connect to the internet network. The other drivers for Video and Graphics can now be downloaded easily.

The client accepted the desktops and we received our payment promptly. 

The experience of downgrading from Windows 7 to Windows XP was challenging but also extremely interesting. It would seem that many organisations are still using older operating systems because they are reliable and their systems have been built around them so why upgrade when it would be costly and time consuming? We guess this is why XP still has a significant market share. 

Another question is: why does Microsoft keep releasing newer operating systems and how does it work as a business model and how does it affect businesses and organisations?


  1. If the client is insistent upon running XP as the main OS, then I guess 7 isn't an option. Having said that, Win 7 plays well with everything in a domain environment. In my case, we even have Macs attached to the same Windows domain with no issues. For legacy apps, there is 'run as' and XP mode. I may be wrong to assume but I'm thinking the only reason they rejected XP mode was simply because they don't understand VMs or because it's 'different'. They may have other needs that I'm not aware of but I think they should at least give it a try, if they haven't already. Change isn't always bad and it sounds like it's about time they need to start thinking about overhauling their systems especially with XP's support ending soon. I realize that many companies put IT budget behind everything else but I still wonder why any organization, let alone a bank where security should be one of their top concerns would insist on using an outdated OS.

    Also, to answer the question you posed in your blog. Here's my take on it.

    Newer OS's add features, security, support for newer technologies and efficiency. Again, I do realize that many businesses put IT budget behind everything else. Smaller businesses can get away with more but when you're running a large organization, IT simply becomes a cost of running a business that you just have to put aside budget for. This is usually an issue when the person at the top of the organization does not fully understand technology. The 'if it ain't broke' mentallity doesn't always apply. Business model pertaining to IT will differ from one organization to another but overall, I think that it is imparative to move forward with technology as best as you can.

  2. I'm sure Windows 7 is a great OS and apparently it's getting a growing rise in popularity, although its market share is still only 33% according to Wikipedia which is actually slightly lower than XP's market share.

    I guess Microsoft needs to keep releasing new Operating Systems and improving their product. However, it is too costly and time-consuming for organisations and businesses to keep upgrading their systems.

    We were certainly surprised to see a bank (and a European bank at that) still using such an old OS however they are not the only one. Another one of our clients (a major energy company) is also still using XP.

    This was a very challenging but interesting job for us.

    Thanks so much for your excellent feedback and points of discussion.