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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Beyond Windows XP Part 2 – Windows Embedded

Users of Industrial PCs have some decisions to make due to the End of Life announcements for Windows XP. Read more in our previous post  “Windows XP – Prevalent and Problematic.

There are two valid paths for an Industrial PC user beyond Windows XP and both would require testing and validation to make sure they are going to work with no additional headaches. In this post we will explore the option to switch to Windows Embedded.

While a full-blown Windows 7 or Windows 8 installation is a great catch-all solution, Windows Embedded Operating Systems have several benefits for the industrial space. Windows Embedded is “built” (usually by the Industrial PC provider) specific to the machine it is on taking into account its hardware and software. The benefit of this is that your Operating System footprint is much smaller than a full-blown Windows installation. For example, if you don’t need audio support then you would not install that component of Windows. Instantly, that space is saved and an unnecessary (to your application) part of Windows is not there to cause problems. This also leads to better stability and control of how the system is used. The Embedded Operating Systems can also set the drive where the OS resides to be effectively read-only to protect the original configuration. Writeable volumes can be set up if data needs to be stored. In an Industrial Application where equipment owners typically want to maintain the system as they intended it without a user accidentally (or maliciously) changing things, there is a huge benefit that results in more up-time and less variance in the configuration of deployed systems.

There are three choices for Windows Embedded Operating Systems: 
  • Windows Embedded Standard 2009
  • Windows Embedded Standard 7 
  • Windows Embedded 8 Standard

Windows Embedded 8 Standard should only be considered if there is some aspect of Windows 8 that is necessary for your application.  Windows Embedded Standard 2009 is based on Windows XP and has its extended support end on January 8, 2019.  Windows Embedded Standard 2009 is an excellent choice if you have a mature Windows XP deployment and long-term availability of hardware from your Industrial PC provider. Computer Dynamics can help you determine if you can make a Windows Embedded Standard 2009 build from your current Windows XP system.  If so, this will help you lock down your installation and offer longer-term availability over Windows XP Pro for Embedded Systems. Again, consider this only if your hardware and applications are mature and you do not plan on making any major changes. In the same vein, Windows Embedded 7 Standard should be considered if you are either currently running Windows 7 or want to move to Windows 7.  Extended support for Windows Embedded Standard 7 continues until October 13, 2020.

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