Here's why Windows XP was so damn good

Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 10, is due for release later this year, but the company knows from past experience that getting users to migrate to its new offering can be a challenge. In fact, during its first year of availability, upgrade licenses will be available free of charge for users of retail editions of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

Read more: Windows 7 users growing ahead of Windows 10 release

Microsoft’s decision to offer its new OS to users of legacy editions reveals that the firm is well aware that customers often don’t believe that newer means better. The primary older operating system that many Microsoft customers can’t seem to let go is Windows XP.

In fact, it’s estimated that more than one billion copies of the operating system, which launched back in 2001, had been sold as of last year and there are plenty of reasons why it continues to hang around.

The main reason for XP’s success is how user friendly it is. For surfing the web, basic program use like Office and the odd game of Solitaire, Windows XP was, and continues to be, a perfectly valid choice. Ironically, Microsoft’s decision to move to a Metro style user interface with Windows 8 was supposed to entice these casual users to adopt a newer OS. Not everyone has been convinced.

Moreover, it is not only consumers that have found it difficult to move on. A number of businesses have adopted Windows XP because of the reliability it offers. The OS has now been around for 14 years, it has been the target of cyberattacks, and been patched up countless times. Its longevity is one of its key strengths. Even with Microsoft cancelling its support, leaving XP vulnerable to new security threats, some companies are reluctant to move on.

In part, this is because, having been the operating system of choice for so long, many firms are set up to work with hardware and other tools that are compatible with XP. For many, the time, money and risk of migrating to a newer operating system is simply not worth it.

Another reason why Windows XP initially proved so popular was because of the way it improved upon its predecessor. The operating system was the first Microsoft offering to be aimed at both the consumer and business markets, ensuring that it combined reliability with ease of use. When compared with Windows 2000, XP is cited as being less likely to crash, faster and including features that have gone on to become Microsoft mainstays, such as the “hibernate” shut down option and “Remote Desktop.”

Another factor working in Windows XP’s favour is simply how poorly received its successor Vista was. This ensured that many consumers didn’t make the initial upgrade and by the time Windows 7 was released in 2009, again decided to stick, taking the approach of “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?” The major changes introduced for Windows 8 were also likely to have been off-putting for some.

Of course, Windows XP will have to call it a day at some point. Hardware and software will move on, as will security threats, and eventually XP will be consigned to history. Windows 98, for example, achieved some level of longevity, but is now seen as incompatible and insecure. When that will become the case for XP is difficult to say.

Read more: Why apps are key to the success of Windows 10

Extended support for Windows XP may have ended in April of last year, but for now at least it seems like the operating system could be around for a few more years yet.