Using Windows XP in 2023 - from visualisation on an M2 Mac to a retro PC

Using Windows XP in 2023 - from visualisation on an M2 Mac to a retro PC

July 21, 2023

Amid Windows 11 upgrades and speculation surrounding Windows 12, there remains a longing for a return to the simplicity of the past. Windows XP, the beloved operating system released by Microsoft in October 2001, continues to hold a special place in the hearts of many users. Despite its age, some enterprising individuals have found ways to keep Windows XP supported and running efficiently even in 2023.

There are various methods to enable the use of Windows XP in the present day. One option is to procure an older PC or laptop, albeit with hardware limitations. It is important to note that such systems may not support running the latest PC games. However, the built-in nostalgic games like Pinball, along with retro titles such as Sonic CD and the original Half-Life, still run smoothly on Windows XP.

Another avenue is virtualisation, a process that involves running Windows XP within an application on an existing system. Surprisingly, virtualisation is now achievable on Apple silicon Macs. With the aid of specialised software, such as UTM, which emulates a PC from 1996, users can experience Windows XP on their Macs. By downloading a Windows XP template and locating the appropriate image file, users can set up and use Windows XP seamlessly on their Mac systems. VMWare, an application available for Windows 11 PCs, provides a similar virtualisation option, enabling users to run Windows XP as an application and easily install additional apps and games within the virtual environment.

Regardless of the chosen method, users will find themselves greeted by the familiar "Welcome" splash screen and the iconic "Bliss" wallpaper, instantly transporting them back to the early 2000s.

However, establishing an internet connection poses a minor challenge. For users employing UTM on macOS, they can select the "Bridge" option in the Network settings, allowing them to utilise their Mac's Wi-Fi for internet access within the virtual machine.

In the context of work-related tasks, you can utilise Windows XP to draft articles and send them via email. While Internet Explorer 6, an outdated web browser deprecated in 2022, still functions with limited web browsing capabilities, compatibility is restricted. To access websites properly, you have to download an older version of Firefox. Although loading text was manageable, you will experience hitches in the display of images, complex layouts, and advertisements, possibly leading to performance slowdowns and likely browser crashes.

Paradoxically, these limitations proved beneficial as they deterred procrastination and facilitated sustained focus. The pre-installed games on Windows XP, such as Pinball and Minesweeper, provided enjoyable breaks from work. By logging into a GOG account, you could play games like Shadows of the Empire and Tomb Raider III, which were designed by the software developers to be compatible with Windows XP upon their release.

Windows Media Player 8 triggered a wave of nostalgia; however, its limited functionality for managing music and videos revealed its age. Nevertheless, downloading VLC Player resolved these issues, just as it did back in 2001.

Remarkably, the interface and colour schemes of Windows XP still hold up well in 2023. You’ll realise that Windows 11's redesigned Explorer interface seems to draw inspiration from Windows XP, both in terms of appearance and the inclusion of a sidebar.

Windows XP serves as both a time capsule and a powerful productivity tool. For individuals struggling to maintain focus, stepping into the world of Windows XP for a couple of hours can be a remarkable remedy. It offers an escape from modern apps and features designed to block out distractions or even the Focus feature in Windows 11, allowing users to concentrate on their tasks uniquely and uninterruptedly.

While Windows XP may no longer be a mainstream operating system, its enduring popularity and usability in 2023 highlight its significance. Utilising Windows XP can be a refreshing way to enhance focus and productivity, whether through virtualisation, an older PC, or a dedicated partition.