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Changing Operating Systems – How Soon We Forget Past Lessons

Many of us have gone through the process and frustration of changing operating systems to a newer version or even an alternate operating system, but for those who haven’t done a major change in some years, here are 6 things to keep in mind BEFORE you update or change OS.

Whether you are considering moving from Windows XP/7 to Windows 8 on your existing PC, or from the Windows universe to Macintosh hardware and OS:

  1. Check to see if the computer itself is compatible with the operating system you wish to convert to.  Not all PC’s can run Windows 8, and not all Macs can run the latest version of the Mac OS.
  2. Check to see whether or not the various peripherals (printers, network adapters, scanners, etc.) and even the processor modules will work with the other/newer operating system.  Manufacturers of peripherals may have yet to come out with drivers for these operating systems which can hobble your ability to use your computer … or in the case of an incompatible wireless adapter, for example, leave you limited to hard-wired internet access.  The new OS may not be able to identify co-processor drivers for older systems either, which will hamper the CPU’s capability.
  3. “New” hardware does not guarantee compatibility. Just because you buy a new computer or peripheral from a retailer does not mean that it will be compatible with the current Windows or MacOS versions.  You may want to check the Microsoft Compatibility Centre to see if the particular peripheral or software has been certified to run on a particular Windows OS version.  There are various online resources that can assist in determining if the Mac hardware or particular software you have is compatible with current MacOS’s (http://snowleopard.wikidot.com/ , About.com)
  4. Check software compatibility.  It goes without saying that you should also check the programs you use to make sure they will play nicely with the operating system you are moving to.  Just because they worked on Windows 7 does not mean they will co-operate as nicely with Windows 8 or, in the Mac universe, with Snowleopard.  Yes you can run Windows applications on a Mac by either booting up in Windows, or by running a Windows virtualization application like Parallels or Vmware Fusion, however simply be aware that not all applications designed to run on a Windows operating system will run natively on a Mac and the advantages of running a MacOS will be reduced if you have to run your Mac with a PC OS or even a virtualization application.
  5. Get advice from a pro before you update – check with professional advisors as to whether such an OS change is really necessary, or at the very least check with other colleagues in your area to see whether or not they have made such a change, or what they are considering or what challenges they had in implementing the change.
  6. Training – don’t forget the training element of any hardware or software changes.  Without taking the time to understand and be trained as to the elements and features of the OS or software, chances are that you will be perpetually limited in using it to its fullest potential, say nothing of the frustration you will have in trying to do new things in old ways that just don’t work anymore.

At this stage for most lawyers and law firms, unless you are going Mac, it would seem that staying with Windows 7 Pro is where most will find comfort and stability and a user interface they are familiar with. In any case, carefully consider whether the OS change proposed is one you truly need to have in order to practice more effectively, or is it bleeding edge stuff that will sap your technological patience and leave you on the technically disabled list.