HomeTechnologyNews8 places where Windows XP hides in Windows 11

8 places where Windows XP hides in Windows 11

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Microsoft Windows has changed a lot in the last 20 years, but there are many areas where it hasn’t. There are still some features visible in Windows 11 that date back to Windows XP of 2001 or even earlier.

In stark contrast to macOS, which breaks compatibility with legacy software on a semi-regular basis, Windows is designed to break as few old apps and games as possible. That has many benefits, but it also means that some Windows components haven’t changed significantly in years, as messing with them could cause a chain reaction of breaking old apps. For example, even though Internet Explorer is slowly being phased out of Windows 10, some Windows programs use the rendering engine and it won’t be phased out any time soon.

There are also some Windows components that Microsoft could upgrade without risking backwards compatibility. That’s been a focus for Windows 11, as apps like Notepad and Paint finally received much-needed makeovers, but there are still more system components that are the software equivalent of living fossils.

System symbols

Windows was originally created to run on top of DOS, and early versions included a command prompt or other shortcut to access the underlying DOS system. Later, Microsoft created a more modern version of Windows for business and server use that was not based on DOS, called Windows NT, and Windows XP ended up as the first general-purpose version of Windows based on the updated system.

Command Prompt in Windows XP
Windows XP with CMD.EXE

Both Windows XP and Windows 11 have a Command Prompt, primarily intended for running command-line utilities or batch scripts. However, Windows XP also included the NT Virtual DOS Machine, or NTVDM for short. This allowed 16-bit and 32-bit DOS applications to run in Command Prompt (or from File Explorer), in addition to older 16-bit Windows software. It doesn’t support all apps and games, especially those that rely on direct hardware access, but it works.

Microsoft has never supported NTVDM on 64-bit versions of Windows or Windows on other architectures, such as ARM. However, it could still be enabled on all x86 32-bit versions of Windows, including Windows 10. Windows 11 isn’t available at all on x86 32-bit PCs, so NTVDM is gone entirely, but the Command Prompt remains. to run the command. line tools and scripts.

Command Prompt in Windows 11
Windows 11 with CMD.EXE and Command Prompt in Windows Terminal

More recently, Microsoft has been working to merge PowerShell, Command Prompt, and other command-line shells into the unified Windows Terminal. Newer versions of Windows 11 now open Command Prompt sessions in Windows Terminal by default, but you can change a setting in Terminal to bring back the old CMD.EXE.

Control Panel

This is a bit of a cheat, because Control Panel has changed significantly since Windows XP, and Microsoft has been phasing it out in favor of the Settings app. However, the Control Panel is still the only way to access specific options in Windows, and some of the actual settings panels are very similar to those in XP.

first is the File Explorer Options dialog, accessible in Windows XP from Appearance and Themes > Folder Optionsand in Windows 11 since Appearance and Personalization > File Explorer Options. Microsoft has added a few new options in the last 20 years, but most of the layout and available settings are identical.

Folder Options Images
Folder options in Windows XP (left) and Windows 11 (right)

Another example is the internet properties menu in Windows 11, which is called Internet Options in XP. Some of the settings have moved elsewhere over the last 20 years, but the Security and Advanced tabs look almost identical.

Internet Property Images
Internet Properties in Windows XP (left) and Windows 11 (right)

Most of the settings here were meant for Internet Explorer (like the toggles for ActiveX), which isn’t even available in Windows 11, though they might also affect some apps that use the old IE engine to load web content.

Run Dialog

The Run dialog box has been a core component of Windows for decades, and the Windows 11 version is identical to the Windows XP panel. On both operating systems, you can open it with the Win + R keyboard shortcut. The Run dialog allows you to type the name of a program, the full path to any file or folder, or any web address to open it.

Windows Run dialog
Run dialog in Windows XP (left) and Windows 11 (right)

There are a few more methods to access the Run dialog in Windows 11, such as right-clicking on the Windows logo, but the little box itself hasn’t changed. It still works just as well now as it did in 2001, but I wouldn’t mind a frosted glass background, like the Start menu.

Characters map

Character Map is a simple system tool in Windows that shows you each character in each installed font, along with the keyboard shortcut for typing it in another application. You can also use it to copy a certain character to the clipboard, so you don’t have to type the whole shortcut.

Character map images
Character map in Windows XP (left) and Windows 11 (right)

Utility hasn’t visibly changed at all in the last 20 years. The lack of search, emoji support, and other features has led to the development of modern third-party replacements, such as Character Map UWP. The emoji picker in Windows 11 (Win + Period on keyboard) can also be used to insert special characters, but there’s no search either, except for emoji and GIFs.

System information

There are plenty of ways in Windows 11 to check hardware and software data, including the Settings app, Device Manager, and Task Manager, but one utility has stuck around for over 20 years. The System Information app can display almost every detail about your PC, from the BIOS version to your list of startup programs.

System Information Images
System information in Windows 11 (left) and Windows XP (right)

Despite its outdated design, System Information can be one of the quickest ways to check various aspects of your system, especially compared to multiple searches or clicks in the Settings app. However, you can’t change anything in System Information: you can see your startup programs, but you can’t add or remove them.

Disk Cleanup

Disk Cleanup is still the primary method for cleaning up Windows system files and cache before your PC does it automatically, while also emptying the Recycle Bin if you want. The utility is present in both Windows XP and Windows 11.

disk cleanup images
Disk Cleanup in Windows XP (left) and Windows 11 (right)

However, there are some differences between the two versions. Later Windows updates added a separate toggle for system files and additional menu entries for other types of data. The “More Options” tab in the XP version also disappeared, which only contained shortcuts for Add and Remove Programs, System Restore and other utilities.

ODBC Data Source Administrator (and an old dialog)

Windows has a built-in utility called ODBC Data Source Manager, which allows you to connect to some external databases, mainly useful for computers in work environments or enterprise deployments. You can find it on Windows 11 by searching for “ODBC”, and it’s accessible on Windows XP from Control Panel > Performance and Maintenance > Administrative Tools.

data source manager images
ODBC tool in Windows XP (left) and Windows 11 (right)

The utility isn’t all that interesting on its own, but it is one of several methods for viewing the incredibly old Windows file picker in action. With Windows 11 or XP, go to the User DSN tab, then click Add > Microsoft Excel Driver > Select Workbook. This specific file picker is much older than Windows XP: it goes back to Windows 3.1 from 1992.

image of old file picker
Windows 3.1-era file picker in Windows 11

Microsoft’s Raymond Chen explained in a blog post that Windows introduces the old file picker for old apps, to avoid breaking compatibility with legacy software. He said that “programs from that era don’t support fancy things like long file names, and when they try to customize the dialog, they expect to customize a Windows 3.1-style dialog, so that’s what we give them.”


Both Windows XP and Windows 11 have a simple app called About Windows, which can be accessed by opening the Run dialog (Win + R) and running “winver” (without the quotes).

About the Windows image
Winver on Windows XP (left) and Windows 11 (right)

The panel displays the logo of the current operating system, as well as copyright information and the current build number. Some of the text details have changed in the last 20 years (the amount of RAM is no longer displayed, for example), but it’s not that different.

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