Three-quarters of companies are still wedded to Windows XP as their desktop operating system, nearly a decade after the operating system was released.

Windows XP continues to dominate the desktop, with 75 per cent of businesses using it as their operating system, six per cent using Windows 7, and six per cent using Windows Vista. Five per cent of respondents said they used Macs and one per cent said their OS was older than XP.

The survey by IT services company Plan-Net also showed the vast majority of businesses (87 per cent) were using Exchange 2003 or earlier. Seven per cent are using Exchange 2007 and just four per cent have moved to Exchange 2010.

The main reason businesses gave for not upgrading to Windows 7 and Exchange 2003 was the budget reduction as a result of the recession.

The findings also showed that one in three companies were happy with existing systems, and saw no reason to upgrade. But 16 per cent of businesses were wary of upgrading because of experience with previous versions and were waiting for the first Windows 7 service pack, due next year.

Figures from Microsoft show that Windows 7 is already selling well – more than 100 million licences – making it the fastest-selling Windows OS in history according to Microsoft.

businesses are holding onto Microsoft Windows XP

Windows 7 adoption is being held back by tight IT budgets, with companies happy to stick with Windows XP for now
(Screenshot: Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Approximately half of businesses expected to upgrade in the next two or three years, with 42 per cent planning to make the move in the next 18 months, but eight per cent said they were not planning to make the leap within two or three years. Plan-Net surveyed 100 companies in the financial, legal, media and public sectors.

By now businesses using Windows XP should have upgraded to XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) of the operating system in order to continue receiving support from Microsoft.

Research company Gartner is advising companies to begin planning for and testing Windows 7 by the end of this year in order to be rid of XP before the end of 2012. While Microsoft’s official support for XP doesn’t end until April 2014 Gartner has warned that companies need to address migration to Windows 7 before then.

This is in order to avoid compatibility issues as new applications increasingly fail to work with XP and independent software vendors end their support for apps on the OS.