Putting Old Files on New Computer

Dear Computer Lady,

My beloved 10.5 year old Dell w/ Windows XP is still working but in anticipation of its dieing on me I have been moving documents and pictures to thumb drives.

Someone told me recently that if/when I get a new computer I probably won’t be able to open and work on them in the new one, nor woudl I be able to use the Adobe PhotoShop 6.0 and Illustrator 10 which I currently have including the original disks.

Are the thumbs really a bad idea, and will I have to pay for the newer versions of the Adobe when the time comes?

Thanks in advance, Carolyn


Dear Carolyn,

Congratulations on keeping your computer running for over 10 years! In my experience, the average computer only lasts about 5 years before it either needs repairs that are just too expensive or is just too slow to run current software programs.

I also want to congratulate you on having the forsight to start backing up your files. A 10 year old hard drive could die at any time, leaving all your files lost forever.

When and if you get a new computer, you will be able to access your pictures and documents that you have saved on the thumb drives. If your pictures are in .jpg format, they can be easily read by any program, and if your documents are in .doc, .rtf or .txt format they will also be easily read by any computer running any version of Windows.

Where you might run into a little bit of trouble is with the Adobe programs. I don’t really know what versions of PhotoShop and Illustrator run on Windows 7, but there is a good chance that any 10 year old program will need to be updated

Fortunately, you can purchase upgrade versions of Illustrator and PhotoShop instead of having the purchase the full versions again.

I would try the programs that you have on the new computer, and if you can’t get them to work, go ahead and purchase the upgrades.


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    • ron007
    • August 4, 2011

    I’ll add my congratulations on your “ancient” computer.

    When you buy a new computer it will have Windows7, or even Windows 8 (if you are lucky!). MS provides “upgrade preparation” tools that indicate if current programs on a computer will work on newer version of Windows. You don’t have to do the update, just run the tools to find out what they say about your preferred software. MS also typically lists what versions of popular programs will run on their OS. Also, the software vendor, say Adobe for Photoshop, will be able to tell you if your version will run on Windows 7.

    This is more technical, and you probably would need help to make the following techniques work. You will have to decide if the extra effort is worth it. Windows 7 (and hopefully Win8) also provides 2 more ways of getting older programs to run. In some editions of Win7 you can run programs in “XP Compatibility Mode”, which “dumbs down” win7 so that it thinks it is XP. There are also “Visualization” tools that run on Win7. They allow you to “install WinXP in the virtual “machine”, then install your older software on this Virtual XP.

    All that being said, it is probably time to upgrade your software when you get a new computer. There have been lots of “improvements” to software over the last 10 years, such as new features and tools. But more importantly, over the last 10 years, hacking and “malware” has become a huge problem. Many of the recent program updates have been to fix “vulnerabilities” in programs. Problems in the programs that do not affect the average user experience, but provide opportunities for hackers to take over the program and your computer.

    Another thing to consider is that over 10 years, the new programs may NOT be able to read the old files. Although file extensions stay the same, the underlying structure has to change to handle new features. For example, Word 2010 would probably have problems reading DOC files created in Word 97 (the edition that would be common on 10 year old computers).

    As well, although many Software vendors provide discounted “upgrade” from older versions, there are 2 things to consider. First, the upgrade often only applies back one or two versions. All of your software is probably not eligible for upgrade discount. Second, MS has taken the plunge with Office 2010 and NO LONGER offers the “upgrade” discount. It only sells “full” versions of Office 2010. I expect to see many other software vendors taking advantage of this cash grab tactic.

    If you are using more than a couple of USB thumb drives, you will probably find it more cost effective to buy a large, 1TB or larger, USB drive. They are about the size of a paperback book and start at around $50.

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