Using old versions of Windows

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 miss 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.

Windows 10

Windows 10 fixed the disliked start menu that Windows 8 introduced. A few other under the hood changes corrected a lot of Microsoft's shortcomings. Windows 10 is still supported. However, Microsoft stated that support will end in 2025. At this time, Windows 10 is still a worthwhile operating system to use.

Windows 8

Windows 8 took Windows computers in a new direction. Windows merged computer desktops into a phone or tablet-like interface where fingers are the input device of choice. Yet, this interface has two apparent sides: the Desktop and the Windows 8 modern applications. The Windows 8 modern applications and system management are unnecessary for most users and complicate primary desktop computer navigation.

One huge issue is removing the classic start menu while using the modern Desktop. This left many users wondering what to do and no clear way 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 take some getting used to and can be confusing even for experienced computer users.

Is Microsoft trying to destroy the keyboard and mouse industry? I don't know, but it fails to recognize that its customer base is dominated by keyboard and mouse users who do not want to change because Microsoft thinks it's time. Presumably, with time most will learn it. At least, that is what Microsoft is counting on. After years of the start menu, Microsoft decided 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, it is possible not to use the modern application's interface for those who do not like the new start page. 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. An excellent free choice is Classic Shell.

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

The dreaded Windows 8 Start menu.

The very poorly received Windows 8 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.

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 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 leftover code in the codebase that referenced Windows 98, and such programmers abbreviated 98 to 9, which would have, or could have caused potential errors.

Bypass Windows 8.1 Start

Suppose you have purchased a new computer running Windows 8 and have found the new tiled Start confusing. You're 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 the 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, I go to the Desktop instead of Start. This does not bring back the original start menu; it merely boots the Desktop. Oddly the original start menu is still there; Microsoft doesn't want us to use it anymore. If the initial start menu is 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 Windows 8. Doing so took away easy access to simple functions that most, if not all Windows users, are familiar with and need access to work with their computers. A simple way to access some essential 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 an excellent operating system that improves 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 many operating systems over the years, but none of them work as well 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 system. Hardware support is where Windows 7 shines. Most manufacturers have stable and mature drivers that help run 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 wants 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 mainly 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 spent a little more testing it. If you are running Windows Vista PCMD, you recommend upgrading to Windows 7, but only if your computer was fast and powerful when purchased. If your computer was more affordable or a made-for Vista model, a new PC would be best. Microsoft Vista works, but it is just not quite right. If you want to continue with Windows Vista, be sure to update it to service pack 2, which takes care of many reliability and stability problems. When it comes time to repair a Vista machine, it is probably best to replace 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 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, it is time to buy a new one. Many will continue to use Windows XP for a long time to come, simply because it works and 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 manufacturers are 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 built on the technology of Windows NT, which made Windows XP the dominant operating system it came to be. Microsoft stopped supporting Windows 2000 on 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, you should buy a new personal computer running Windows 7, Windows 8, or a Mac. Computers built for these older operating have reached the end of their usable life. They should not be donated but taken to an electronic waste facility.

PCMD no longer services computers running specific older operating systems because it is 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 of 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 downside was the extremely high cost of computers and hardware. Upgrades offered minimal 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 security, the answer would be not to use older operating systems. If you regularly purchase new hardware, then again, no, you should use the latest operating system available. The driver's 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. Suppose you enjoy tinkering and want to keep that old 386 running, then more power to you. Virtual machines have come a long way, allowing 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.