Dec 15, 2011

Why won't my printer work with Windows 7?

by Poppy Lochridge — last modified Dec 15, 2011 12:00 AM

The short answer is: drivers.

Think of a driver as a translator; it's the go between that takes commands from your computer, and relays them to the printer in a language it can understand. And like our spoken languages, there are a multitude of printer languages, one or more for each printer manufacturer. And an HP printer won't understand commands written in Dell-speak and Brother won't understand commands written in Xerox. So for each printer you own your computer needs to have installed a unique driver/translator.

Now, to continue the metaphor, the reason your old printer won't work in Windows 7 is that your printer now speaks what your computer considers to be Latin. Or Old English. Sure, there are some translators out there that could make it work, but odds are, unless the driver is specificity designed for the make and model of the old printer, some things are simply going to be lost in translation.

For example, I recently attempted to install an old HP 1029 LaserJet on a new Windows 7 machine, but HP decided not to support the 1029s anymore... ostensibly I was out of luck, but by searching Google I found that I might be able to use the driver for the HP LaserJet3055. And sure enough, it worked, but it kept tossing out errors and occasionally freezing in the middle of a print job. Once more to the metaphor: my printer was speaking in a Southern accent, and the driver I found was from Scotland: it only sort of worked.

So the long and short of it is, when you make the transition to Windows 7 some of your older printers simply won't work. But like anything, their time is drawing nigh. Microsoft is soon going to discontinue support of Windows XP, which will leave it more vulnerable to security breaches, so it's probably time to start budgeting for an office-wide upgrade....including the printers.

The good news is that printers are cheaper than ever before. When you bought that mighty B&W LaserJet 6 years ago it probably cost you several hundred... but these days you can get a color LaserJet fit for a small office for the same or less.

Still hope that your old printer will work? Well, you may be in luck! Search for your old printer on the Windows 7 Compatability Center (;your printer may indeed be supported by the manufacturer. Bear in mind, though, that just because the manufacturer says it has a Windows 7 driver doesn't mean it absolutely will work (the HP Universal driver is notorious for this sort of discrepancy)... each office is unique, and small differences can make the difference between a functioning old printer and, well, let's face it... a door stop.

Dec 13, 2011

Windows 7 Benchmark Testing

by Poppy Lochridge — last modified Dec 13, 2011 12:00 AM

When asked, netCorps staff has recommended purchasing new computers with Windows 7 on them, but cautioned against upgrading older systems until the hardware could be tested. We did some testing in October 2011 to see how well Windows 7 performs on older hardware, and here's the results!

We took two identical Pentium 4, 2.8GHz machines with 1GB of RAM installed and set up one with Windows XP and one with Windows 7 32-bit. We installed the same software on both machines: Microsoft Security Essentials, Firefox 7, Adobe Reader, and Microsoft Office 2007. We also installed Pathmark’s benchmarking software, which tests and grades several aspects of the system.

As we expected, the Windows XP machine scored higher on the Pathmark tests than the Windows 7 one did. However, we went on to test and time several typical office tasks on both machines as well – turning the computer on; opening a PDF document; loading the Firefox web browser; and opening Microsoft Word to a new document. On these tasks, the Windows 7 machine took roughly twice as long to start, but all other tasks took about the same amount of time or less.

In the automated testing routines done on the Windows 7 machine, the lowest scores - and the largest significant differences - were in video performance. To explore this further, we installed additional memory for this machine, bringing it up to 2GB (although the hardware could have taken more) and tested several add-in video cards. In most cases, we had to scrounge a bit to find Windows 7 compatible drivers for these cards - all were cards no longer in production, and the manufacturer website was not a reliable source of updated drivers. All of the cards improved performance somewhat, although not dramatically, and one had such difficulty with the 3D graphics that we had to disable hardware acceleration entirely to use the card.

With the additional memory and video cards installed, we added two more tests to our repertoire: we opened a large Excel spreadsheet and tested scrolling performance, and we tested the Windows Aero interface. The spreadsheet performance was tolerable with no video card installed, but improved a lot when we ran it with our overall best video card, the nVidia GeForce 6200.

We had done all of our previous testing with a Basic Theme in Windows 7, which disables several of the advanced graphical interface features, such as window transparency. The Basic themes will - and did - produce the best overall performance, but Windows Aero ran with the GeForce 6200 with no complaints.

Our testing suggests that this level of older hardware - Pentium 4, 2.8Ghz machines - can be upgraded to at least 2GB of memory and an add-in video card, and the performance on these machines will be adequate for many non-profit offices. We would still not suggest using these upgraded machines for heavy graphics or video use, but for basic office functions, they will work almost as well with Windows 7 as with Windows XP.


Raw Test Results:

Win XP – Pentium4 2.8, 1GB
Overall 323.3
CPU 504.4
2D Graphics 270.9
3D Graphics 61.5
Memory 397.3
Disk 385.1


Win 7 – Pentium4 2.8, 1GB
Overall 249.2
CPU 488
2D Graphics 86.4
3D Graphics 48.2
Memory 332.6
Disk 337.9


Win 7 – Pentium4 2.8, 1.5GB
Overall 264.4
CPU 483.3
2D Graphics 92.3
3D Graphics 55.8
Memory 393.0
Disk 325.3
Win 7 – Pentium4 2.8, 2GB
Overall 261.3
CPU 498.2
2D Graphics 105.7
3D Graphics 48.0
Memory 352.6
Disk 336.2
Win 7 – Pentium4 2.8, 2GB, nVidia GeForce 6200
Overall 308.3
CPU 494.8
2D Graphics 189.8
3D Graphics 59.2
Memory 459.0
Disk 348.3


Win XP        
Win 7
 Boot to Desktop        
 Launch Firefox
 8s 8s
 Launch Word
 7s 6s
 Open PDF
 3s  3s