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Old Software Related Site Articles

B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc., MBCS, CITP

Old software is used today by millions of people around the world. For some it is out of necessity. For others, it is out of choice.

If you own an old Computer, it is likely to run legacy software. Your applications (and operating system) become older and more difficult to run on newer machines.

This is an issue if you prefer an older version of an application because you know how to use it. What would you do if the software is discontinued, or your old computer fails to beyond economical repair?

On this page, we discuss:

  • Why old software exists?

  • Why legacy applications do not always work on newer computers

  • Things you can try to make old applications work properly on newer machines

  • Introduce some older software tutorials on this site

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Why Old software Exists

Ah! The days of Floppy Disks and MS-DOS applications from the 1980s, such as Lotus 123 spreadsheets. That takes me back. More recently, the explosion of the personal computer and Windows 95 from the mid-1990's.

All confined to history, or so you think. Would you be surprised if I told you that Windows XP was the second most popular operating system in the world at the point it was discontinued by Microsoft in April 2014?

This was four and a half years after Microsoft released two further operating systems in Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Lotus Notes 123 SpreadsheetMS-DOS Based Lotus Notes 123 Spreadsheet Software

All brand-new software ultimately end up as legacy software. A standard pattern or lifecycle for all software broadly follows this process:

  • New software or update to existing software is released

  • Consumers like us buy the updated software

  • During this time vendors release security patches and updates including new features

  • Vendor retires software or releases a new version for reasons such as compatibility with a new operating system

  • Software becomes incompatible, an increased security risk and difficult to get hold of. Its status as legacy software is confirmed

It is in our nature to stick with what we know. New software versions often confuse us, and means we need to learn the new ways of saving that file or putting that border around that image.

However, it is a step we all take, eventually. Next, we look at why you favourite old software doesn't work as well on newer machines.

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Old Software Application Issues

Have you ever tried to install software you own on to a new computer, only to find this type of error message appear?

Legacy Software Compatibility Error MessageOld Software
Legacy Software Compatibility Error Message

Software programs are written to comply with current operating system(s) are designed. This means when you use them, there is less likelihood of error occurring.

When vendors such as Microsoft and Apple release new operating systems, they ensure old system files and registry structures are retained for older software to continue working seamlessly.

However, this only goes so far. Software vendors like you to buy their new software. It's business, after all! Therefore, they do not retain legacy files and directory structures forever.

Once the supporting files are removed, or new features of the latest operating system start to interfere with your old software, it is usually time to ditch it and replace with new.

There are many reasons why old applications fail to work properly on new operating systems, including:-

  • New features e.g. Windows 8+ User Access Control Security

  • Different architecture, i.e. 16-bit v 32-bit v 64-bit

  • Handle Leaks e.g. your old software requests access to your PC's memory to load, but because it was written for an older operating system, it cannot remove itself from RAM, therefore causing the machine to stop working (ever wondered 'why when I run this software my computer runs slow or crashes?').

Windows 7 User Account Control PromptOld Software
Windows 7 User Account Control Prompt

Additional help is provided by vendors to assist with running older version of applications. We take a look at what this help is next.

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Options To Make Legacy Software Work On New Machines

Do not despair just yet if your old software does work with your new computer. There are a few tricks you can try that has worked for me and countless others.

Compatibility Mode

Having trouble installing on later Microsoft Operating Systems? Try compatibility mode:-

  1. Right-click the Install.msi or Setup.exe the select Properties from the resulting menu

  2. Select the Compatibility Tab

  3. Click the 'Run this computer in compatibility mode for' box and select the operating system from the drop-down menu your software worked fine on (know your Service Pack version too)

  4. I also advice ticking the 'Run this program as administrator' box too. This ensures the entire registry and file structure is available for the install

  5. If you find your software runs but doesn't display too well, consider trying a range of the Settings options. It's trial and error at this stage

Microsoft Windows Compatibility ModeOld Software
Microsoft Windows Compatibility Mode

Virtual Environment

VMWare or Oracle VM VirtualBox enables you to install older, compatible operating systems in to a 'virtual environment'.

This means you can load up your older operating system on your new computer and run your old software. The set-up can get quite technical, but is straightforward once you have done it a few times.

Windows XP Loaded Virtually on Windows 7Old Software
Windows XP 32-bit Loaded on Windows 7 64-bit

If you own Windows 7 Professional up to Ultimate, you can install Microsoft virtual PC and run what is called XP Mode (Windows 8, 10 and beyond do not include XP Mode). 

Following the same principles as VirtualBox, this is Microsoft's attempts to aid backward compatibility with older software. It enables you to run your old software 'seamlessly' on a newer O/S.

What this means is a cut down version of Windows XP runs hidden in the background. When you load your old application, it looks just like it is running in Windows 7.

What is actually happening is the old software is running in a 'virtual XP bubble' which contains all the required files and settings to run your old software properly.

The image below shows Internet Explorer 6 running seamlessly on Windows 7 (IE6 is incompatible with Windows 7 or above).

Windows 7 XP ModeOld Software
Windows 7 XP Mode and IE6

If you have lost your old applications, there are many places to find them. eBay and other websites hosting legacy programs in the public domain, i.e. no licensing implications if you install, are easy to find with a little research.

My advice is to avoid using old software when they become troublesome to install or use.

Next, we look at the legacy software tutorials written for home computer users, covering Dell computers and the Apple iPad.

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Old Software Articles | Dell Technical Support

Detailed below are the tutorials written for this website for software that has gone End of Life.

Instead of removing them, I have placed them below for your reference, as I believe many people use this software today.

Dell is a very popular home computer provider. There is an extensive range of online technical tools and options for you to keep your PC well maintained.

Some Dell tools are confusing to use. This section walks you through how to access and use the best of Dell's technical tools to maintain your home computer.

Dell Support Center Screenshot 2012Old software
Dell Support Center Screenshot 2012

1: Dell Support Online looks at what you need to do to download and install the Dell Support Center/My Dell software onto your computer.

2: Dell Support Center looks at what this tool offers home computer users and how to get the most out of it.

It helps you find the relevant information to maintain your Dell system. This is one of several options we look at.

3: Dell Computer Support Center continues showing you other features of the software tool I think are useful for you to know.

A key technical service offering is the Dell Support Drivers.

Here we look at how to manually identify which Device Drivers on your computer need updating.

We also look at a couple of ways to download device drivers from the Dell website, and how to extract and install updated device drivers.

Dell Online Support shows you the essential links you need to get the best out of what Dell has to offer.

This is a good starting point if you prefer not to use the tools available.

We look at things like how to find your Computer Service Tag, use the System Profiler Tool and how to take advantage of the DellCares Twitter Feed.

Computer tablets, like their PC and Laptop predecessors, receive application and operating system updates.

iPad Updates looks at the 12 main steps in applying the iOS 7 update to your computer tablet.

The process is straightforward. However, I suspect many iPad owners do not update as frequently as they should. All too often, people think updating computers is too complicated.

They tend to think the worst: 'What happens if the update fails and my device stops working'? This tutorial looks to dispel this myth and get people on to the latest and most secure versions of software available.

Apple iOS v7 InstallingOld Sofware
Apple iOS v7 Installing

iOS version 8.x is subtly different in its installation approach, and is described in this article. I suspect future iOS updates to follow a similar process to this old software version.

Read each of the iOS update tutorials and be in a good position to deal with future iOS versions like a professional!

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