Saturday, 5 June 2010

How to install old hardware in Windows 7 when no drivers are available?

Suppose you have just bought a new computer with Windows 7 installed but have old hardware that worked in Windows 2000, Windows XP or Windows Vista but doesn't work on Windows 7 (no new driver made available by the hardware company or driver complicated to install) do not throw it away and buy new hardware. Here is a trick to get it to work on your new system for free.

In my case I had two items of hardware that worked on Windows XP but caused a problem on Windows 7: A Lexmark All-in-one X74 (X75) printer-scanner and a Konika Minolta QMS Magicolor 2300 DL (W) color laser printer. Note: The Minolta does have a driver but the installation involves the complicated step of installing a new firmware directly on the printer. Something I decided to avoid if possible.

TBH I was a bit annoyed with the hardware companies Lexmark and Konika Minolta for not supplying a decent driver for Windows 7. IMO that is very lousy support. I was also initially angry with Microsoft for releasing a new operating system without making sure that old harware could be reused on it. I then realised that Microsoft have issued an XP emulator named XP Mode:

This can theoretically help to run old XP software and XP drivers. The big problem with XP Mode is that it is not available to users running Windows 7 Home Premium, only Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Enterprise or Windows 7 Ultimate. As I have Home Premium and it would cost more than 100 CHF (more than 100 dollars) to upgrade I decided that that was not an option. I am sure that 90% of the people wanting to use XP Mode will have Home Premium installed as companies can afford to replace their hardware regularly anyway. Thanks Microsoft!

The solution I found is to install another emulator (virtual machine) called VMware Player 3.1 and available free of charge from the VMWare website:

The only condition for it to work is to still have the old Windows XP installation CD available somewhere. Though you might still be able to get it to work by installing a Linux version if the hardware has a Linux driver.

The installation is very easy. Simply install VMWare Player then click on "Create a New Virtual Machine" you will then be asked for the Windows XP installation CD you then just need to enter the activation code. The full installation will then take about 40 minutes like a normal XP installation would.

The Player simply runs as a window inside Windows 7 like any other software would. You then simply need to open a browser in Windows XP and install the necessary drivers for your old hardware. Plug your old hardware into your computer then click on the small icon that appears at the bottom of the VMWare window and choose to connect so that VMWare knows that you want the hardware connected to your Windows XP emulator. You can then transfer files from Windows 7 to Windows XP by either Copy-pasting or creating a shared folder in Windows 7 (like you would do on a shared network). Very easy.

If this article was of any use to you please add a comment specifying the type of hardware (e.g. printer, modem, etc...), the make and the model for which you couldn't find the necessary Windows 7 driver so that other people with the same problem can find the information faster. Thanks

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