How can I upgrade from Office 2000 on Windows Vista?

Walter has problems with Microsoft Office 2000 on Windows Vista on his 2007-vintage laptop. Jack Schofield suggests some possible upgrades

I have a Windows 2000 office product installed on a Vista laptop PC purchased in 2007. I now can no longer save any data on work spreadsheets sent to me by another company. However, I have received conflicting advice/opinions. Some say I can just purchase Office 2010 or 2013 software. Others say I would have to download Windows 7 or 8 in order to upgrade my Office package. Would you be able to offer any kind of advice? Walter

When it comes to technology, some people like to be on the leading edge, buying new products when they come out. Others prefer to be on the trailing edge, and only update when they have to. However, if you're running a business, it's a really bad idea to fall off the trailing edge. When this happens, you end up using slow products with compatibility problems, because the newer versions have extra features and, often, new file formats. Your software is no longer supported, and therefore represents a security risk. Finally, when you do upgrade, you face a very steep learning curve. In this case, you might have to jump from Office 2000 to Office 2013, and absorb more than a decade of change all at once.

Unfortunately, it's not clear why you can no longer save data. Old programs can't be expected to handle newer file formats, but if you can load the files, you should be able to save them. Even if the worksheets are protected, you can use the "Save as" feature to save them under a slightly different name. For example, you could add -ed1 to the end of the existing name.

In this case, Microsoft provided a free Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint File Formats that works on Windows XP SP3 (ie XP with Service Pack 3 installed) as well as on Vista SP1 or SP2. You should be able to download it from Microsoft's download centre, but if not, you can get it from the Major Geeks website.

The problem is that Microsoft Office 2000 (which dates from March 1999) and Office 2003 are no longer supported, so ideally you should not use them. As with Windows XP, Microsoft is no longer patching their security holes, so you would be more vulnerable to malware that targets Office.

A new Office

The simplest option would be to buy a retail copy of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010 or, for business use, Home and Business 2010. If you buy it on DVD then you will be able to uninstall it from your current computer and reinstall it on a new one, when you upgrade your laptop. If you buy a cheaper PKC (Product Key Card) version of Office 2010, this will be tied to the PC on which you install it. (Following complaints, Microsoft changed the PKC license for Office 2013 to make it transferable to a new PC.)

Microsoft Office Home and Business 2010 runs on Windows Vista SP1 or SP2 and needs a 500MHz processor, 256MB of memory, and 3GB of free hard drive space. I'd recommend at least a 1GHz processor and 2GB of memory for acceptable performance. Either way, you don't need to upgrade from Vista to run Office 2010.

That's not the case with Microsoft Office 2013. If you want to use this version, then you will have to upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8.

Windows 7/8 users also have the option to subscribe to Office 365 Small Business Premium for £100.80 per year, plus VAT (£120.96). This gets you both desktop and online versions of the eight main Office programs, plus the use of web-based versions of the programs on up to five devices (PCs, Macs, and selected tablets and smartphones). Each user also gets a business email service, a website, telephone support, and a terabyte of online storage in OneDrive for Business. You can get a free trial if you want to test it.

Office 365 Small Business is cheaper at £39.60 plus VAT per user per year. However, this doesn't include desktop versions of the Office programs or the Office Mobile Apps (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) for tablets and smartphones.

If you buy a laptop with a trial version of Microsoft Office pre-installed, you must uninstall this before installing a retail copy of Microsoft Office, to avoid confusing Microsoft's online activation system.

Big bang upgrade

Windows Vista is currently in its extended support phase of its lifecycle. This will end on 11 April 2017, so you could use it for almost three more years. The problem is that your 2007 laptop is already seven years old, and probably slow and clunky by today's' standards.

A typical Vista laptop had an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of memory, and an 80GB or perhaps a 160GB hard drive. If your laptop has 2GB or preferably 4GB plus a midrange processor such as a 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo T6600 or a Pentium Dual Core T4400 then it's probably survivable. If it has less than 2GB and a slower Celeron processor then you should probably upgrade sooner rather than later.

Ideally, compare your old Vista laptop with a newer model running Windows 7 or Windows 8. Video half an hour of typical work either using a camera on a tripod – a webcam would do – or a program that takes a continuous video of the screen. (This may affect the performance.) You can run the two videos side by side and get a good idea of the difference in speed, particularly the times taken to load programs, save files, and surf web pages.

The videos will enable you to calculate how much time you would save by buying a new PC and, from your hourly rate, how quickly it would pay for itself. I'd expect an average Windows 8 PC to be roughly twice as fast as an old Vista machine for ordinary tasks -- though you probably won't type any quicker. It depends on your workload. If you have any heavyweight recompilations that take many minutes, or you need frequent reboots, then sticking with your old laptop is throwing money away. (And XP is even worse than Vista.)

A new PC running Windows 7 will require hardly any relearning: you should be able to use it immediately. All versions of Windows 7 are current Microsoft products and will be on sale until 31 October and supported until 14 January 2020. Windows 7 Professional will continue as a current Microsoft product to a future date yet to be announced. It's the business standard.

Windows 8

You could also upgrade to Windows 8. This has some advantages such as much quicker start and wake-up times, better security, access to new Windows Store apps, and slightly better performance. Of course, you will have more to learn, though most problems can be solved simply by typing a few characters into the start screen.

Some traditional PC users didn't like the original touch-first version of Windows 8, but Microsoft has shipped two significant upgrades since then. The current Windows 8.1 Update 1 is much more amenable to mouse and keyboard users. Watch Scott Hanselman's Windows 8 tutorial videos before deciding.

Windows 8.1 Update 1 isn't perfect but, when properly set up, it's an excellent operating system. If you can benefit from using it, don't let the ignoranti put you off.



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