Migrating to Windows 8.1 in a Primary School
Over the last few years we have moved from Windows XP to using Windows 7 throughout the school on desktop and laptop computers. This move was very smooth on the whole and the vast majority of the wide range of applications that teachers and pupils use throughout the school migrated from XP to Windows 7 without any major problems. Recently we received a donation of a new laptop computer. The operating system on this laptop was Windows 8.1 which is quite common on most new pc’s and laptops on sale today. One sees fewer new devices still shipping with Windows 7 as a downgrade option from Windows 8 online or in local stores. Consideration was given to the option of downgrading the operating system to Windows 7 and perhaps having difficulty with sourcing Window 7 compatible hardware drivers. In the end we decided to go ahead and see how we got on with installing the variety of software applications used in the school.
Most applications used by pupils e.g. curriculum reinforcement titles such as Maths Made Easy, Reading for Literacy, Sherston’s Literacy Bank and Numeracy Bank, Maths Circus 3 – 6, adventure games such as Who Took the Book and Who Stole Mona all installed without any problems. Titles used on the interactive whiteboards by teachers such as Literacy Activity Builder, Numeracy Activity Builder and Science Activity Builder, Know Your Ireland, Know Your Europe, Vikings, Romans, Vikings and Anglo-Saxons and Compose World Play all installed without difficulty. Even versions of some very old titles such as Paint Shop Pro 5 dating back the best part of twenty years installed.
I did have a bit of fun getting .Net Framework 3.0 version based Microsoft’s own titles such as Encarta 2008, AutoCollage and SongSmith to install. The problem here is that the .Net Framework 3.5 version is not turned on by default in Windows 8.1. Windows 8.1 ships with .Net Framework 4.5 turned on by default. Applications based on earler versions of the .Net Framework were designed to download and install the relevant .Net Framework if it wasn’t already installed. .Net Framework 3.5 is not available for download on Windows 8/8.1. You are expected to turn on/off that feature in Programs within the Control Panel, which will then download the required files from Windows update. I found that when I tried this, the necessary files weren’t being found. Using a Google search I found a useful article in a Microsoft Knowlegebase – How to enable .NET Framework 3.5 on Windows 8 in Offline Mode which guided me in installing the .Net Framework 3.5 in offline mode using the Recovery DVD. Once this problem was sorted the titles installed successfully.
When moving to a new operating system one expects that there are going to be some casualties with each move with some older titles. In our school, and indeed in many Irish primary schools I have no doubt, some much loved Microsoft Reference titles such as Dangerous Creatures, Ancient Lands, Dogs etc. are still in use. These titles date back to the early days of multi-media computers when cd’s became popular in 386 based pc’s purchased for use in schools and homes using Windows 3.1 and Windows 95. I tried using the Windows 8.1 compatibility feature, using a manual install featured in an old Microsoft Knowledgebase article to no avail. Sadly it appears that these Microsoft Home titles are not compatible with Windows 8.1.