Windows is a large operating system with a long history and functionality. Over time, older features need to give way to new ones.
And, looking back, it's easy to see that not all of these earlier Windows features were that great. From useless to annoying, here are some retired Windows features that we imagine nobody will miss.
1. Clippy, the office assistant
Nowadays, smart assistants like Google Assistant, Siri, and even Microsoft Cortana are very common. In the early days of Microsoft Office, starting with Office 97, Microsoft had Clippy to "help" you with writing documents.
Clippy The paper clip (full name was Clippit) was just one of many possible options for the Office Assistant – others included a robot and a dog. However, Clippy was by far the most popular as it was the default and most others needed a CD to install.
The character should keep an eye on your work and intervene if they have helpful tips for you. For example, if you enter an address followed by "Dear Sir," Clippy will recognize that you are writing a letter and will offer to help format it. The problem was that knowledgeable users found this annoying and Clippy would come in way too often.
Office XP has switched off the assistant by default and has completely removed it from Office 2007 onwards. It was ahead of its time theory, but suffered from poor implementation. Due to its widespread criticism, Clippy has become a well-known internet joke and has launched several parodies, some even by Microsoft!
2. Desktop gadgets
The Windows desktop gadgets in Windows Vista and Windows 7 were similar to widgets available on Android and iPhone. They offer quick information and functions right on your desktop without having to open an app.
Standard gadget options included calendar, clock, notes, stocks, and weather. For a while, Microsoft also ran the Windows Live Gallery, where you could download additional widgets from third-party developers.
Desktop gadgets weren't completely useless, but most people didn't take advantage of them. There are better apps for taking notes, checking the weather, and managing a calendar. So why clutter your desktop with icons that have limited usage?
The real problem with desktop gadgets came when Microsoft warned users that these gadgets are exposed to serious security flaws. These exploits can allow malicious access to your computer's files or display explicit content without warning.
With the launch of Windows 8, desktop gadgets became less prominent, and in Windows 8.1 and later, they officially died out. Although Store apps and their Start menu live tiles have essentially replaced these gadgets, you can still bring desktop gadgets back in Windows 10 if for some reason you really want them.
3. Windows Experience Index
The Windows Experience Index (WEI) is designed to give users an overview of how well Windows has performed on their computer. Microsoft believed that the average person did not know how to interpret PC specifications or understand computer hardware.
The tool tested your computer's processor, RAM, and graphics capabilities to see how well your computer coped with various tasks. The lowest score would determine the WEI of your system.
This is one that falls into the "useless" category. For starters, the tool doesn't do anything other than give you a pointless number, and most beginners had no idea it was there at all. Microsoft has also increased the maximum score between Windows Vista and Windows 7, which makes the test even more confusing.
You can also only see the WEI score after purchasing a computer. And with a laptop, it's often difficult or even impossible to swap out components to improve your score. After all, PC games never adopted this as a base standard.
The people who could have used the feature didn't know about it, and those looking to customize their PCs already knew how their computers would work. Hence, the WEI was deleted in Windows 8.1, although you can still run a command line tool to check it out today if you're interested.
4. The Metro Skype app in Windows 8
Windows 8 introduced many duplicate methods of performing tasks, sometimes dividing functions between them (e.g. the Settings app and Control Panel). Skype was also part of this trend. Everyone using Windows 8 had a standard "Metro" app for Skype, but they could also install the traditional desktop version.
Skype Desktop, Skype Modern App, Skype in Messaging … One or two of them are not needed.
– Mauricio Guerchmann Freitas (@freitasm), October 13, 2015
The Windows 8 version of Skype took up the entire screen and was designed for touch interfaces. This meant that general settings were hidden behind annoying gestures, while other functions were completely absent.
In June 2020, Microsoft announced that it would combine Skype for Desktop and the Skype app for Windows 10. However, for some time the company still offered two versions, which is confusing.
Hopefully, if you no longer have to choose between desktop and store apps in the future, Skype users will have fewer headaches.
5. Windows Messenger
Windows Messenger was a chat client similar to AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) that came with Windows XP. It should both provide a corporate chat for business users and allow average users to chat with friends.
Instant messaging services were widespread back in 2001, so Windows Messenger wasn't essential for home users who had already used another service.
So big in the US was AIM that a lot of people were already using it. After all, an IM service is only as good as the number of friends who use it! Windows Messenger was hidden a few years later and replaced with Windows Live Messenger, which is part of the Windows Live suite.
Later, when Microsoft bought Skype, it encouraged home users to switch to this platform. For business users, Microsoft Lync was offered (later renamed Skype for Business, which is being discontinued in favor of Microsoft Teams).
6. The Charms Bar
The Charms Bar was designed for touch navigation in Windows 8. It contained shortcuts to general functions such as the start screen, the Settings menu and the search. However, like many features in this operating system, implementation made little sense for mouse and keyboard users.
It usually opened when you tried to select something in the corner of the screen with the mouse, or when you swept your finger in from one side of the screen with a laptop touchpad. In addition, the links were initially not clear. Fortunately, the Windows 8.1 update has copied most of its functionality to more logical locations.
With Windows 10, Microsoft reduced the focus to touch controls and threw away the charms bar. All old shortcuts, such as B. Shutdown and Search have been placed elsewhere (mainly in the redesigned Start menu). You don't have to mess around with weird mouse controls to replicate touch gestures.
ActiveX controls are an obsolete technology that was only really supported in Internet Explorer. They could run plug-ins and other programs embedded in web pages. However, because ActiveX controls had full access to everything on your computer at startup, they were open to security issues.
Fortunately, ActiveX is now a relic of the past. Modern browsers can integrate extensive functions without plug-ins. Internet Explorer on Windows 10 continues to support ActiveX, but the technology is limited to a small number of websites. Only a handful of old internal company pages are still using them.
Good relief from forgotten Windows functions
We don't look back at all of the previous Windows features with nostalgia. Some probably should never have existed, but Microsoft can't start a home run every time. It seems that the company is at least (eventually) learning from its mistakes.
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About the author
(1681 articles published)
Ben is the Assistant Editor and Onboarding Manager at MakeUseOf. He left his IT job to write full-time in 2016 and has never looked back. For over six years he has been a professional writer covering technical tutorials, video game recommendations, and more.
By Ben Stegner
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