What to do when your PC expires

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In response to an Any Answers question on AccountingWEB, Simon Hurst offers some advice on what to do when your Windows PC expires.

A recent Any Answers question raised the issue of what to do when a hardware failure makes it necessary to replace one computer in a small network. Given that the obvious route is to buy a new computer with the latest operating system and version of Office installed, this leaves you with several options:

  • Tarantual in the bananas - accept the fact that one of several computers will be using a different operating system and version of Office
  • Lowest common denominator - downgrade the operating system and/or Office version to maintain consistency
  • Grasp the nettle - use this as a prompt to initiate a general operating system and application update
  • Open to change - conduct a wholesale review of the software infrastructure and consider abandoning Windows and Office altogether
  • Dump the desktop - conduct a wholesale review of the whole system and consider moving from an internal network running desktop software to a cloud solution.

Now let's look at the pros and cons of each of these options.

Further reading

About the author
Simon Hurst is a former chairman of the ICAEW IT Faculty and runs The Knowledge Base, a consultancy dedicated to helping accountants make effective use of technology. He is a regular contributor to AccountingWEB's ExcelZone and the author of '100 Time-saving Tips for Microsoft Office'. For more information, visit The Knowledge Base website.

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By shurst
12th Aug 2010 15:48

Buy a Mac

Before anybody else points it out, I should of course have included an option 6 - buy a Mac...

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12th Aug 2010 22:21


how is that going to help!

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because it and the software that runs on it is easier to use and more stable for starters.

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13th Aug 2010 13:15

missed the point entirely

what you say may be so - but if its on a nwetwork this is an almost entirely uinworkable solution - and thats before you get into legacy matters

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13th Aug 2010 13:41


Good luck trying to find an accounts-prep or tax product to work on the Mac when you do get it.

Plus, from reports I've read, Windows 7 is proving to be MORE stable than OSX  (which does crash now and then, despite what Apple would have you believe - just Google for 'spinning beach ball of death'!)

Actually, Windows 7's dramatically improved stability is possibly a good enough reason to go for the 'grasp the nettle' option and upgrade everything!.

I recommend Windows 7 without reservation. It just works.     Get some decent kit, make sure you've got 4Gb of RAM to keep everything nice and fast, and you'll be SO much better off than struggling along with XP or Vista.

It needn't be expensive: I just did a quick check on the Dell website - a Vostro 230 ST with 4Gb RAM, 19" screen and Windows 7 Professional will set you back £469 plus VAT.

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13th Aug 2010 14:04

absolutely CV

well put - it was a load of hokum

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13th Aug 2010 14:40

linux surely...
...has to be considered as a viable option for small business. It's free for goodness sake and is just as usable as the windows environment and openoffice apps work with .doc and .xls formats etc. You could simply wipe your hard drives clean and enjoy a fresh install of ubuntu or fedora, say, with all the necessary apps pre-installed. There's more than sufficient support online at various linux websites.

Only drawback is whether apps like Sage 50 would work via WINE. If not, you could still consider using a virtual machine, which is still free, would work just fine (providing hardware is up to the task).

Is there any reason why a small business would not want to move to a FREE and STABLE linux based operating system???!!!

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My mistake

... thought we had finally entered the post "Sage on Windows is my (one and only) recommendation" world! MS DOS anyone?  ; )

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Boot Camp

If you need to run Windows only apps why not just use Boot Camp; the MacBook Air I bought last year is the best Windows machine I've ever had.

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13th Aug 2010 15:05


you do not have a monopoly on wisdom

does your solution work over a network - which is exactly the point i was making 

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It's late on a Friday afternoon

have I understood this correctly- are you asking me if you can run Macs on a Network?

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13th Aug 2010 18:56


can you run macs on a windows network with only other  windows machines that would would be able to use windows programs from the server

and yes i agree that macs are great but that is not is dispute i would have thought

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16th Aug 2010 12:28

Read the small print ...

but there is WINE, the Windows emulator - well, not quite, since "WINE" stands for "WINE Is Not an Emulator" ...

Also, any input on Open Office (for both Windows and Linux) ?

I have used some parts of this, but since it is not subject to the same degree of "management" as Office, I have heard that it does suffer from one or two usability issues, such as user interface consistency.

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PC to Mac

You're not going to be able to use a Mac to directly open Windows apps if that's what you mean; Mac has a different OS which I guess is the point. However, you can use a Windows PC as a server for Mac files (and vice versa). The point about legacy files and the unavailability of certain equivalent Windows software for the Mac is a valid one and there a couple of things to help PC to Mac switchers. Firstly, Office for Mac allows two way exchange of its files between Mac and Windows. Also, there are a couple of solutions when you use a Mac but have to use PC apps. Firstly, there's a utility included in the Mac OS called Boot Camp which lets you start your Mac as PC- you will need to buy a copy of a Windows OS. Alternatively, there is emulation software that let's you run Windows within the Mac OS- it gives you a window that is your PC on the Mac desktop so you can easily switch between the two environments. Parallels is an example- £65 and you'll need a copy of a Windows OS.

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16th Aug 2010 20:18

thanks JW

i am considerably better informed..

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