Upgrading older systems to Windows 10 - a real world test

JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Microsoft MVP; QuickBooks Pro Advisor.

I have been running Windows Professional 64-bit Preview in a VMware Workstation virtual machine since last October. I have generally kept it up to date and tested a number of my regular software packages. Everything I have tested that I imagine carrying forward to Windows 10 Production release has worked and I intend on using Windows 10.
My plan is to purchase a Lenovo small form factor “M” series desktop computer to replace my Lenovo “M” Windows 7 Pro tower computer and a Lenovo X250 to replace my Lenovo X230 Windows 8.1 Pro computer. As soon as Lenovo has these machines with Windows 10 Pro pre-installed, I shall purchase them. I expect this to be in 3 or 4 weeks for the X250.
I will retire the Windows 7 Desktop (I have a good home in mind for it) and keep my Windows 8.1 Laptop as a spare computer.
So then what about upgrading an existing computer to Windows 10?  Is this a good idea? It probably depends mostly on how old it, and if the manufacturer is providing Windows 10 drivers. If the manufacturer has drivers and supports Windows 10, an upgrade will probably work. If the machine is older, an upgrade may not be worth the effort. The following is a real world test of what does and does not work.
I have an elderly ThinkPad T61p Core 2 Duo 64-bit laptop in the basement that is a spare computer if my Windows 8.1 work laptop has a problem. The T61p was running Windows 7 Pro 64-bit just fine and I thought I would try upgrading it to Windows 10 Pro. The laptop was introduced in 2007 and came with either Windows XP or Windows Vista. I purchased it with Vista Business 64-bit, then got a bigger hard drive and installed Windows 7 Pro 64-bit in 2010. I used it until 2013 when I go my ThinkPad X230. I had installed Windows 8 on a spare hard drive and knew that the T61p would run Windows 8.
So yesterday (Sunday August 2, 2015) I started up the T61p, went to the Windows 10 Upgrade Site and began the upgrade process. Here is the site that will let you get Windows 10 as a free upgrade now to Windows 7 or Windows 8.
The Windows 7 machine had Office 2007 Professional installed, Symantec Endpoint Protection V11, VMware Workstation V9, Adobe Reader V11, Perfect disk for VMware V11, and older versions of other software. It was reasonably up to date with respect to Lenovo drivers and, in particular, has Access Connections installed which is a third party wireless connectivity tool.
Now Access Connections died with Windows 7, Symantec Endpoint Protection needs to be at V12.1.4 just to work on Windows 8.1, Perfect disk for VMware is dead and Perfect disk needs to be at V13 to work on Windows 8.1. So there are things in this upgrade that will be problems.
Nonetheless, the Windows 10 Upgrade had started. I wanted to see what would work and what would not work.
The first thing that happened was that the Upgrade process said Symantec would not work. So I allowed Upgrade to launch the uninstaller and removed Symantec. The upgrade started to proceed once the Symantec uninstall had completed.
The next step was 90 minutes or more of watching paint dry while Windows 10 proceeded with the upgrade. There were NO errors (important) so I allowed it to proceed at its own pace.
After a couple of restarts, it asked me if I wanted all new browser, video manager, music manager and like applications. I unchecked all of these. I already responded to a post here where the member had an issue with Edge (the newest Microsoft browser) and Adobe DC (V2015). I suggested the regular browser (which I knew to work) and the member was very happy that the problem had been averted. So it made sense to leaves things as they were because I can always try out the new things at my own pace.
Windows 10 finally launched but I had no Internet and I had an error on the screen about the video driver (nVidia discreet video hardware). However, the machine was working. I set about uninstalling obvious things (some listed above) that I knew would not work. At a point, I got the normal “you must restart for updates to take effect” and I did.
The restart resulted in a strange reddish-purple screen and eventually a temporary user profile. The restart was not good, I could not use anything, and eventually all I could do was force the machine off. This is NOT good practice, but there seemed to be no alternative. I started up, still got the red screen and a temporary profile, but this time, I could use everything. nVidia had 5 or 6 items in Programs and Features, so I uninstalled all the bits and left the drivers. I uninstalled a few more things and then restarted.
This time the restart was normal, I logged in as my own profile, and there were no startup errors. I checked computer properties and, indeed, the upgrade was Windows 10 Pro 64-bit. I continued uninstalling bits of stuff I no longer needed or were old and then tried to get Internet. I could not get into the Windows 10 (and 8.1) Network Icon to connect and I had no Internet. The computer has an Intel 3945 ABG wireless card and there was no way to make it connect (using standard Network Properties). I had an Intel 4965 AGN card in the cupboard that I had never installed (if it is not broken, don’t fix it), and so I took the machine apart and replaced the mini-PCI wireless card. Still no luck, and that was not really surprising because the base Intel driver is the same for both cards. Intel has discontinued the cards and no drivers are available to them.
So at this point, I pulled out an Ethernet cable, connected to my network and immediately got Internet. I have answered posts here along the lines of “I upgraded to Windows 10 and all my network connections have gone”. It is likely just wireless and you need a modern wireless card. Wired Ethernet should work fine and provide Internet access.
Having removed very old software and removed problem drivers, it was now time to see what worked and what might not work.
Office 2007 Professional works. I was a bit surprised, but Outlook, Excel and Word all functioned normally. I intend to use Office 2013 and soon Office 2016 on my new X250 whenever I can get the machine, and the new Office is certain to work. If you have Office 2010 or better on any modern machine, it should work just fine after upgrading to Windows 10.
I then installed Symantec Endpoint Protection 12.1.6 (this is the corporate product and not the consumer Norton product). It installed perfectly, updated and all functions were running. I use SEP V12.1.6 on my Windows 8.1 laptop and I am pleased to know that it works fine on Windows 10 Pro as well.
Adobe V11 Reader works fine and I assume that Adobe Acrobat DC (V2015) will also work fine. I will transfer the license from my Windows 8.1 machine when the time comes.
I have an HP 8610 Printer and I started the Printer Icon. This forces a setup on a new installation so I allowed that to proceed and after a full restart the printer works just fine. It is good to know I can start up a new laptop and print right away.
I have a Nokia CS-18 USB Internet stick that I got for the T61p when it was a Vista machine. It has always just worked, and I plugged it into the T61p with Windows 10 and it fired up just fine and made solid connection. So I have Wired Internet and USB Cellular Interne – just no Wi-Fi at this point.
WinZip, xPlorer2, Sync Back Pro and a bunch of other software that I like all works.
What, then, may we conclude from this Windows 10 upgrade?
Windows 10 works but in my opinion, it is not worth upgrading an old machine. The T61p has done phenomenally well. It came with XP or Vista. I got Vista but I got an exact mate for a client that came with XP and it ran. I installed Windows 7 and Lenovo provided Windows 7 drivers. I use it like this for 3 years as a reliable consulting machine. I put Windows 8 Pro on a spare drive and that worked. I have to admit that I am surprised that Windows 10 works on this old machine, but it does.
Why is it not worth upgrading then?  I don’t think it is worth investing in a new Wi-Fi hardware. I am not certain if it is just the card or possibly a motherboard / BIOS issue on top. Worse, the video is very poor. The nVidia card functions, but not all the pieces would install so I cannot access Personalization or Display properties because I get a video error. There is no new driver and this is really a knock out factor. The machine has an LCD screen which is not as bright as when new, and I have gotten used to LED screens. It is really not a keeper at this point.
What worked?  Lots works just fine. That Office works is to be expected – Microsoft would ensure that. But I was pleasantly surprised that Office 2007 works very well in Windows 10 even though I do not intend to use it. A lot of other applications work also. My HP Printer works and that is key in day to day use.
I am very pleased that my Nokia card fires up. This is key because I find myself places where I do not have Internet access but must assist clients.
Symantec works fine. All my clients use this and we support them so I need it to work reliably and it does.
I use WinZip for file compression and distribution, Sync Back Pro to back up large document and file storage, xPlorer2 as a replacement file explorer and all these work. I expect Perfect Disk V13 (which I have for Windows 8.1) to work, but I have not yet tested. I have NCP Secure Entry V10 for VPN access to clients. V10.02 was just released and NCP Technical Support assures me it will work in Windows 10.
iTunes V12.2.1 works and I use that to sync my iPhone. I am hoping to replace my trusty iPhone 4s with an iPhone 7 in a few months and so it is good that iTunes works. I keep my consulting calendar in Outlook and in iPhone and it is essential that all my consulting tools work.
VMware Workstation V9 (installed) works, but I have V11 on my Windows 8.1 machine and will transfer it over. VMware has said it is Windows 10 compliant.
Suspend and recovery from Suspend works. This is a trouble spot for some Dell computers and IBM (and then Lenovo) have done a good job with Power Management. It just works.
First, there is no rush or panic to get to Windows 10. If you have a Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 machine that works fine, take your time and test first. As I have shown, the older the machine, the more problems you will have, some of which may be knockout factors for you. You have a year to decide and there is no real reason to push the button without a way home. Test first – be happy later.
Second, the big installed base of computers is Windows 7. Windows 10 is four generations of operating systems and six years ahead of Windows 7. People were surprised at Windows 8 Metro and the need to upgrade a lot of software. So they did not adopt it. However, Windows 10 is an evolution of Windows 8.1 and definitely not a return to Windows 7. All the furniture changed rooms in Windows 8, again in Windows 8.1 (a new operating system) and again in Windows 10. Knowledge of Windows 7 does not portend any knowledge of Windows 10 underpinnings so take that into account. I have a dustbin full of Windows 7 software that does not work in Windows 8 or Windows 10
Finally, it really may be time for a new computer. A new computer with Windows 10 Pro pre-installed will come with Windows 10 drivers and video and will work better. My Windows 7 desktop computer is close to six years old and is due for retirement. My Windows 8.1 laptop is three years old and will make a good spare computer.
Windows 10 is a good operating system, a good base on which to build, and I will be using in daily in (probably) 3 or 4 weeks from now. Take it carefully, do not rush, know what you have that won’t work and that which will work, and be prepared to invest in new software. Do not assume that you can push the upgrade button and get reliable results unless the machine you are upgrading is 2 years old or newer.
If you choose to upgrade (carefully and after testing) or get a new machine (as I will do), I am sure you will be very happy.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Microsoft MVP; QuickBooks Pro Advisor.

Comments (11)

I upgraded my old Dell and now the embedded Broadcom 440x won't work. Win 10 sees the card but says it's not present. Latest driver is 8 years old! Time for new hardware.
One of two PCs running Win 7 Pro 64 as factory installed (hp-Compaq dc5800) upgraded to Win 10 w/o problems even with antivirus on and USB devices connected.  Second PC (home-build with MSI motherboard and Intel i7-4770K CPU) required clean install of Win 7 Pro 64 and just enough drivers from MSI motherboard DVD, and several rounds of Windows update before I could do an upgrade to Windows 10 64 Pro.

JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018


Yes - very much varies on the particular Windows 7 machine being upgraded. Thanks for the update.

John, it was time well spent. I upgraded my Win 7 Ultimate to Win 10 Pro via Microsoft icon on taskbar. It notified me that it was downloading Windows in background. I was skeptical since I had on same machine first XP and that was upgraded to Win 7 with OEM System Builder  Kit and to Ultimate by key card from Amazon, and I tried to upgrade to Windows 8.1 which failed on some updates. I took leap of faith and went ahead when icon notified me it was ready to upgrade.
I don't know how many reboots it took but next morning, voila! it was there. Most apps were working.
Some old apps asked for license which I did not have. I realized that I hardly used them so that was good riddance. The most significant hit was loss of Cisco VPN. Overall, I think Microsoft did a good job.
I had upgraded my hardware with new motherboard, SSD drive and 24GB memory. I think that helped as drivers were new. I think upgrade is advisable if hardware and apps are new. But, I still wonder what additional benefit I got over Win 7. Most of the apps are still 32 bit. Edge is good, but Chrome has all my links and passwords.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018


I think upgrade is advisable if hardware and apps are new.  <-- Probably yes. My Lenovo X230 with Windows 8.1 is less than 3 years old and the upgrade went well on it. It seems to be working fairly well.

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