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DURBAN - As Windows 7 approaches the end of its lifecycle in January, many of my business customers have been making plans to ensure they are not adversely affected by the change. 

With less than a year to go, it makes sense to understand how the Windows 7 deadline may affect your business, and what can be done to prevent significant disruption or security risks.

Advantages: After all the troubles of the ill-fated Windows 8, Microsoft seems to have found a good balance with Windows 10. For the traditional Windows PC user who simply wants their icons on their desktop and easy access to their commonly used programs and files, it works just like Windows 7 or most earlier versions. There are a few changes, but users adapt quickly and the modern look and feel are appreciated, as is the good performance - provided you have suitable hardware.

For the user who likes to experiment with new technology, Windows 10 has significant advantages over its ancestors. First among these must be the Microsoft Store, an “app marketplace” from which you can download any of more than half a million apps, both free and paid for. It’s an ecosystem that extends the Windows platform to the app generation. Although Microsoft have exited the smartphone business, where the idea of apps first became popular, there are many cases where a PC environment makes more sense than the tiny screen of a phone or tablet. Have a look at https://tinyurl.com/trmsapps for popular tech site TechRadar’s top 10 Windows apps.

Legacy: Many businesses rely on particular software to operate. This might be a program that controls specific machinery, or it may be something like a custom-made database or business tool that handles orders, production or stock control. One of the most common reasons for not upgrading to a new version of Windows is the incompatibility of a vital older program. These programs are often referred to as legacy software. If you run legacy software, you may have been notified already that it doesn’t work correctly on Windows 10 without a costly update. If you can’t find out from the vendor or developer, I’d encourage you to arrange testing yourself: you may find it works fine, or there may be ways to work around minor issues. You could, of course, simply keep a few Windows 7 PCs around to run your legacy software on, but this would be a short-term and insecure solution at best.

Trick: There are ways to continue running legacy programs on Windows 10 by using its “Compatibility Mode”, which attempts to trick a legacy program into thinking it’s running on an earlier version of Windows. If all else fails, you can run legacy programs alongside Windows 10 software by installing a copy of an earlier version of Windows in a “virtual machine” or VM. This is a separate computing environment created within Windows 10 that can run its own programs and operate independently of the main system. The ability to host these VMs is built into the “Pro” and “Enterprise” editions of Windows 10 but can be added to any edition via several free tools. 

For a guide to Compatibility Mode and VMs see https://tinyurl.com/w10cmguide.