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Issue #137: March 7, 2010

Q: When the motherboard on my XP computer crashed, we replaced it with a Dell with Vista.  Now I cannot run some of my most needed programs, as those companies have not created upgrades.  Is there anything I can do to make my new computer with Vista run these older programs?  When I bought the new Dell, it was eligible to receive the Windows 7 upgrade, and I did receive it.  I am afraid to install it, thinking it might make more of my programs unusable.  What do you think?

– Nancy L.
Shalimar, Fla

A: It’s no secret that Vista was a rather disliked operating system, Nancy.  There are many reasons for that, and you’ve discovered one of them: incompatibility with some older software (often referred to as legacy software).  It’s probably not much consolation, but many people have felt the same pain as you, when reliable, even if older software suddenly quit working because the operating system got “improved” (thanks, Bill).  There are a few things you can try, but they don’t always work.  One thing to try is Vista’s “Compatibility Mode”, which you can enable by right clicking on the legacy application’s .exe file, choosing “Properties” and selecting the “Compatibility” tab.  Check the box labeled “Run this program in compatibility mode for:” and then choose an operating system from the drop down.  There are additional settings available on the dialog as well.  Despite how promising it looks when you read the options, I’ve had only limited success using this mode, and many programs still don’t work.  Windows 7 takes a whole other approach at running legacy software, but you must be using the Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate version.  These versions of Win7 actually include a fully licensed copy of Windows XP with SP3, which runs in Windows Virtual PC, a separately downloaded add-on.  This is a non-trivial task, which may require a bit of software installation and tweaking, but when you’re done, you should be able to run just about any piece of legacy software that ran under Windows XP, because rather than running something that tries to be compatible with XP, your system will actually be running a virtual copy of XP.  You can find more information and step-by-step instructions at

TIP OF THE WEEK – Re-Learning MS Office: If you’re like most people, you were frustrated and confounded when Microsoft did away with the traditional menu bar and toolbar in Office 2007.  I use Office daily, including writing this column and I often find myself searching desperately for a function when I used to go straight to it, practically without even looking.  Well Microsoft has been kind enough to provide a means for you and I to learn where they have hidden all those functions we used to know so well.  They have posted a series of interactive command reference guides that allow you to simply click on a function in and Office 2003 application and it tells you how to find the corresponding function in Office 2007.  Enter the following URLs in your browser to find command translations for Word:, PowerPoint:, Excel:, and Access:

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