Extended support for Windows XP ended in 2014; mainstream support ended in 2009. Mainstream support for Windows Vista ended in 2012; extended support ended in April 2017. Mainstream support for Windows 7 ended in 2015, with extended support scheduled to end in 2020. Yet many consumers and small business owners stubbornly cling to these outdated operating systems (OS), either because they don’t want to go through the learning curve associated with a new OS or because they are running proprietary or legacy software that they cannot or don’t wish to replace.
Fortunately, adopting new PC computer technology does not always mean replacement of vital software programs. There are several options for running old software with Windows 10. Adopting one or several of the strategies below should allow your company to run most, if not all of its legacy or proprietary software. Many of these strategies can be implemented on a DIY basis, but if you’re not confident of your computer skills, there are experts available that will be happy to implement any or all of these strategies for you – for a cost.
Why You Should Update Your OS
Many people subscribe to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school for a variety of circumstances. Updating the OS your company’s computers run under doesn’t really fall into that category, especially if they are still running Windows XP, Vista or some other older OS version. The end of extended support means that Microsoft will not provide security patches or other critical updates, leaving your computers vulnerable to unauthorized access.
If your company’s computers are still running Windows 7, you will still receive security patches and other critical updates until extended support ends in 2020. However, there will be no additional Service Packs or other non-critical updates provided. Free troubleshooting support for Windows 7 is also no longer available.
In many cases, worries about software compatibility with Windows 10 are misplaced. But there’s an easy way to be sure. Go to the Windows Compatibility Center on the Microsoft website. There you will find an evaluation tool to determine which software on your company’s present machines will actually run under Windows 10 – and which will not.
You’re likely to be pleasantly surprised to find that much of your older software – with the possible exception of proprietary programs – will run just fine under Windows 10, especially if it worked with Windows 7. This includes the vast majority of Microsoft programs, including Office suite software. That’s because Windows OS software is programmed with built-in backwards compatibility for older versions of Microsoft-based programs.
If the compatibility assessment determines that one or more of your programs won’t function properly under Windows 10, all is not lost. Try installing the software anyway. Once the software is installed, right click on the shortcut icon, and then click on “Properties”. Select the “Compatibility” tab. A menu will appear with an instruction “Run this program in compatibility mode for …” with a dropdown menu of Windows OS selections, often ranging back to Windows 95. Choose the most recent OS under which the program ran properly. In many cases, that’s all that you’ll need for your previously incompatible program to be good to go.
If compatibility mode doesn’t work, try right-clicking on the *.exe file (if the program is located on a CD or DVD and won’t install on your computer) or desktop shortcut (if the program is already installed), and then choose “Run as Administrator”. If that works, set the program to always run in Administrator mode for use in the future.
Virtual Machine Software
If trying compatibility mode doesn’t do the trick, you’re still not out of options. Microsoft offers its own virtual machine software, Virtual PC as a free download on its website. With Virtual PC installed, your computer will be able to run multiple OS versions – allowing you to install Windows 7 or any other version of Windows to run legacy or proprietary software.
Third party virtual machine software is also available. Virtual Box and VMWare are two of the more popular third-party programs, and are compatible with Windows, Linux and Mac machines. Boot Camp and Parallels are also available for Mac users.
Partitioning and Dual Booting
As a last resort to run software your company cannot live without (and cannot update for financial or other reasons), you can try partitioning your machine’s hard drive and setting up a dual boot – with an older version of Windows installed on the new partition, along with whatever software that the OS need to run. Bear in mind that if you install Windows XP or some older version of Windows, you will potentially leave your company’s machines more vulnerable to viruses, Trojans, malware, spyware, ransomware and other bad-wares.
As a safer alternative to dual booting, consider setting aside one or more computers that is NOT connected to the internet to be installed only with an old version of Windows along with the legacy or proprietary software your company needs. It’s inconvenient, but much less inconvenient than having your company’s entire system go down due to an attack made possible through vulnerability in a computer running an unsupported version of Windows.