I know Windows XP is about to expire and that I have to upgrade my business computers, but I hate Windows 8. I also have an older custom program and the company that wrote it is out of business. What are my options? – Don
Microsoft will be discontinuing any support, updates and even virus protection for Windows XP in April of 2014, but you shouldn’t wait until the last minute to take action.
There are a lot of reasons that you should consider moving forward sooner rather than later, including the security risks inherent in a 12-year-old operating system.
Windows XP is six times more likely to be successfully hacked than Windows 7 or 8 and, when Microsoft stops providing security updates, anyone running Windows XP will absolutely be a sitting duck.
Big-box retailers will tell you that you have no choice but to buy Windows 8 systems, but for the time being, you actually have a choice of Windows 7 or Windows 8.
Retail channels typically only have Windows 8 systems, but VARs (Value Added Resellers) that primarily work with businesses can set you up with Windows 7 workstations.
In your case, you have added complexity because you have older software that may or may not run under one of the newer versions of Windows. With this extra layer of complexity and to avoid business interruptions, you should get started testing the best path for migration.
When our business customers are in this situation, we start with a single Windows 7 system to do the compatibility testing with the old program and we make sure to use Windows 7 Pro because it has another potential safety valve. Windows 7 pro has an option to run programs in “Windows XP mode” that may be your saving grace.
In the long run, you really should start exploring alternatives to that old custom program as this compatibility issue is just going to get worse over time.
If you’re in a position to make a transition away from your custom program now, you might consider looking at the myriad of cloud-based line-of-business platforms that can run on any computer, smartphone or tablet.
If your hardware is relatively up-to-date, you can buy Windows 7 licenses for each of the computers. If you’re not sure what you have, Microsoft has a Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor program that will scan your system and peripherals and give you a report on what may or may not be compatible.
If your hardware checks out, you won’t be able to do an in-place upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7. You will have to wipe the machines clean and install Windows 7 from scratch and then reinstall all your programs and data.
If you don’t have the disks to reinstall your programs, you can go through a more complicated multi-step upgrading process that involves upgrading to Windows Vista first, but I strongly recommend against it if you can avoid this messy method.
If you buy new computers that are pre-loaded with Windows 7, you have a little more flexibility for your transition, because you can continue to run your old Windows XP computers while you setup and test everything on the new computers.
The best advice I can give you is start your migration planning and testing now, so you have plenty of time to deal with the inevitable surprises that come with any project of this nature.