Windows 7 Compatibility and Versions

Now that Windows 7 is widely available on newly purchased systems, migrating your law firm professionals to this new Microsoft OS, becomes an interesting option. Windows XP is still the most used operating system in most firms - as most firms decided to skip the troubled Vista. Partial migration - only upgrading some of your users, for example those whose PC's you replace - is nowadays a more accepted option. It used to be that firms preferred to have all users on the exact same installation as this usually had some cost/efficiency benefits in terms of maintenance and support. These days, a temporary migration period where in the course of for example one year you migrate your users to a new OS, should - when your support and maintenance strategies are flexible enough - not cause too many pains.

Before you decide to migrate - make sure you have thoroughly tested all your existing software for compatibility with Windows 7. It surprises me how slow most companies are with providing information on Windows 7 compatibility. Most product specifications and software requirement overviews on websites do not mention the existence of the new Windows version at all. To add to the complexity: Windows 7 comes in both a 64-bit and a 32-bit version. Which version should you install?

The short answer is that you should go with Windows 7 64-bit unless you’re running a system well into its antiquity where driver support is going to become an issue.

Check out the Windows 7 Compatibility Center to search for compatible software and hardware. Unfortunately, mostly consumer software is listed on this site. If software is written for 32-bit Windows then it will most likely install as a x86 (32-bit) program under your 64-bit Windows.

The most worrisome will be the more obscure hardware that does not have driver updates available or the occasional lawyer that is wondering why his/her old Palm PDA software does not work anymore. Within the next six months, most major hardware and software manufacturers should have made their current products all Windows 7 compatible. For older hardware (or software) there will probably be ways to circumvent the problems. I was worried for example that some the Smart Card readers that are commonly used in the Netherlands would not be supported yet. That worry seems to have been unneccessary.

In the next few weeks I will be doing more hardware and software tests with Windows 7 as I am trying to introduce the OS at a Dutch law firm (remaining on Windows XP for most users). If anything important comes up, I will post that here. Preliminary findings so far show the VPN program (OpenVPN) and the Anti-Virus software (McAfee) both need updating (both free of charge).

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Bram Braakman • 16 January 2010
Archived under: Consultancy, Information Management, Techniques

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