Managing Computer Obsolescence with Old CNC Equipment

Microsoft has stopped supporting the Windows XP operating system, but some CNC equipment still relies on it. What are the practical workarounds for machine owners? April 18, 2015

I hope someone has an answer for this. I have an older model CNC (2001) with an Osai controller. It uses a protocol called "Netbeui" to communicate with my PC. My computer that I use is an XP, which is the last operating system that supports Netbeui. Windows has announced that they are stopping support for XP as well and the newer computers will not run XP. As my computer is on its last leg, I need help.

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor W:
This is a non-CNC answer, but I have a similar situation with software I use to manage my customer base. It is proprietary software and would be cost prohibitive to re-enter years of data into current software. I went on eBay and purchased two rebuilt laptop computers that were in good shape and still had XP operating systems on them. Not the correct answer, I know, but the most cost effective one I could muster.

From contributor C:
We are running Biesse machines and have XP at the controller. They have not given us the green light to switch to Windows 7 yet. I understand your frustration, but you should be able to buy (and I see them advertised on e-Bay) - XP Pro PC.

From Contributor F:
Microsoft allows you to purchase newer operating systems and downgrade them to prior releases if you need to. I suggest you virtualize your XP machine and you can run it in any OS.

From Contributor U:
This is a common problem with CNC machines. There is no easy answer and every case is different. A lot of machine cannot be upgraded to a newer PC. If you do upgrade, then the PLC, and sometimes also the drives/motors also need to be upgraded. The old drives/motors and PLC's are not compatible with the newer operating systems. There is no way around this with OEM machines.

Your best bet is to create a clone of your hard drive on your existing PC for the machine. If the hard drive fails, then you can at least restore it to a running condition. You need to create an exact clone! Not just copy certain directories, a lot of machines use custom communications with the PLC's and drives/motors. This custom software is not compatible with newer windows and the manufacturers of those parts want you to purchase new parts from them. It is not the fault of the OEM CNC builder, they are using the latest and greatest. You can easily purchase computer parts and rebuild the PC as long as you have a good clone of the existing drive! Acronis TrueImage, Norton Ghost are examples of programs you can use to make clones. This will keep you running and save a lot of headache down the road!

From contributor P:
I have been told (by a couple salesman, so take it with a grain) that the XP support being dropped does not apply to industrial applications. Microsoft apparently still encourages that sector to use XP as it is the only stable platform for them. They are working to make 7 stable enough and are about there, but as of now XP is the one.
All of the machines I looked at prior to purchasing (a couple months ago) still come with XP.

From contributor R:
The Osai NC will work with Windows 7 32 bit professional. You will need to install the Netbeui protocol manually, but it will work with the WinNBI and WinPlus Applications.

From Contributor E:
I imagine there are literally millions of XP-vintage PCs out there, including many that have been pushed to the back room, closet, or trash heap as users, particularly business users, have upgraded to newer, faster machines. If you need to stick with a specific OS, simply dedicate that PC in question to the task at hand - in this case communicating with the OSAI/Netbeui control. Don't update it, don't put it on the Internet, don't install new software, just reserve it purely for what you need it. Replacing hard drives is relatively simple, and parts for just about everything else should be easy enough to acquire. We have users still running Win98 PCs connected to their CNCs, and I suspect there are still some DOS machines in use. Certainly extending the life of the PC hardware is cheaper than installing a new control.