How long before Microsoft Windows XP disappears?

How long before Microsoft Windows XP disappears?

Summary: Windows XP is in decline, on Netmarketshare's monthly numbers, but can we project how much longer it will stick around? It may be longer than you think.

TOPICS: Microsoft, Windows

Netmarketshare's monthly updates on the state of the operating system and browser markets are useful not because the numbers are accurate — they clearly have a margin of error — but because they show trends. The most obvious trend at the moment is the decline of Microsoft's ancient Windows XP. This enables us to project how long it will be before Windows XP finally disappears, and you're welcome to have a go in the comments below.

The first question is, "What does 'disappear' mean?" There will clearly be a rump of Windows XP users for a long time. There are, after all, still a few people using Windows 98 (0.01 percent) and Windows 2000 (0.03 percent).

We could, perhaps, take Linux's market share as a baseline for something that hasn't disappeared. Linux now has a market share of 1.68 percent, which is still quite a bit below Windows Vista (3.05 percent). Under the circumstances, you could argue for 1.5 percent, because anything less popular than Linux must be irrelevant.

Netmarketshare graph of operating system market shares
Netmarketshare's graph of operating system market shares for the two years to July 2013 shows Windows 7 (blue line) and Windows XP (green line) diverging. Image credit: ZDNet screen grab from

On Netmarketshare's numbers, Windows XP was level with Windows 7 two years ago, and the two operating systems have since diverged. The rot really set in a year ago, in July 2013, when Windows 7 was on 44.49 percent and XP on 37.19 percent, only 7 percentage points behind. Since then, XP has tumbled to 24.82 percent in the latest numbers, July 2014, while Windows 7 has climbed to 51.22 percent.

Windows 7 now has more than twice as many users as XP, and the gap is undoubtedly going to get bigger.

At the current rate of decline, XP should be down to about 12 percent in July 2015, and zero by July 2016. But I expect XP to stay above that level for a very long time. It still has users due to government incompetence, and governments can be amazingly slow to achieve even simple IT tasks. It has a few ageing users who are not interested in buying new PCs and may not even know that XP support has been discontinued. It still has a following among the ignorant and/or recalcitrant, who either don't know or won't admit that Windows 7 is far superior. Finally, it still appeals to pirates, particularly in Asia, who don't mind using pre-Trojanned copies of Windows as long as they're free. Add those together and I reckon XP could bottom out at around 5 percent, which is only a bit higher than Mac OS X 10.9 (4.12 percent).

My guess is that Windows XP will still be around 16 percent in July 2015, where it might still be ahead of Windows 8.x, and around 8 percent in July 2016, though 14 percent/6 percent would not be a surprise.

A really potent virus, or a significant hack, might drive the numbers lower, though perhaps web developers could help.

One of the drawbacks that results from Windows XP sticking around is that it is artificially extending the life of three aged browsers:  Internet Explorer 6, 7 and 8. If websites stopped supporting them, it might encourage a few more people to upgrade.

As things stand, IE8 is still the world's most popular browser: it has 21.56 percent of the market, according to Netmarketshare. I suspect most of those come from the 24.82 percent who are still using Windows XP. If so, Google's attempt to capitalize on Microsoft's attempt to kill off XP has been a miserable failure.

With XP visibly declining, this would be a good time for everyone to let it go.

Topics: Microsoft, Windows

Jack Schofield

About Jack Schofield

Jack Schofield spent the 1970s editing photography magazines before becoming editor of an early UK computer magazine, Practical Computing. In 1983, he started writing a weekly computer column for the Guardian, and joined the staff to launch the newspaper's weekly computer supplement in 1985. This section launched the Guardian’s first website and, in 2001, its first real blog. When the printed section was dropped after 25 years and a couple of reincarnations, he felt it was a time for a change....

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  • They will need to pry my Win XP copy from my cold dead hands!

    Sorry, couldn't resist. Grin
    • You joke, but...

      It was only 2011 I made a trip down to the company I then worked for's mail room for some client service, and noticed (as they were rebooting) that their mail sorting machines ran off of custom box's running windows 98!

      Obviously they weren't networked, or even had user accessible ports (save the printer's serial connector) so they weren't a massive risk, but once brought to light we found over 20 machines across three sites that had win 98 on them - some running DOS applications.

      This was a very large financial company with rigurous IT policy and cataloging, however these few machines (out of 10's of thousands of devices) has managed to hold on for years after they should have been disposed of because they simply ceased to exist on anybody's radar at some point.

      Obviously had they been networked, they would have been spotted sooner, but I've joked a few times about how many xp machines will linger unknown and forgotten!
      • The US Federal Government has quite a few machines still on XP

        Just one example will suffice. When those horrific firestorms will occurring out west last year, the national news aired video showing the the federal command center coordinating the firefighting efforts. All their computer systems were running XP - well, at least the computers that were on inside that room at the time.
      • Gosh, DOS programs

        They may even have been coded in Assembler. Oh, the horror!

        Did they pose much risk? It didn't seem so. What would be the cost-benefit trade off to replacing them with newer machines, software too?

        It'd seem the main risk from such machines is that they's STOP working and need to be replaced. Has anyone backed up the software they run?
        • Perhaps the greater risk is that when (not if) these machines fail ...

          ... management decides to REPAIR THEM at GREAT EXPENCE rather than retiring their burned-out hulks. When the U.S. Space Shuttle fleet was designed, they had five redundant IBM-PC class systems designed in as redundant systems and, as time went by, it became more and more difficult to find replacement parts. It is imperative today that such highly integrated systems such as the Space Shuttle be designed with modularity in mind so that modernization is straightforward and cost-effective.
          M Wagner
          • not exactly analagous

            Single-purpose computer control systems for mechanical processing devices such as mail sorters probably don't even require Windows 98. Wee difference from systems like the space shuttle. Or do you believe mail sorting is rocket science?

            Actually, software which ran under Windows 98 should run under Windows XP, so as long as the software could be reinstalled on replacement PCs, when 15-year-old Windows 98 systems die they could be replaced by 9-year-old Windows XP systems. Maybe even by Vista systems. Gets dicier when trying to run old software under Windows 7 and 8. Maybe DOSBox could help.

            Anyway, redundancy is good. Re the space shuttle, I don't know its computing specs, but I do know that outside Earth's atmosphere there's no buffering of cosmic radiation or the effects of solar flares. If shielding is one of the requirements for shuttle kit, but manufacturers discontinued making such components because there was no other market for it, that's market forces. Every once and a while the gov't has to contract for equipment only of use to the gov't.
          • On a closed system, it really doesn't matter. If it is connected ...

            ... to the Internet though, the risk is very high.
            M Wagner
          • and since the machines in question are NOT connected

            your foray into musings about connected machines are correct but irrelevant.
          • Uphill in the snow, Sonny!

            The firm I worked for when I retired to part-time work still -- due to NASA requirements -- stored parts for old Shuttle systems in an old salt mine. That need, of course, went away with the Shuttles, and considering the age of a lot of military gear (I saw transponder RF chassis' I'd taken instruction on in 1964 in airshow C5's in the 1990's), a lot of it probably couldn't be repaired today anyhow, or only with parts gleaned from rotting cardboard boxes under Hamfest flea market tables.

            Sort of like my legacy scopes, spectrum analyzers and old radio gear. Heh!

            Uphill in the snow. BOTH ways!

          • XP

            Ah Yes Mr Wagner the house trained pole cat for Microsoft. You probably do more damage with your ridiculous observations than anything positive for Microsoft. My professional software engineers and network architects find you a patronising crashing bore.
      • Why should they have been disposed?

        The machines were not a security risk, they were fully depreciated, and they were doing the job.
      • I Joke, but

        "It was only 2011 I made a trip down to the company I then worked for's mail room for some client service, and noticed (as they were rebooting) that their mail sorting machines ran off of custom box's running windows 98! "

        Please check out Weird Al's new video "Word Crimes" immediately if not sooner!
    • I'll say this...

      There are so many hospitals still running XP.

      Part of the problem (i've heard from some hospital personnel) is that the applications that they use were written for XP and don't seem to work properly on Windows 7 or even 8.x.

      Not only that, but much of the proprietary medical equipment that they use don't yet have drivers for Win7 or 8.x.

      My doctor's office is the same way.
      My kids' pediatric doctor is the same way, etc.

      Mainly because the doctors are affiliated with the hospitals and they use the same software and equipment.
    • XP forever, and here's why

      1. Norton GoBack works with it, and there's nothing superior to GoBack's ability to restore your hard drive after a problem. Closest next thing is Clonezilla.

      2. Better search function.

      3. FAR easier to use than the other junk MSFT invented, which came later. MSFT really threw all its customers under the bus, by changing the UI and forcing it on us. Singlehandledly caused inflation by all the billions in retraining costs for the employees: all the philanthropy in the world can't make up for the losses, worldwide, from Vista's imposition, forward. Those who dispute this obvious fact, can't think their way out of a paper bag, or enjoy prevaricating.

      4. Works better with industry-standard software of all types, especially with vertical applications which cost thousands of dollars in annual subscription fees.

      5. Keeps employee and infrastructure costs lower for employees and customers, so a business remaining on XP, needn't raise its prices.

      6. FAR more stable, and the vaunted XPocalypse ain't happening.

      7. Has FAR more protection, developed and maintained over 12 years of attacks, versus the newer OSes which are also more dysfunctional, in themselves.

      One could say more, but XP users know, and they are more productive than those adopting later OS versions. Same can be said for MS Office year 2003 and prior, especially as those versions have a great aftermarket in macros and customization.
      • A suggestion for a replacement to GoBack

        The GNU tool 'dd' is very useful for backups and restores. It is accurate to the last byte and , for a commandline utility, is quite easy to use. It is powerful enough that it can be used in forensic investigations
        • dd and windows

          While 'dd' is a great tool for UNIX, it's a nightmare to use it on Windows. Because 'dd' requires using the raw device path name like \\\?\Device\HarddiskVolume1 to access the drives (which is never used by the Windows UI at any time) instead of C:, locating this device path information in Windows can be practically impossible. If you happen to find and use a 'dd' explicitly written for Windows, you might be able to find the names easier, but that's also a custom written 'dd' that may not contain all of the latest features and fixes. If you're wanting to use the 'dd' included with Cygwin or other UNIX subsystems, these non-native tools aren't easy or intuitive at all.

          Oh, you can find these paths if you're willing to spend time digging with command line tools, but it's impossible to find them through any UI tool. Worse, because 'dd' attempts to do its work like it would on UNIX, it doesn't fully comply with Windows disk locking and access modalities. There are times where 'dd' will refuse to do work with the drive is in a particular state because it doesn't know how to properly request a lock from Windows.

          On the other hand, Norton GoBack is a fully Windows UI compliant app that doesn't require the need to jump through hoops to use it. It also works within the modalities of the Windows disk subsystem and is able to request locks in the proper way. I believe that's the whole reason why the OP suggested Norton GoBack and the reason that the OP uses it. Yes, 'dd' has its uses and place, but only on systems where it can be used easily. Windows just doesn't happen to be one of those systems.
  • After Using Locked Down, Intentionally Broken, And Pathetic Win 8.x...

    Even unruly and unstable Win XP looks mighty good right now.

    MS blew it, but the sad part is they haven't learned thelr lesson (have you taken a look at the screen shots of purported Windows 9?).

    Apparently it's going to take losing their other some 82,000 employees before Microsoft learns that they need to LISTEN to customers, as opposed to blindly dictating their fascist agenda!
    • Explain

      Explain specifically what you mean because 8 is the best OS I've used. A big one is my configuration syncs to all my systems. Even if I log into a brand new system, my setup comes with me. It's first OS really designed for the modern cloud world. I know a lot of people automatically reject anything that's different but they figure it out eventually.
      Buster Friendly
      • You Want An Explanation?

        Windows XP

        If I had an aluminum can for every time I had to reinstall XP, I would be in Beverly Hills right about now!

        Windows 7

        All my Windows systems (two... with the exception being my hybrid) are on Windows 7. I resisted the move from XP at first, but honestly, I don't know why I waited so long. I can run applications like my security system program for days on end. With XP I couldn't go a full day without it crashing to the kernel.

        Windows 8

        My Lenovo Ideatab came with Windows 8, and after decades in the tech industry, the only way I can remove Windows 8 would be to take it apart and put in a new SSD without GPT and re-format the new disk for Windows 7; which in and of itself would cost more than the thing is worth.

        That's because Lenovo colluded with MS to restrict users from accessing the bios. Lenovo created a phony bios where you think you are making changes to the system boot loader. But because of UEFI and the bios restriction, it will never boot from a USB or optical disc. Thus, you can never remove Windows 8, without ripping out the SSD it came with!

        Windows 8 is the most locked down system I have ever seen in my life. I have been playing around with it for months and it finally dawned on me... MS intentionally crippled and locked down this system, in order to have full control over your system so they can force you to sign in to your MS account. Once you do, MS can redirect you to the cloud, their MS store, and otherwise fully control your system at will.

        Another thing I discovered, and you will NEVER hear anyone mention this, but you are never an administrator in Windows 8. MS makes you think you are, until you try to change your own privileges or create a new user. That's when you find out the hard way that you are not even admin on your own system. Try all the admin tricks from Windows 7 if you don't believe me. None of them work and your system is crippled in perpetuity!

        Windows 8.x

        This "update" is actually just a virus to further Microsoft's goal of taking over your system even further. They were so quick to get you on 8.1 that they didn't even bother to notice all the things they broke with 8.1, as it's a complete and utter mess. Google 8.1 issues if you don't believe me.

        As for me, I also have two Macs (2010 Macbook Pro Core 2 Duo, and a Core i5 2011 Mac Mini. I use Windows sometimes (Lenovo Thinkpad Edge e531 Core i5, and a Lenovo z61t Core 2 Duo), but I am staying on Windows 7, period! I just use my underpowered, POS hybrid as an HTPC that's hooked up to my 90-inch Sharp, in order to surf the web. That's all you can do with Windows 8 and a crappy Atom processor.
        • @orandy

          We have several Lenovo's could you specify which model because according to MS vendors must allow the user to disable secure boot in order to be W8 certified. Windows 7 supports UEFI boot so depending on whether the system it x32 or x64 will determine how you would create the thumb drive.
          open cmd prompt as admin on a W7 or higher machine, type diskpart, list disk, find which one is your thumb drive, type select disk X where X is your thumb drive. Type create partition primary, then format fs=fat32 quick, then active, then assign, then copy the Windows 7 CD Rom to your thumb drive.

          Most Lenovo systems I've worked with support F12 to select a boot device, however it must be a FAT32 bootable device to use UEFI as it doesn't support NTFS.

          Once you've actually used W8 and read something other than the tin foil hat crowd you'll find it isn't much different than Windows 7. Since you're using a Mac as well you can hardly claim it's too difficult to figure out because Windows and OS X are much more different than W7 and W8.