Windows Legacy Edition

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This is an interesting version of Windows you’d normally only run into if you happened to work at a large company that had a volume license for it from Microsoft. Windows Legacy edition was a version of XP intended for Thin PCs, for example if you wanted the users to sit at a normal desktop, but run desktop software situated on a sever elsewhere in the building. From back when stuff like this actually seemed like a good idea.

There are a number of reasons why it’s not a good idea. First among them being that anyone who’s had the unfortunate experience of using a Citrix instance will attest to the fact that there is always a noticeable lag, even over a gigabit connection. Additionally the system never quite seems to be as responsive and useful as it’s specs would imply, even accounting for the issues caused by lagging inputs that occasionally skip.

Also, while it’s true that you no longer have to provide support for many small desktops; you are now required to support a larger and complex server that represents a single point of failure. If it goes down, so does the productivity of a department.

So Windows Legacy never quite took off like Microsoft probably hoped it would. Still I dug up some old screenshots of it in action, since if you have access to a license, it might be useful.

Windows1

From the start, it looks fairly different from a normal installation of Windows XP, and you can tell that the basics are there, but things are missing. The license agreement is different too, as it refers to a specific volume license between you and Microsoft. It’s actually very refreshing and to the point compared to most of End User License Agreements you see floating around.

Windows3

You can see that Microsoft considered that people would want to automate installing this version. It’s possible to make Windows XP install itself in unattended mode as well, but with the normal version this option isn’t as obvious and requires far more fiddling to realize it’s there.

Windows4

By default very little is installed, in fact even the Full Configuration is missing some .dll files and other features that Windows Software generally assumes will be present on every system. However note that the Minimum Configuration only installs Remote Desktop, not even IE.

Windows5

By default there is no boot to desktop option, every user is required to log in like in server editions.

Windows6

The default desktop is empty, but refreshing. I appreciate that there’s no immediate attempt to up-sell the user on something, probably nostalgia for simpler times.

Windows7

Compared to Windows 7 that can easily chew through 2GB just idling after being used, 100MB isn’t too bad after installation. At least not by modern standards, though the programmers of Windows 95 would probably laugh at that statement. Mind you it’s not that impressive because this is actually very close to what Windows XP normally uses after installation, however there does appear to be a slower uptick as the system continues to be used.

Assuming that you have the licensing agreement to legally use this, and a piece of software that doesn’t require some fundamental driver that is normally expected to come standard on XP, this would probably make a pretty good headless system, like a server on an internal network, or an embedded machine. Though it won’t work on a Reasberry PI due to being x86 only, it would work on some of the competing boards being released.

Unfortunately I’m told that due to being the equivalent of SP2 and having completely outdated security certificates, you won’t even be able to access Google with the included browser. Some patient tweaking would probably be needed to get some use out of it.

Still, many people do find it more comfortable to work on Windows system than a Linux one, even for embedded projects. Especially as long as Microsoft’s Internet of Things only supports a small subset of embedded hardware and doesn’t operate like a miniature Windows system.

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