Criticism of Windows XP

Criticism of Windows XP deals with issues with security, performance and the presence of product activation errors that are specific to the Microsoft operating system Windows XP.

Security issues

Windows XP has been criticized for its vulnerabilities due to buffer overflows and its susceptibility to malware such as viruses, trojan horses, and worms. Nicholas Petreley for The Register notes that "Windows XP was the first version of Windows to reflect a serious effort to isolate users from the system, so that users each have their own private files and limited system privileges."[1] However, users by default receive an administrator account that provides unrestricted access to the underpinnings of the system. If the administrator's account is compromised, there is no limit to the control that can be asserted over the PC. Windows XP Home Edition also lacks the ability to administer security policies and denies access to the Local Users and Groups utility.

Microsoft executives have stated that the release of security patches is often what causes the spread of exploits against those very same flaws, as crackers figure out what problems the patches fix and then launch attacks against unpatched systems. For example, in August 2003 the Blaster worm exploited a vulnerability present in every unpatched installation of Windows XP, and was capable of compromising a system even without user action. In May 2004 the Sasser worm spread by using a buffer overflow in a remote service present on every installation. Patches to prevent both of these well-known worms had already been released by Microsoft. Increasingly widespread use of Service Pack 2 and greater use of personal firewalls may also contribute to making worms like these less common.[2]

Many attacks against Windows XP systems come in the form of trojan horse e-mail attachments which contain worms. A user who opens the attachment can unknowingly infect his or her own computer, which may then e-mail the worm to more people. Notable worms of this sort that have infected Windows XP systems include Mydoom, Netsky and Bagle. To discourage users from running such programs, Service Pack 2 includes the Attachment Execution Service which records the origin of files downloaded with Internet Explorer or received as an attachment in Outlook Express. If a user tries to run a program downloaded from an untrusted security zone, Windows XP with Service Pack 2 will prompt the user with a warning.

Spyware and adware are a continuing problem on Windows XP and other versions of Windows. Spyware is also a concern for Microsoft with regard to service pack updates; Barry Goff, a group product manager at Microsoft, said some spyware could cause computers to freeze up upon installation of Service Pack 2.[3] In January 2005, Microsoft released a free beta version of Windows Defender which removes some spyware and adware from computers.

Windows XP offers some useful security benefits, such as Windows Update, which can be set to install security patches automatically, and a built-in firewall. If a user doesn't install the updates for a long time after the Windows Update icon is displayed in the toolbar, Windows will automatically install them and restart the computer on its own. This can lead to the loss of unsaved data if the user is away from the computer when the updates are installed. Service Pack 2 enables the firewall by default. It also adds increased memory protection to let the operating system take advantage of new No eXecute technology built into CPUs such as the AMD64. This allows Windows XP to prevent some buffer overflow exploits.

On April 8, 2014, extended support of Windows XP ended. As this means that security vulnerabilities are no longer patched, the general advice given by both Microsoft and security specialists is to no longer use Windows XP.

Antitrust concerns

In light of the United States v. Microsoft Corp. case which resulted in Microsoft being convicted for illegally abusing its operating system monopoly to overwhelm competition in other markets, Windows XP has drawn fire for integrating user applications such as Windows Media Player and Windows Messenger into the operating system, as well as for its close ties to the Windows Live ID (now Microsoft account) service.

In 2001, ProComp – a group including several of Microsoft's rivals, including Oracle, Sun, and Netscape – claimed that the bundling and distribution of Windows Media Player in Windows XP was a continuance of Microsoft's anticompetitive behavior[4] and that the integration of Windows Live ID (at the time Microsoft Passport) into Windows XP was a further example of Microsoft attempting to gain a monopoly in web services.[5] Both of these claims were rebutted by the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT) and the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), both partially funded by Microsoft.[6][7] The battle being fought by fronts for each side was the subject of a heated exchange between Oracle's Larry Ellison and Microsoft's Bill Gates.[8]

Microsoft responded on its "Freedom to Innovate" web site,[9] pointing out that in earlier versions of Windows, Microsoft had integrated tools such as disk defragmenters, graphical file managers, and TCP/IP stacks, and there had been no protest that Microsoft was being anti-competitive. Microsoft asserted that these tools had moved from special to general usage and therefore belonged in its operating system.

To avoid the possibility of an injunction, which might have delayed the release of Windows XP, Microsoft changed its licensing terms to allow PC manufacturers to hide access to Internet Explorer (but not remove it). Competitors dismissed this as a trivial gesture.[10] Later, Microsoft released a utility as part of Service Pack 1 (SP1) which allows icons and other links to bundled software such as Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, and Windows Messenger (not to be confused with the similar-named Windows Live Messenger, formerly MSN Messenger) to be removed. The components themselves remain in the system; Microsoft maintains that they are necessary for key Windows functionality (such as the HTML Help system and Windows desktop), and that removing them completely may result in unwanted consequences. One critic, Shane Brooks, has argued that Internet Explorer could be removed without adverse effects, as demonstrated with his product XPLite.[11] Dino Nuhagic created his nLite software to remove many components from XP prior to installation of the product.[12]

In addition, in the first release of Windows XP, the "Buy Music Online" feature always used Microsoft's Internet Explorer rather than any other web browser that the user may have set as his/her default. Under pressure from the United States Department of Justice, Microsoft released a patch in early 2004, which corrected the problem.[13]

Backward compatibility

Migrating from Windows 9x to XP can be an issue for users dependent upon MS-DOS. Although XP comes with the ability to run DOS programs in a virtual DOS machine, it still has trouble running many old DOS programs. This is largely because it is a Windows NT system and does not use DOS as a base OS, and because the Windows NT architecture is different from Windows 9x.[14] Some DOS programs that cannot run natively on XP, notably programs that rely on direct access to hardware, can be run in emulators, such as DOSBox or virtual machines, like VMware, Virtual PC, or VirtualBox. This also applies to programs that only require direct access to certain common emulated hardware components, like memory, keyboard, graphics cards, and serial ports.

Product activation and verification

Product activation

In an attempt to reduce piracy, Microsoft introduced product activation in Windows XP. Activation required the computer or the user to activate with Microsoft (either online or over the phone) within a certain amount of time in order to continue using the operating system. If the user's computer system ever changes — for example, if two or more relevant components of the computer itself are upgraded — Windows will return to the unactivated state and will need to be activated again within a defined grace period. If a user tried to reactivate too frequently, the system will refuse to activate online. The user must then contact Microsoft by telephone to obtain a new activation code.

However, activation only applied to retail and "system builder" (intended for use by small local PC builders) copies of Windows. "Royalty OEM" (used by large PC vendors) copies are instead locked to a special signature in the machine's BIOS (and will demand activation if moved to a system whose motherboard does not have the signature) and volume license copies do not require activation at all. This led to pirates simply using volume license copies with volume license keys that were widely distributed on the Internet.

Product key testing

In addition to activation, Windows XP service packs will refuse to install on Windows XP systems with product keys known to be widely used in unauthorized installations. These product keys are either intended for use with one copy (for retail and system builder), for one OEM (for BIOS locked copies) or to one company (for volume license copies) and are included with the product. However a number of volume licence product keys (which as mentioned above avoid the need for activation) were posted on the Internet and were then used for a large number of unauthorized installations. The service packs contain a list of these keys and will not update copies of Windows XP that use them.

Microsoft developed a new key verification engine for Windows XP Service Pack 2 that could detect illicit keys, even those that had never been used before. After an outcry from security consultants who feared that denying security updates to illegal installations of Windows XP would have wide-ranging consequences even for legal owners, Microsoft elected to disable the new key verification engine. Service Pack 2 only checks for the same small list of commonly used keys as Service Pack 1. This means that while Service Pack 2 will not install on copies of Windows XP which use the older set of copied keys, those who use keys which have been posted more recently may be able to update their systems.

Windows Genuine Advantage

To try to curb piracy based on leaked or generated volume license keys, Microsoft introduced Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA). WGA comprises two parts, a verification tool which must be used to get certain downloads from Microsoft and a user notification system. WGA for Windows was followed by verification systems for Internet Explorer 7, Windows Media Player 11, Windows Defender, Microsoft Office 2007 and certain updates. In late 2007, Microsoft removed the WGA verification from the installer for Internet Explorer 7 saying that the purpose of the change was to make IE7 available to all Windows users.[15][16]

If the license key is judged not genuine, it displays a nag screen at regular intervals asking the user to buy a license from Microsoft.[17] In addition, the user's access to Microsoft Update is restricted to critical security updates, and as such, new versions of enhancements and other Microsoft products will no longer be able to be downloaded or installed.

On August 26, 2008, Microsoft released a new WGA activation program that displays a plain black desktop background for computers failing validation. The background can be changed, but reverts after 1 hour.[18]

Common criticisms of WGA have included its description as a "Critical Security Update", causing Automatic Updates to download it without user intervention on default settings, its behavior compared to spyware of "phoning home" to Microsoft every time the computer is connected to the Internet, the failure to inform end users what exactly WGA would do once installed (rectified by a 2006 update),[19] the failure to provide a proper uninstallation method during beta testing (users were given manual removal instructions that did not work with the final build[17]), and its sensitivity to hardware changes which cause repeated need for reactivation in the hands of some developers. Also if the user has no connection to the Internet or a phone, it will be difficult to activate it normally.

Strictly speaking, neither the download nor the install of the Notifications is mandatory; the user can change their Automatic Update settings to allow them to choose what updates may be downloaded for installation. If the update is already downloaded, the user can choose not to accept the supplemental EULA provided for the Notifications. In both cases, the user can also request that the update not be presented again. Newer Critical Security Updates may still be installed with the update hidden. However this setting will only have effect on the existing version of Notifications, so it can appear again as a new version. In 2006, California resident Brian Johnson attempted to bring a class action lawsuit against Microsoft, on grounds that Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications violated the spyware laws in the state;[20] the lawsuit was dismissed in 2010.[21]

See also


  1. ^ Petreley, Nicholas (2004-10-22). "Security Report: Windows vs Linux | The Register". The Register. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
  2. ^ Leyden, John. "The strange decline of computer worms | Channel Register". Channel Register.
  3. ^ "Microsoft: Spyware could bungle SP2 update". USA Today. 2 September 2004. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ "News Briefs: May 26–31, 2001". May 31, 2001. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
  7. ^ Declan McCullagh (May 31, 2001). "MS Launches Counter PR Attack". Retrieved 2010-01-31.
  8. ^ David Kleinbard (June 28, 2000). "Oracle's Ellison rips into Bill Gates". CNN. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
  9. ^ Newsletter - June 5, 2001 Freedom To Innovate Network; Microsoft. June 5, 2001. Retrieved 2010-05-31.
  10. ^ Wilcox, Joe (July 11, 2001). "Microsoft changes Windows license terms | CNET". Retrieved 2010-01-31.
  11. ^ "XPlite and 2000lite Uninstall Windows Components". Product info. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
  12. ^ "nLite — Deployment Tool for the bootable Unattended Windows installation". Product info. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
  13. ^ "The "Shop for music online" link starts Internet Explorer instead of your default Web browser in Windows XP". Microsoft Inc. October 26, 2006. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
  14. ^ "Troubleshooting MS-DOS-based programs in Windows XP". Knowledge Base. Microsoft Product Support. Archived from the original on 2004-10-16. This means that Windows does not support 16-bit programs that require unrestricted access to hardware. If your program requires this, your program will not work in Windows NT, Windows 2000, or Windows XP.
  15. ^ Mary Jo Foley (2007-10-04). "Internet Explorer 7 update: Now WGA-free". ZDNet. Archived from the original on October 11, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-16.
  16. ^ Steve Reynolds (2007-10-04). "Internet Explorer 7 Update". Microsoft. Retrieved 2007-12-16.
  17. ^ a b "Description of the Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications application". Retrieved 2006-10-31.
  18. ^ "Description of the Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications application". 2010-07-02. Retrieved 2010-08-26.
  19. ^ "New WGA Notifications Released". MSDN Blogs. 2006-09-29. Retrieved 2006-12-03.
  20. ^ "Lawsuit Labels Windows Genuine Advantage as Spyware". eWeek. 2006-07-29. Retrieved 2010-08-19.
  21. ^ "Microsoft wins Windows XP WGA lawsuit". Ars Technica. 2010-02-09. Retrieved 2010-08-19.

External links

External video
Is Windows XP Good Enough?, Microsoft
Criticism of Microsoft Windows

The various versions of Microsoft's desktop operating system, Windows, have received many criticisms since Microsoft's inception.

Criticism of Windows 10

Windows 10, an operating system released by Microsoft in July 2015, has been criticized by reviewers and users. Due to issues mostly about privacy, it has been the subject of a number of negative assessments by various groups.

Windows 2.0

Windows 2.0 is a 16-bit Microsoft Windows GUI-based operating environment that was released on December 9, 1987, and is the successor to Windows 1.0.

Windows 2.1x

Windows 2.1x (also known as Windows/286 or Windows/386) is a historic version of Windows graphical user interface-based operating systems.

Windows/286 2.10 and Windows/386 2.10 were released on May 27, 1988, less than six months after the release of Windows 2.0 although there were versions of Windows/386 as early as version 2.01 in September 1987 slightly before Windows 2.0 in December 1987. These versions can take advantage of the specific features of the Intel 80286 and Intel 80386 processors. A hard disk was required for the first time to install Windows.

Windows 3.0

Windows 3.0, a graphical environment, is the third major release of Microsoft Windows, and was released on May 22, 1990. It became the first widely successful version of Windows and a rival to Apple Macintosh and the Commodore Amiga on the graphical user interface (GUI) front. It was followed by Windows 3.1.Windows 3.0 originated in 1988 when David Weise and Murray Sargent independently decided to develop a protected mode Windows as an experiment. They cobbled together a rough prototype and presented it to company executives, who were impressed enough to approve it as an official project.

Windows 3.1x

Windows 3.1x is a series of 16-bit operating environments produced by Microsoft for use on personal computers, released on April 6, 1992. The series began with Windows 3.1, which was first sold during April 1992 as a successor to Windows 3.0. Subsequent versions were released between 1992 and 1993 until the series was superseded by the Windows 9x series starting in 1995 with Windows 95. During its lifespan, Windows 3.1 introduced several enhancements to the still MS-DOS-based platform, including improved system stability, expanded support for multimedia, TrueType fonts, and workgroup networking.

Official support for Windows 3.1 ended on December 31, 2001. However, OEM licensing for Windows for Workgroups 3.11 on embedded systems continued to be available until November 1, 2008.

Windows Vista

Windows Vista is an operating system that was produced by Microsoft for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops, tablet PCs and media center PCs. Development was completed on November 8, 2006, and over the following three months, it was released in stages to computer hardware and software manufacturers, business customers and retail channels. On January 30, 2007, it was released worldwide and was made available for purchase and download from the Windows Marketplace; it is the first release of Windows to be made available through a digital distribution platform. The release of Windows Vista came more than five years after the introduction of its predecessor, Windows XP, the longest time span between successive releases of Microsoft Windows desktop operating systems.

New features of Windows Vista include an updated graphical user interface and visual style dubbed Aero, a new search component called Windows Search, redesigned networking, audio, print and display sub-systems, and new multimedia tools such as Windows DVD Maker. Vista aimed to increase the level of communication between machines on a home network, using peer-to-peer technology to simplify sharing files and media between computers and devices. Windows Vista included version 3.0 of the .NET Framework, allowing software developers to write applications without traditional Windows APIs.

Microsoft's primary stated objective with Windows Vista was to improve the state of security in the Windows operating system. One common criticism of Windows XP and its predecessors was their commonly exploited security vulnerabilities and overall susceptibility to malware, viruses and buffer overflows. In light of this, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates announced in early 2002 a company-wide "Trustworthy Computing initiative", which aimed to incorporate security into every aspect of software development at the company. Microsoft stated that it prioritized improving the security of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 above finishing Windows Vista, thus delaying its completion.While these new features and security improvements have garnered positive reviews, Vista has also been the target of much criticism and negative press. Criticism of Windows Vista has targeted its high system requirements, its more restrictive licensing terms, the inclusion of a number of then-new DRM technologies aimed at restricting the copying of protected digital media, lack of compatibility with some pre-Vista hardware and software, longer boot time, and the number of authorization prompts for User Account Control. As a result of these and other issues, Windows Vista had seen initial adoption and satisfaction rates lower than Windows XP. However, with an estimated 330 million Internet users as of January 2009, it had been announced that Vista usage had surpassed Microsoft's pre-launch two-year-out expectations of achieving 200 million users.

At the release of Windows 7 (October 2009), Windows Vista (with approximately 400 million Internet users) was the second most widely used operating system on the Internet with an approximately 19% market share, the most widely used being Windows XP with an approximately 63% market share. In May 2010, Windows Vista's market share had an estimated range from 15% to 26%. On October 22, 2010, Microsoft ceased sales of retail copies of Windows Vista, and the OEM sales for Vista ceased a year later. Since April 2019, Vista's market share has declined to under 0.5% of Windows' total market share.

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