When is a Computer Operating System Upgrade Really Necessary?

By Larry Darnell, FDA Director of Information Systems

The other day, I sat in a room at my doctor’s office waiting for him to appear. Since I am involved in technology, I quickly notice the computer in the room. It would be what I call a thin client computer with a basic computer operating system on it and a small footprint. All of a sudden, the power goes out at this office and as you might imagine, all things electrical shutdown, including this computer. When it boots back up after the power was restored, I am shocked and dismayed. The operating system is Windows XP! It has been five years since Windows XP reached what we call end of life. That means that the maker of the operating system, in this case, Microsoft, would no longer support, provide updates, or encourage you to use it. Perhaps you remember when they pulled Windows XP out of your cold, clutching hands and gave you Windows 7 or Windows 8. You cursed Microsoft like many others. Yet it is still being used five years later? The continued use of Windows XP is ill-advised, illogical and quite possibly illegal (in health care settings).

Well, in January 2020, Microsoft is doing it again. Windows 7 (which replaced Windows XP) will reach its end of life. There also will be a server operating system that has been super-dependable, Windows Server 2008 R2, reaching end of life, too. Here at the Florida Dental Association, we have been using Windows 10 for some time now on our workstation computers (the order goes Windows XP, 7, 8, 10, there was no 9). However, we do have three servers that use Windows 2008 and we’ve had to replace them with a newer server.

So, how do you know what operating system your computer is using? When your computer starts up, it should become clear:

xp
Windows XP = VERY BAD!

7
Windows 7 = Time to upgrade

8-10
Windows 8 or 10 = Ok for now

Understand that in most cases, it is likely possible to upgrade the computer operating system from Windows 7 to Windows 10 without buying a new computer. However, you would need to make sure that all software programs and hardware devices connected also are compatible with Windows 10.

Now is the time to do a checkup on your computer systems. Do not wait. This is not a Y2K-type concern, but it’s still important that you act now. If you have a third party supporting your computer systems, ask them now about this.

If you want more information on this, you can email me at ldarnell@floridadental.org or check Microsoft’s web pages specific to each event: