Using old versions of Windows

In general over the years operating systems have improved in many ways including speed, reliability and security. Older operating systems become more vulnerable to malicious attacks, and simply are missing the improvements, and the enhancements that make the most of modern PC hardware, and accessories. However, the desktop computer landscape is changing and not everyone is choosing or using Windows for one reason or another.

Operating systems

At the core of every computer or device is the operating system. The operating system brings all the hardware and software pieces together to seamless harness the processing power of your personal computer or device. It is important that the operating system operates properly and efficiently while keeping itself secure from attack. Beyond hardware failure a new operating system is as good a reason as any to upgrade to a new computer. All operating system have security holes and other issues that new versions help to reduce or fix. Mitigating security risks alone is a good reason to run the latest version of all operating systems no matter which manufacturer you prefer or just happen to be using.

The dreaded Windows 8 Start menu.

The very poorly received Windows 8 start menu.


Computer hardware has improved tremendously over the years, manufactures have made a lot of mistakes and a whole lot of people gave Windows a bad rap for hardware issues that had nothing to do with Windows. Hardware reliability and compatibility are at an all time high. It is great when everything connected simple works, infuriating, and frustrating for most when it doesn't. Yet, in order to enjoy the hardware improvements the operating system has to support it, or drivers created must work properly. Even though Windows 8 offers the best hardware support, it has stagnated desire for new computers and is being ignored unless the user truly needs a laptop or desktop and is unfamiliar with Apple.

iOS and Android

The vast amount of cellular phone users out there consider hardware of extreme importance and upgrade as soon as new hardware is available, as many did their personal computers years ago. For many phones and tablets have replaced the primary needs of desktop or laptop computers, providing a simple way to connect with people, and the internet, while being completely mobile. With these devices chances of a user selecting a Windows based device over iOS, or Android is slim leaving Microsoft out of the portable operating system market at least for now.

Ubuntu operating system

Ubuntu logo.

Ubuntu a very popular and free Linux distro.

Most people have heard of Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows, and Google Android, but not very many have heard of Ubuntu by Canonical. Ubuntu is a Linux distro that is also very popular and it is available for free. There are a number of competing operating systems that use Linux as the foundation modifying it to there specific needs, but Ubuntu has set itself apart as being the most popular. Ubuntu has made great strides in ease of use and installation making it a simple, and affordable way to keep an older computer running or keep the cost down on a new computer. A real benefit of Ubuntu and other Linux based operating systems is that they run on older hardware very well. It is possible to keep a computer running for years at a very low or no cost since many Linux distros are free.

Windows 8

Windows 8 took Windows computers in a new direction. Computer desktops were being merged into a phone or tablet like interface where fingers are the input device of choice. Yet, there are two clear sides to this interface one known as the Desktop, and the other is the Windows 8 modern applications. For most users the Windows 8 modern applications and system management are not necessary, and complicate basic desktop computer navigation.

One very big issue is the removal of the classic start menu while using the modern desktop. This left many users wondering what to do and no clear way on how to get things done, and even causing frustration when turning off the computer due to the use of a new menu and multiple steps to find the off button. The interface changes do take some getting used to, and can be very confusing even for experienced computer users.

Is Microsoft trying to destroy the keyboard and mouse industry? I don't know, but it is failing to recognize its customer base is dominated by keyboard and mice users who do not want to change because Microsoft thinks its time. Presumably with time most will learn it, at least that is what Microsoft is counting on. Why Microsoft after years of the start menu decides to remove it and send computer users back to school to learn Windows 8 will hopefully be rectified by Microsoft with an update. Microsoft did fix this with Windows 10.

However, for those who do not like the new start page it is totally possible to not use the modern applications interface at all. This does require a third party application and there are a lot of them to choose from. They vary in price from free to about five dollars. A good free choice is Classic Shell.

Even with all the poorly received changes there are a number of positive changes in Windows 8. Windows 8 runs well, boots fast, and is very reliable making it a good choice. With the release of Windows 8.1 Microsoft fixed some the design choices that limited its functionality as a desktop operating system, but still no classic start menu.

Windows 8.1

If you are running Windows 8 be sure to visit the Microsoft store for a free upgrade to Windows 8.1. The Windows 8.1 upgrade file size is quite large and will take some time to download depending on your internet connection, so plan ahead.

Oddly Microsoft changed the installation requirements for Windows 8.1, so even if you are running Windows 8 you may not be able to upgrade to Windows 8.1. Microsoft just can't get it right. Upgrade issues are just another nail in Windows 8's coffin. Windows 9 needs to be Microsoft's Windows 7 or Windows XP. As we all know Windows 9 was released as Windows 10, according to Microsoft this was due to old left over code in the code base that refrenced Windows 98 and such programmers abreiviated 98 to 9, which would have, or could have caused potential errors.

Bypass Windows 8.1 Start

If you have purchased a new computer running Windows 8 and have found the new tiled Start confusing your not alone. With Windows 8.1 it is possible to boot the computer directly to the desktop. To boot directly to the desktop right click empty space on the taskbar when viewing the desktop and select Properties. A dialog box will open, next select the Navigation tab at the top of the dialog box, and check the box When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start. This does not bring back the original start menu it merely boots to the desktop. Oddly the original start menu is still there Microsoft just doesn't want us to use it anymore. If the original start menu in required consider using one of the many free or paid programs that will let you boot directly to the desktop and bring the start menu back.

Microsoft removed the start button on the Taskbar with the release of Windows 8, and in doing so took away easy access to simple functions that most, if not all Windows users are familiar with and need access to in order to work with their computer. A simple way to get access to some important functions is to right click empty space on the taskbar when viewing the desktop and select Toolbars then Desktop. This will add a handy link on the taskbar next to the notifications area for hard to find functions such as Control Panel, Computer, and User account files under Windows 8. This works with other versions of Windows as well.

Windows 8.1 upgrade

Windows 8 has received very unfavorable reviews. However, it is a good operating system that brings improvements to Windows 7. The interface is different, yet usable. Windows 8.1 brings some needed improvements to Windows 8. Be sure to upgrade for free via the Windows Store.

Windows 7

Windows 7 retail box.

Microsoft has created a number of operating systems over the years, but none of them work as good as Windows 7. Windows 10 looks better, but Windows 7 was very mature and stable. Microsofts Windows 7 is faster and more reliable than any previously released Windows operating systems. Hardware support is where Windows 7 shines. Most manufactures have stable and mature drivers that help keep it all running smoothly. New hardware being released is just about guaranteed to work and be compatible with other devices.

Windows 7 version of Windows update did not quite hit the mark for transparency and Windows update still want to force restarts. However, Windows 7 is the Microsoft operating system to run for ease, and familiarity for most users regardless of its flaws. As time marches on this recommendation will change, but mostly due to the eventual end of Microsoft support for Windows 7.

Microsoft Windows Vista

Microsoft would probably like to forget about Windows Vista. Windows 7 is what Microsoft Windows Vista should have been, had Microsoft taken a little more time testing it. If you are running Windows Vista pcmd recommends that you upgrade to Windows 7, but only if your computer was fast and powerful when it was purchased new. If your computer was a more affordable or a made for Vista model then a new PC would be best. Microsoft Vista works, but it is just not quite right. If you want to continue with Windows Vista just be sure to update it to service pack 2 which takes care of many reliability and stability problems. When it come time to repair a Vista machine it is probably best to plan on replacing it. There is no real justifiable reason to invest money into a personal computer running Windows Vista.

Microsoft Windows XP

Windows XP retail box.

Sure Windows XP works, but Windows 7 works much better. Microsoft stopped selling all versions of Windows XP in October 2010, so it is not that old. However, Windows XP came out in 2001, and therefore it is old. I guess what I am saying is everything is relative. Windows XP is becoming a security risk as Microsoft concentrates on newer operating systems, and the eventual end of support. If your computer was built for Windows XP then it is time to buy a new computer. Many will continue to use Windows XP for long time to come, simply because it works, and it has become very reliable over the years. Yet, they will suffer more viruses and malware infestations than a standard Windows 7 or Windows 8 64 bit user. When Microsoft support ends some manufactures are stepping up saying they will secure it, so time will tell what happens to good ole' XP.

Microsoft Windows 2000 and Windows NT

Windows 2000 Professional was the foundation operating system that was built on the technology of Windows NT, which made Windows XP the dominate operating system it came to be. Microsoft stopped supporting Windows 2000 July 13, 2010. Unless you must use these operating systems pcmd recommends upgrading to a more current operating system. In the case of Windows 2000 pcmd recommends Windows 7. Windows NT should be migrated to Windows Server 2008 R2. As time passes these recommendations will change. PCMD always recommends the current version for compatibility and reliability.

Microsoft Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows Millennium Computers

If you are running Windows 95, 98 or Millennium operating systems then it is recommended that you buy a new personal computer running Windows 7, Windows 8 or a Mac. Computers that were built for these older operating have reached the end of there usable life. They should not be donated, but taken to an electronic waste facility.

PCMD no longer services computers running certain older operating systems because it is simply not cost effective for all parties involved. A computer made for Windows 98 should be replaced if at all possible. Also, Microsoft stopped supporting all versions Windows 98, and Windows Millennium on July 11, 2006.

Windows 3.1 and DOS 6.0

Windows 3.1 retail box.

Hats off to you if you still use these older operating systems. Window 3.1 was such an exciting time for the computer industry, everything was new and just infatuating for so many people. The down side was the extremely high cost of computers and hardware. Upgrades offered very little performance improvement for the dollar. Well those days are long gone and most likely this operating system is only being used for nostalgic purposes.

Should you use older operating systems?

If you want the latest in security then the answer would be definitely do not use older operating systems. If you regularly purchase new hardware then again no, you should use the latest operating system available. The drivers database is much more complete with newer computer operating systems. However, if your hardware is older an older OS maybe your only choice to keep using it. If you enjoy tinkering and want to keep that old 386 running than more power to you. Virtual machines have come a long way and they allow older operating systems to run on Windows 10, even old operating systems like Windows 3.1 that run on DOS are possible on a virtual machine.