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Breaking Out Of The Upgrade Cycle

February 7, 2014

Rodney, Microsoft just released a new version of Windows. Do you think we should upgrade?

What will the new version do that your current version doesn’t?

Well, I don’t know. You’re the computer expert. Shouldn’t you be telling me?

This is an actual conversation I had when Windows Milennium came out. I wasn’t talking to a customer. My mother owned a CPA firm with about 10 workstations. I worked for Microsoft at the time and I was her tech support and consultant.

My question wasn’t rhetorical, or flippant. I wanted her to explain to me what the compelling business case was for upgrading. As a Microsoft employee, I suppose I should have been pushing the upgrade cycle. Even today, Microsoft doesn’t just want you to upgrade, they need for you to upgrade. Often they are their own biggest competitor. Because, let’s face it, if you are a Windows shop are you going to suddenly switch to Mac because Microsoft releases a new version? Or Linux?

No. But, you might decide to stay on the current version if it’s meeting your needs. Microsoft tries to give you some compelling reasons to switch. Sometimes it’s new features. Sometimes it’s a compatibility issue. New applications may not run on old operating systems. Sometimes it’s the threat that they will withdraw support.

I didn’t recommend that my mother upgrade to Windows Millennium simply because it was new. My Microsoft friends are laughing at me right now; that I would even consider Millennium. It was a terrible release. Marketing wanted to get it out for the year 2000 buying season, but it was the only operating system that your Microsoft coworkers would actively mock you for using. Internally we stayed on Windows 98 and waited for XP.

And that’s what I suggested my mother do. Eighteen month later when Windows XP came out, I called my mother.

You know the problem you’ve been having with your workstations randomly locking up?


The new version of Windows fixes that. We should upgrade your computers.

Windows XP officially shipped December 31, 2001. (Probably because Microsoft committed to getting it out in 2001.) Anyway, it has been a very stable operating system.

But, I titled this little essay, “Breaking Out of the Upgrade Cycle.” (BTW, don’t click the link it will just bring you back here.) So, skipping a version, as many companies did with Millennium and later Vista isn’t breaking out of the cycle. It’s simply refusing to pay for another ride around the park every time Microsoft sends the trolly past. And honestly, in business you have to upgrade. Even as stable as XP has been, and I still have one of my primary workstations running it, eventually it comes to the end. Microsoft has announced all support for XP will end in April 2014. . . and they mean it this time. . .they said.

Twelve years is a long time for an OS.

But, just because you keep your business machines relatively up-to-date there are still occasions to break the upgrade cycle.

I have eight PC’s in my house. Some of them, like my Windows 2012 Server with 16 GB of RAM and a six core processor are new. Others not so much.

This is one of the computers in my house.


It’s a Dell Dimension L733R. It has a 128MB of memory and a 9GB harddrive. Yes, the hard disk is smaller than the amount of memory I have in my server. The processor is 730MHz.

Why would I keep such a dinosaur? Why not spend a few hundred bucks and buy a better computer?

Because my kids would kill me if I did. You might have noticed the wheel and the foot pedals. Microsoft tried out a lot of different hardware offerings in the past. This was one set. It was ridiculously expensive, as I remember, even at employee prices. But, it makes playing the game on screen much more fun.

Here’s a closer shot of the screen


It’s a game called Midtown Madness 2, that Microsoft sold in the year 2000. It’s a driving game. You can play from the keyboard, but what fun is that?

The best part about this ancient setup is when we host game night at our house. Our kids (all 5 teenagers and 3 preteens) get to invite friends over. Some play foosball, some play air hockey. Some take turns on the XBox. Chess has even become popular. (I know, my kids have weird friends.) But, the most popular “station” is this 15 year old PC running 12 year old software.

The thing is, it was a fun game 15 years ago which was before my kids’ friends were even born. And none of them have ever seen it. Their friends think it is a very cool game. And by extension, parties at our house are cool. And by extension, my kids. But not me. I’m old.

So, upgrade when you need to, but keep in mind that just because Microsoft or Apple, or Linux say it’s time to turn in your old car, you don’t have to. If a computer continues to do what you need it to, you might want to keep it. And it just might help your kids hold cool parties one day.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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