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Remember Y2K? Windows 95, 98, 2000-era app surprisingly stands tall against Y2K38 superbug

Y2k38 bug

Unless you got into Windows very recently, you are probably aware of the famous or rather infamous Y2K also referred to as the Millenium superbug. When the millennium (2000) approached, many thought Y2K would create havoc in the digital world.

In case you are not aware, the superbug had its roots in the usage of two digits to represent the year instead of four digits. While this was alright utill 1999, at the stroke of midnight on December 31, when the year turned 2000, the digital time bomb was all set to go off. A massive effort was put forth to diffuse it and fortunately, it worked for the most part. You can read about it and more such incidences in this feature article we did.

Much more recently, something similar happened at the onset of 2022 wherein Microsoft Exchange Servers broke, and the media decided to label it as the "Y2K22" incident.

It is believed that the year 2038 holds something of a similar nature. Y2K38 or Epochalypse is also a time-related bug and is related to how Unix time operates on 32-bit operating systems as it is stored in 32-bit integer, and Windows is no exception.

Unix time, also known as POSIX (Portable Operating System Interface) time, is a measurement of time that counts the number of seconds that have passed since January 1, 1970. This date is referred to as the Unix Epoch, and hence the term "Epochalypse." Under such operating systems, date values are stored in a signed 32-bit integer indicating the number of seconds since January 1, 1970. A problem arises with the 32-bit integer overflowing at approximately 0314 hours on January 19, 2038, causing systems to interpret the date value as December 13, 1901.

Security researcher and Twitter (now X) user Enderman, who recently dug up a secret Windows 11 24H2 OOBE shortcut, recently reminded users about the possible issue that 32-bit Windows 10 systems could face.

While it is expected that such systems will be troubled come January 19th, 2038, another X user Bob Pony, interestingly, discovered that Windows Media Player (WMP) version 6 and older, is seemingly unaffected by the Y2K38, which is not the case with versions 7 and newer.

For those who need a recall, Windows Media Player version 6 was released with Windows 2000, and was also available in Windows XP, though it was hidden from plain sight. This means the versions of the app which were released during the Windows 95, 98, 2000, and XP eras are not affected by the Epochalypse for some reason.

It is noteworthy that 32-bit support has existed in Windows since NT 3.1. Regardless, this sort of reminds me of the recent story we did where a fun little experiment hinted at the incredible backward compatibility of Windows.

At the end of the day though, this will likely be a non-issue as Windows 11 only exists in 64-bit mode and the last edition of Windows 10 to be supported is Windows 10 IoT Enterprise 2021, which has its end of support date slated for January 13, 2032.

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