Over the past year I have had some old machines in the office that were having extreme difficulty with lack of speed and driver instability in Windows XP. With all of the "problems" with Vista, I delayed purchasing new equipment and upgrading my version of Dentrix for a couple of years. With the arrival on Windows 7 and several "final straw" events, I decided to replace two of my machines and upgrade my server with Windows 7.
The road over the past three weeks has been rocky, but as crazy as it may sound, it has been more rewarding finding out the caveats of new hardware and software than it was banging my head against a wall with the old equipment and abandoned, malfunctioning drivers.
The following is a guide based on the state of hardware and software as of Thanksgiving in 2009 (Windows 7 has been officially released for 1 month). I use Dentrix, Dexis, and CAESY as my main workhorses in the office. Hopefully the information here will help to guide you in purchasing or waiting to purchase specific hardware.
I’ll first begin with software, and how it performs on a myriad of both equipment and versions of Windows 7 in my office. Each software package has been installed on a 32-bit and a 64-bit machine. On the 64-bit machines, both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 have been tested. Remember, you can install a 32-bit version of Windows 7 on a 64-bit machine, but you cannot install a 64-bit version of Windows on a 32-bit machine.
DENTRIX G4 (Power Pack 6)
- 32-bit machine – Dentrix seems to work fine with Win7 Pro and Ultimate on 32-bit hardware.
- 64-bit machine – This is my "server" and it is running 32-bit Win7 Pro. Things have been rocky, as the machine seems to not be able to handle 7 connections in the standard installation. The problem seems to have been corrected using the information in the "Networking Error…" section below.
- 32-bit machine – N/A
- 64-bit machine – Dentrix Patient Chart does NOT work currently in this environment. With two instances I was unable to get all of the submodules, especially the Treatment Planning module, to appear in the Patient Chart. The answer here, for now, is to use XP Mode, which only works on certain machines. (See XP MODE note below)
32-bit Win 7
- 32-bit machine – Dexis and the PCMCIA-based sensor are working fine in this environment (Win7 Ultimate)
- 64-bit machine – Dexis software accesses existing chart images well. However the PCMCIA-based sensor seems to be a 16-bit device, and will therefore NEVER WORK ON A 64-BIT MACHINE. So, a 64-bit machine is not a current solution in an operatory where Dexis radiographs are obtained.
64-bit Win 7
- 32-bit machine – N/A
64-bit machine – Dexis software did not install correctly in this environment. In order to use Dexis on this machine, it must be run in XP Mode, which only runs on certain machines. (See XP MODE note below). Also the PCMCIA-based sensor seems to be a 16-bit device, and will therefore NEVER WORK ON A 64-BIT MACHINE. So, a 64-bit machine is not a current solution in an operatory where Dexis radiographs are obtained.
32-bit Win 7
- 32-bit machine – CAESY installs without fail, launches correctly, and displays CAESY’s still artwork gallery, but is unable to launch Windows Media Player 10 to play videos. Therefore CAESY WILL NOT WORK in this environment.
- 64-bit machine – CAESY installs without fail, launches correctly, and displays CAESY’s still artwork gallery, but is unable to launch Windows Media Player 10 to play videos. The only way to make CAESY work in 64-bit Windows 7 is to run CAESY in XP Mode, which only works on certain machines (See XP MODE note below). (There are apparently Windows Media Player 9 "downgrade" solutions on the internet, but none of the sites offering the downloads seemed trustworthy, so I did not test the possibility of downgrading to WMP9.)
64-bit Win 7
- 32-bit machine – N/A
64-bit machine – CAESY installs without fail, launches correctly, and displays CAESY’s still artwork gallery, but is unable to launch Windows Media Player 10 to play videos. The only way to make this work is to run CAESY in XP Mode, which only works on certain machines (See XP MODE note below)
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In setting up these applications, I ran into several caveats in Windows 7 that perhaps others will face:
Windows 7 (Professional and Ultimate) can run XP Mode on certain newer machines. In order to test your hardware, use Microsoft’s tool posted at their XP Mode download page.
XP Mode installs a virtual computer on the machine that runs Windows XP SP3 in a window. Once installed, this virtual environment needs to be nurtured with updates and virus protection just like our old 2001 computers did, in addition to your care for the Windows 7 environment. What’s worse, is that XP Mode natively only runs in 16-bit color mode, which means that it is completely unusable for displaying images and videos (Dexis and CAESY). Don’t despair, though! A registry hack to enable 24-bit color in XP Mode is out there, and works great. It is applied to regedit in the XP virtual machine, not Win7’s regedit!
Therefore if one plans to run CAESY (at all), or Dentrix (in 64-bit Windows 7), one should install all three of the apps in XP Mode, and live in a virtual environment until CAESY and Dentrix can get their software packages running in Windows 7.
Networking Error In Windows 7
When my Dentrix Server was installed on a 32-bit machine running Windows 7 Professional (32-bit), the system seemed to work very well. After shifting some computers around to satisfy Dexis’ 16-bit hardware requirements, the "server" is a 64-bit machine running Windows 7 Professional (32-bit). Soon after completing this installation I began getting this error in my two operatories that are running Windows XP SP3 (could be a complete coincidence):
"Not enough server storage is available to process this command."
When the error notification appeared, both XP machines in operatories would lose their mapped drive connections to the server, but did NOT lose connections to CAESY, an old computer running an intranet in the office, or the internet. Since adjusting the IRPStackSize registry entry on the Server (Win7 Professional machine), the problem seems to be solved. More information on this change is available here: http://winhlp.com/node/40
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Therefore, at this point there is no Windows 7 solution that currently will run all of Dentrix, Dexis, and CAESY correctly. The hardware restrictions put forth by Dexis’ outdated sensor technology will be a major problem for offices in the ensuing couple of years. We all thought that the sensors would eventually die a physical death, however most of these sensors will end up dying death of obsolescence.
When will these three get on board with the operating system that Microsoft released to developers over a YEAR ago? The best clues I have gotten from Dentrix and CAESY point to Microsoft’s SP1 timetable. All Dexis support would tell me is that they do not support Windows 7 and that I should not be using it. (This, along with attitude of the technical support advisor, will kept fresh in my mind when my sensor needs to be replaced).
Here is my setup:
RECEPTION – 64-bit machine running Windows 7 Professional (32-bit). This machine has a 500GB HDD which hosts all Dentrix and Dexis databases.
OP1 – 64-bit machine running Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit OEM). This machine has no x-ray head in the room, so we only need Dexis to view images. Because of Dentrix Chart and CAESY’s limitations, all three apps are run in XP Mode hacked for 24-bit color. This machine has a 500GB HDD and will host all Recorded TV for Windows Media Center.
OP2 – 32-bit machine running Windows 7 Ultimate (32-bit). This machine takes films from a PCMCIA-based Dexis sensor. It cannot run CAESY, as it cannot run XP Mode.
OP3 – 2 year old 32-bit machine running Windows XP Professional. This machine takes films from a PCMCIA-based Dexis sensor, and because it is running XP, runs CAESY normally.
OP4 – 3 year old 32-bit machine running Windows XP Professional. Because it is running XP, it runs CAESY normally.
DR’S OFFICE – New 64-bit HP laptop running Windows Ultimate RC Build 7001 (32-bit). This machine runs Dentrix and Dexis fine, but won’t run CAESY videos, which isn’t important in my personal office.
The reason I am installing Ultimate in the operatories is to have Windows Media Center (the world’s greatest DVR) available for patients to watch recorded TV and internet TV on the overhead monitors.
Good luck with your setups! I hope this guide helps everyone to find a solution quickly and quietly. PLEASE contribute to the information here with your own experiences, because as far as I can tell, our specialty software vendors are being anything but aggressive in adapting their software to the needs of today’s new hardware customer.