Consultant’s Corner: Can I Run Older Software on a new PC?

The Customer

Recently, a customer called with a unique set of needs. She was running older software, and using hardware that needed legacy ports. She was debating whether to try and upgrade her older system with parts that could enhance performance and keep her business running, or to purchase something new.

What was unique about her situation? She runs a custom sign printing and monogram business, and the machines that she uses requires older port connections. Current computer systems do not offer the ports she needs or support the software that she runs, and with the economy tightening, upgrading all of the machines was expensive. She needed a computer that could keep her current machines running.

When she listed her requirements, I knew this would be a unique challenge:

  1. Must have a parallel port
  2. Must have a serial port
  3. Must support Windows XP Pro

That last requirement gave me pause.

The Consultation

After listening to the customers' concerns, I understood where she was coming from. The machines she was using for her custom sign printing and monogram business were quite old, and connected to the PC using parallel and serial ports. Very few motherboards are produced with these ports today, in lieu of more current connections like USB.

The software she uses to design custom prints was written to operate only on Windows XP. While the developer had made updates to the software since that time, the current software version would not work with her older machines. Running an unsupported, out of date operating system can pose a lot of problems, especially when it comes to security and stability, as updates are no longer provided. While Windows includes compatibility mode to allow you to run older software in a way that mimics previous operating systems, she had tried this under Windows 8 with no success.

Her current system was failing, and she was in a real pinch: Either find a computer that could manage her workflow, or spend capital she didn’t have on completely new machines to do the work.

The Solution

Fortunately, we were able to find a solution that met her needs in a new system to support her business.

Almost no motherboards are built with serial or parallel ports today. But we know some of our customers have peripherals that still require older ports so we keep a few expansion cards in stock, such as this dual-port option from SYBA.

Although the customer had issues with compatibility mode in Windows 8, Microsoft has made improvement in Windows 10 which allowed the customer to move forward. After conferring with the software developer, we were able to copy a couple of libraries over to the Windows 10 installation, and have the software running successfully in Windows XP compatibility mode under Windows 10.

The end result is that we were able to build her a brand-new system that can handle her workflow well into the future, and hold off the expense of purchasing multipe new machines.