What happened to the Windows 2000 "Language settings for the system" control panel?

In 2011, a customer had a question about migrating from Windows 2000 to Windows XP. (That's right, this customer was still using Windows 2000 in the year 2011.) Specifically, they noted that in Windows 2000, they can select multiple languages in the "Language settings for the system" portion of the Regional Options control panel, and they couldn't find the corresponding control panel setting in Windows XP.

Regional Options





Input Locales

Settings for the current user
Many programs support international settings for numbers, currencies, times, and dates. Set the locale in order to use the standard settings.
Your locale (location):
English (United States)
Language settings for the system
Your system is configured to read and write documents in multiple languages.
Central Europe

In Windows 2000, "Language settings for the system" provides the option to install support (such as code pages, keyboard layouts, and fonts) for various language groups. In Windows XP, the big list of language groups was reduced to three categories:

  • Basic (Baltic, Central Europe, Cyrillic, Greek, Turkish, Western Europe)
  • Complex (Arabic, Armenian, Georgian, Hebrew, Indic, Vietnamese, Thai)
  • East Asia (Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Japanese, Korean)

The Basic category is always installed. To install the Complex or East Asia categories, use the "Supplemental language support" section of the Regional and Language Options control panel.

Windows XP Regional and Language Options property sheet, with a section titled "Supplemental language support" with options "Install files for complex script and right-to-left languages (including Thai)" and "Install files for East Asian languages

Someday, that customer might upgrade to Windows Vista, so I may as well answer the question right now. In Windows Vista and onward, things were simplified even more: All language groups are installed at all times. The dialog box went away completely since there were no options remaining.

As it turns out, the customer's problem had nothing to do with language support. Of course, they didn't come out and describe the problem they were having; rather, they reduced the problem into multiple pieces, and then asked for help on one specific piece. They tried out a solution based on this new information, but it didn't solve the problem, because as it turns out, the Language settings for the system control panel was a red herring. If they had told us what their original problem was, we could have told them "But this setting will do nothing to solve your problem. What you really need is over there."

Tomorrow, we'll look at the customer's actual problem. (So please don't try to guess or you'll ruin the surprise. I can't believe I had to write that.)

Comments (41)
  1. ade says:

    If they are stuggling to upgrade to XP lets hope they DON'T move to vista! :)

  2. John says:

    "That's right, this customer was still using Windows 2000 in the year 2011."

    To be fair, Windows 2000 was pretty awesome; probably the best Windows ever, though Windows XP and 7 are also quite good.  I'm also looking forward to Windows 9.

  3. RP78 says:

    That XP dialog box looks rather confusing/ambiguous, as it doesn't make clear whether unticking the "Install files for East Asian languages" box will result in the files being uninstalled or simply remaining installed once already installed (since there is no need to reinstall), or similarly, whether keeping the box ticked means that they will be installed a second time or simply remain installed.

  4. Nick says:

    My god I thought that was a screenshot!

  5. parkrrrr says:

    @John: You can't be looking forward to Windows 9. It can't exist. That would require the geniuses in marketing to use the same naming scheme three major versions in a row, and that's no way to earn a bonus.

  6. Skyborne says:

    IMHO, Vista of today is better than all previous versions.  (So is 7; I haven't used 8 yet.)  The ecosystem has adapted since the introduction of UAC and the new driver model.  Had 7 launched without Vista before it, then that would have been the worst windows evar ZOMG! because the same external conditions would be in effect.

  7. Mijzelf says:

    "That's right, this customer was still using Windows 2000 in the year 2011."

    And I'm still using Windows 2000 in the year 2012. Why change a working system?

  8. "That's right, this customer was still using Windows 2000 in the year 2011."

    Hey – that operating system was great!  I remember getting it the day it came out – it was the first Windows that merged the best of Windows NT and Windows 9x: Windows NT security, stability, advanced architecture, combined with Windows 9x's DirectX and Plug-and-Play support (USB, Firewire, etc.).  It let me eliminate my dual-boot system (previously booting between NT4 and Win98).

    I might still be using it if everyone hadn't cut support for it a few years ago.

  9. Cesar says:

    To be fair, they did not take that long; according to Wikipedia, support for Windows 2000 ended only in the middle of 2010. So they were at most one year and a half late.

    I do not believe they will upgrade to Windows Vista. Windows XP support will last as long as Windows 7, due to the ability to downgrade (source: Wikipedia), and Windows Vista support will end sooner than Windows 7 support (source: Wikipedia). They will probably have to skip Windows Vista and go directly to Windows 7's successor. But Raymond's answer still applies, since it is for Windows Vista and later, and disk space is plentiful enough nowadays that the small space gain of not installing these language support things is not worth the extra complexity, so Microsoft is unlikely to go back on that change.

    [You're confusing downgrade rights with support lifecycle. While downgrade rights will continue until 2020, support ends in 2014. Vista included downgrade rights all the way back to Windows 95, even though Windows 95 exited support in 2001. (That's right. Vista let you downgrade to a product that was already out of support.) -Raymond]
  10. Leo Davidson says:

    @Mijzelf: Because it's not getting security patches any longer, and because there are new/improved APIs in XP, Vista and 7 which app developers would like to take advantage of one decade, if it's alright with you.

  11. Antonio Rodríguez says:

    {Insert here your favorite compliment to Raymond for his awesome HTML rendering abilities}

    @Mijzelf: maybe, just maybe, to get security updates? Windows NT 4 was awesome for its time, too, and accomplished a lot with just 16 MB of RAM (it was rock solid, ran almost everything and implemented Microsoft's simplest UI before Windows 8), but extended support ended almost ten years ago. Now, it even refuses to run in a flagship virtualization solution. Yes, it's a pity; but let's be real, it was released SIXTEEN years ago!

  12. Guest says:

    OMG You WinDiv guys are really serious about the HTML/JavaScript world !!!

    Even the buttons and scrollbars WORKS !!

  13. Goran says:

    "(That's right, this customer was still using Windows 2000 in the year 2011.)" – well, now… That was one GREAT windows. Proper security, proper AD, proper user profiles… XP was just a consumer version of that (+ eye candy). I always turn Aero off. I wonder what I'll do when 8 (or server 2012) go all flat with eye candy? I didn't like Windows 2 much :-).

  14. GregM says:

    "My god I thought that was a screenshot!"

    I did too, until I read this comment.  It even looks right through RSS in Google Reader on Chrome.  Simply amazing.

  15. "I wonder what I'll do when 8 (or server 2012) go all flat with eye candy? I didn't like Windows 2 much :-)."

    I think you got confused.  Windows 2.x introduced overlapping Windows.  Windows 8 does away with them (except for the desktop that seems to be viewed as legacy – at least by some parts of Microsoft).  Perhaps you meant to say "Windows 1" instead?

  16. Mark Y says:

    Everyone is so obsessed with the super cool dialog box, no one seems to have noticed the destinations of the various links :)

  17. Danny Moules says:

    "And I'm still using Windows 2000 in the year 2012. Why change a working system?"

    The typical reason, the wider eco-system has changed around you. So if you're forever going to be completely isolated from the rest of the universe (eg. what skills are in the job market, what new ways of hacking systems have become commonplace in the last dozen years, what replacement hardware is no longer produced for your obsolete systems, etc) then you're good – but it never quite works out that way.

  18. AsmGuru62 says:


    These links do not link very well!

    Strange… or is Raymond just having fun?

  19. Stunned says:

    I too am amazed that the first "screen capture" was fully rendered in HTML/Javascript, this is too much for one human! A bot I say, a bot!

  20. Wow says:

    "My god I thought that was a screenshot!"

    And I was asking myself how he could get cleartype on win2000. And when I noticed it was actually HTML.. astonished.

  21. Adrian says:

    You can actually have Windows dialogs in HTML rather than dialog resources – since XP I believe. There was a converter from "old" DIALOG to HTML that you can embed as normal RC file. I think CodeProject has an article on how to make them work, the boiler-plate is not that complex. You could do all this before WPF (or "ex-Metro").

    So you could take the resource for that dialog from Windows, convert it to HTML and embed into a HTML page.

  22. Brian Tkatch says:

    I am too in awe of the TABLE element heretofore known as "screenshot #1".

  23. Jonathan says:

    RP78: It was indeed confusing. I used it a lot, as a Hebrew speaker engaged with Chinese-learning people. The checkboxes functioned as if they said "support East Asian Languages" / "Support complex…", and after hitting OK Windows would install/uninstall the files if needed. The installation also had a dialog with a weird question like "would you like to use the files already on your HD, or would like to copy them over from CD?", the answers to which is of course "if you have the files, why do you bother me with questions?". It was not a well-designed installation scenario.

    Fortunately, Vista and later have everything installed – no need for this dialog, or hunting for installation CDs. But one must remember that XP had to live with limited HD space – I remember installing it on a 2GB partition, and it managed quite well.

  24. mikeb says:

    @Jonathan: "if you have the files, why do you bother me with questions?"

    Sometimes you want a reinstall to re-copy files from the original source in case there's some corruption or other bad voodoo.

  25. Gabe says:

    Jonathan: 2GB partitions are not a thing of the past. The usual suspects nowadays are embedded PCs that use flash cards for disks and virtual hard drives.

  26. Mason Wheeler says:

    @parkrrrr: "You can't be looking forward to Windows 9. It can't exist. That would require the geniuses in marketing to use the same naming scheme three major versions in a row, and that's no way to earn a bonus."

    Windows 95, Windows, 98, Windows 2000.

    Or, if you wanna go way back, Windows 1, Windows 2, Windows 3. ;)

  27. xpclient says:

    Raymond is now using marketing speak! "Simplified"=choice taken away. HDD bloated due to all languages installed on Vista onwards.

  28. Ben says:

    *The links!* *The HTML Dialog!* Wow. Just… wow.

  29. asdbsd says:

    Wow. Both the "screenshot" and those links… this post is epic.

    But Raymond, I don't understand why you ask not to guess. The whole point of hinting at something but not saying it out loud is making people guess. That's the fun of it! If you didn't want us to guess you could have just refrained from saying anything at all until the next post. So in fact you want us to guess, don't you? You're just playing with us.

    [The purpose of the hint was to say "The story is not over, there's more coming." Perhaps I should have written "To be continued"? Posting your guess as to what will happen in part 2 is like going to a stand-up club, hearing the comic set up a joke, and then shouting what you think the punch line is going to be. (It's fine to guess, but guess quietly to yourself. I worked hard to set up my punch line. At least give me the opportunity to deliver it myself.) -Raymond]
  30. RP78 says:

    @Mason Wheeler,

    Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000 isn't a true example of the same naming scheme being used three major versions in a row, since Windows 95 and 98 were non-NT (the successor to 98 being Windows ME), whereas Windows 2000 was the successor to NT 4.  (Windows 2000 wasn't available in a Home edition.)

  31. @xpclient:

    Choice taken away maybe, but in this day and age, running across programs that use other languages is more common than when XP was first designed. With the things that I do on my home system, I normally have to have them installed anyway.

    Think about it though, it could be worse. Windows could have all of the UI languages installed too, rather than just the NLS files.

  32. Grzechooo says:

    I wonder if these tabs would be clickable.

  33. Raphael says:

    At least the server folks don't seem to put up with that silliness of using letters (XP) or the digit sum of the actual version number. Since 2000, they were always numbered by year (though there were the occasional R2s).

  34. Neil says:

    When I read the article I thought "There's something wrong with that dialog, as if you were a DPI-ignorant application with the wrong font size". It was only after reading the comments that I noticed that the scrollbar was the custom scrollbar in my browser skin rather than a native Windows 2000 scrollbar.

    It would have been nice if Raymond had used <SELECT>s for the dropdown and listbox. I was a little disappointed that there were only 5 options showing in the list…

    I wonder why the Marlett characters have to be special-cased on IE. I'm glad I'm reading this on Windows so that I actually have the font ;-) (and I'm actually typing this on Windows 95, so there!)

    Unsurprisingly the XP screenshot includes keyboard accelerators.

  35. Reader says:

    @Skyborne Never trust anyone that uses the expression "eco"

  36. ... says:

    I've been using Windows 2000 for a very long time because of the WGA crap that started appearing with XP.

  37. 640k says:

    Something is fishy with this article… graphics looks nice in firefox & chrome. Got it! It's using propriety Windows-only fonts. *relieved*

    [This was a very useful comment, because it teaches me that no matter what I do, there are some people who aren't happy until they find something to complain about. Translation: I shouldn't try so hard to make the articles perfect; instead, I should make a somewhat obvious mistake so that these people can quickly find something to complain about. Maybe I should go back to nonstandard footnote markers. That seemed to work pretty well. -Raymond]
  38. Cesar says:

    @Raymond: one thing I have noticed: people always have to complain about something. What matters is what they complain about. So, if you for instance show a widget to someone, and the first thing they complain about is the exact shade of color you used, you are doing great; they could not find something more important to complain about!

    So, you are doing great. They could not find anything more important to complain about.

  39. Don't worry Raymond; the window titlebar buttons don't appear in Windows Live Mail's RSS reader, so there's something to grief/be happy about!

  40. Dennis says:


    "What would you suggest as an alternative? Posting both parts today and posting nothing tomorrow?"

    Before I continue, let me reiterate that I fully respect what you do here, and I hope that my fellow readers do the same.  To answer your question, however, an alternative is to treat the "continued in part 2" as a cliffhanger.  With the 24 hour delay in an instant gratification society, you can't help but set up some amount of suspense.  (Unless, of course, you're behind in your RSS like me.)  Let the readers speculate in the comments, and maybe taunt them a little bit.  Then, the next day, run the second installation.  Maybe one lucky reader gets some bragging rights, and maybe we get to read some tangentially interesting stories along the way.  In any case, we would be no less awed by your writing here.  Perhaps the permissiveness increases the probability of low quality comments, and you don't want to deal with that.  On the other hand, it might be a good way to cultivate reader enthusiasm.

  41. Dennis says:


    "Posting your guess as to what will happen in part 2 is like going to a stand-up club, hearing the comic set up a joke, and then shouting what you think the punch line is going to be."

    I think there is a timescale issue here…  If the comic decided to wait silently after the set up, I would imagine that the shouting would start after a minute or two.  I would argue that a more apt analogy would be the cliff-hanger at the end of the second to the last episode for the season.  In that case, the producers *want* you to spend the next week speculating about how they'll get out of the volcano.

    I respect your right to request certain behavior on your blog, and this constraint helps to keep the comments on topic.  However, please bear in mind reader speculation are born mostly from enthusiasm, not from disrespect, and try not to take offense.

    [Well, the "continued in part 2" was not intended to be a cliffhanger. It's a "That leads directly to tomorrow's topic (which I spent today setting up)." I spent a lot of time setting it up. What would you suggest as an alternative? Posting both parts today and posting nothing tomorrow? -Raymond]

Comments are closed.

Skip to main content