Windows 7 has achieved 20 percent penetration of the U.S. operating systems market, jumping over Win Vista at 17 percent and slowly gaining on the aging but venerable Win XP, which dropped to under 60 percent (Mac OS holds at about 5 percent and the rest are Linux based). In fact the first service Pack for Win 7 has already been released to manufacturers and will shortly roll out to regular users. This means that an increasing number of my readers are using Win 7 and leads to this week’s question. What can I do when my new PC won’t run a program that I already own (legacy software as it’s called)?
One of the perennial annoyances of buying a new PC is that sometimes old hardware (like printers) doesn’t work well or at all on the new one and sometimes old software is no longer supported. With hardware you can sometimes get new drivers from the manufacturer’s website and in some cases Windows Updates will have an updated driver for hardware issues like video cards and monitors.
But what about old software for which you still have the original install discs? Maybe it was created to run with Win XP for example and you can’t get it to install on your new Win 7 PC or on the slightly older Win Vista. (If you follow my column, you know that I never recommended Win Vista and I want you to upgrade it to Win 7 if you can afford it. Although, I will say that Win Vista with its Service Pack 2 is a better OS than when it was first released). Two possibilities are in play now, one is the normal incompatibility between OSs and the other is that we are experiencing a shift from 32 bit OSs to 64 bit ones. At some point all OSs and software will run on the faster 64 bit platform, but right now we are in transition. When you buy software now, it is necessary to check if it was designed for your OS. 64 bit programs don’t run in 32 bit environments and vice versa.
There is a more complex work around if you simply must run an old program on your new 64 bit Win 7 machine. You can run a copy of Win XP inside your Win 7 environment and then install your old programs to that virtual environment. In fact this feature is built into the Win 7 Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise versions. If you are running Win 7 Home Premium as most of us are, you can still set up a virtual XP mode by installing a virtual player and using a legal copy of Win XP to set up the virtual OS.
The virtual player I recommend is VMware Player at www.vmware.com. It is a simple download from their website for free and it makes it easy for you to install XP inside Win 7; took me about 20 to 25 minutes when I tested it. You can find complete, readable instructions for this whole process at the Howtogeek website. Simply Google “Create an XP Mode for Windows 7 Home Versions & Vista” and follow instructions.
Once you have created your virtual Win XP space, just treat it like any Win XP installation; run your install discs in it, work in it and just close it out when you are done to return back to your Win 7 Desktop.