I just received a press release from Krones urging its users to upgrade their current Botec Classic process control system as it was designed for Windows 7, which will no longer be supported in a few weeks. The newer system, Botec F1, not only supports Windows 10, but brings with it a lot of worthwhile new functionality, which I’ll discuss later.

However, this announcement reminded me of my own Windows 7 upgrade experience of just a few days ago, which proved to be very successful. So if you haven’t upgraded yet, you may be pleasantly surprised with the results.

I confess. I thought I’d take a chance (i.e., security risk) and go on with Windows 7 Professional on my own self-built Intel Core I7-K desktop with 32 Gbytes of RAM for a couple more years or so because I wasn’t ready to lose support of some hardware and software on my machine. I remember when operating system (OS) migration didn’t go so well—whether Windows or Linux. Basically, it was just easier to start with a clean slate. Re-install everything and hope for the best, that aging hardware and software would be supported in the new OS. Complicating my upgrade was that (because of backward compatibility for some hardware that I still occasionally use) this computer runs four operating systems: Windows XP Pro-32 bit, Windows XP Pro-64 bit, Ubuntu 18.04 LTS Linux, and Windows 7 Professional.

So, I decided to bite the bullet. I went to Microsoft’s Windows 10 upgrade page and downloaded the Microsoft upgrade tool and the Windows 10 image for the September 2018 version (Microsoft releases new editions of Windows 10 every spring and fall). After imaging my Windows 7 system drive (which I do on a regular basis, and you should do as well in case you lose your disk or suffer an unrecoverable virus), I decided to try keeping all my Windows 7 settings and programs in the upgrade process—and crossed my fingers while the computer crunched through all its operations.

Would all my programs and drivers work—and most important, would I get my familiar GRUB boot menu showing my selection of operating systems? On the final reboot, there it was: GRUB showing “Windows 10” instead of “Windows 7” and my other OS selections, which seemed a good omen. Upon Windows 10 starting up, I had a messy desktop, but the new OS retained all my icons and even my wallpaper. So far, yes to all the programs—from some old DOS batch files to Win 32 and Win 64 programs. Scanner still working. NVidia driver automatically updated. Network updated to more secure SMB3 protocols. The only thing I had to do manually, which took two minutes, was to update the driver for my specialized sound card—and it’s now working perfectly.

I realize that I was probably lucky; I certainly did not expect such a transparent upgrade. Kudos to Microsoft. As I said before, in the past upgrading OSs was usually disastrous and required starting fresh—many process control engineers will remember going from Windows NT to Windows 2000 or XP or 2003 Server, and in most cases, process control software providers recommended replacing hardware and OS. In fact, most process control vendors wouldn’t even support control systems running the older system.

Process control systems and Windows upgrades today

Krones’ Botec Classic process control system has a 25-year history with more than 2,550 installations.

“Krones is now recommending all Classic users to change over to the F1 variant,” says Ingrid Reuschl, Krones spokesperson. “The reason is not Botec itself, but the operating system installed on the computers: from mid-January 2020, Microsoft entirely ceases the support for Windows 7. In order to assure continued dependable production nonetheless in line with contemporary standards, Krones accordingly advises upgrading to Botec F1, since this runs on contemporary hardware and supports all Windows versions currently available.”

What’s more, the system can be easily expanded, and above all is being continually design-enhanced, according to Reuschl. “For an upgrade process, in consultative coordination with the client, particular attention is paid to ensuring that production can continue to be run almost uninterrupted even during the actual change-over work.”

By changing over to Botec F1, beverage producers not only receive a state-of-the-art solution that simplifies batch production. The system also satisfies the continual demand for networking: for example, via standardized interfaces, the process control system can be integrated into a manufacturer’s IT landscape, and connected up to an existing ERP or MES system and to BI solutions.

Some real reasons to upgrade

Besides being current with the latest Windows OS, Botec users have some other good reasons to upgrade. New functionalities include:

  • Self-managed trending module (for visualization with Iltis WPF)
  • Tracking and tracing
  • Implementation of current IT security standards
  • Virtualization of the process control systems
  • SitePilot integration
  • Material validation with barcode scanners
  • Video mode   
  • Four different visualization options

No matter what process control system you are using, if you haven’t already been notified about upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10, it’s worth checking out as you may find that the application you’re using may be more capable as well—as in the case of Krones’ Botec F1.

Why Windows 10? Most compelling is maintaining a strong cybersecurity posture, which means your system will be updated with security patches as soon as Microsoft releases them. By the way, the same holds true if you’re running a Linux host. Security updates come out regularly as well, and it makes sense to stay current with security releases.

Last but not least, stay current with security updates for PLC, PAC, DCS and other process control systems, which can be found on the ICS-CERT website. Better yet, you can get on their mailing list to be informed of controller updates—even if you don’t hear from the supplier.