How to share a legacy Wacom Intuos Graphire tablet between a Windows XP and (impossible but true) Windows 7 PC
I have a faithful Wacom Intuos Graphire A5 graphics tablet GD-0608-R which I find much easier to use than a mouse most of the time. It was very expensive in its day (£250) and it’s especially useful in Photoshop, Corel Draw and PaintShop Pro as well as routine word processing or emails.
The tablet has a traditional serial (COM) port not USB and the tablet’s DB9 plug also connects to a 12V mains adaptor, which is where the tablet gets its power from. The Intuos runs fine in Windows XP 32 bit, but I wanted to share it with a Windows 7 (32 bit) PC as well. That wasn’t as simple as it sounded, but I eventually devised a workaround enabling me to share this Wacom Intuos with a Windows 7 Professional 32 bit PC - something that's supposed to be impossible to do.
I found earlier XP drivers did not work in W7 at all. Wacom EU states (Jan 2012) in the Wacom Forum:
Tablets with a serial interface like Intuos and Intuos 2 (or even older) are currently supported under all 32 bit Windows operating systems (XP, Vista). The serial port to connect the tablet needs to be directly on the mainboard. We recommend to use the driver originally delivered with the tablet [didn’t work in W7 – AW]. The last driver with full serial support is version 6.0.5.
- The first driver with support for Windows 7 is 6.1.2. Therefore serial tablets are not supported on Windows 7 computers. [Oh yes they are – read on – AW]
- 64 bit operating systems cannot run a serial interface tablet.
- The usage of a serial-USB adaptor is not supported.
So in several places it’s claimed that this serial tablet could not work in Windows 7. Driver V6.05 was the last version to officially support serial tablets, but the driver was theoretically too old for Windows 7 support. However I decided to try it anyway.
Wacom Intuos Graphire in Windows 7 (32 bit)
Where to get this legacy driver? It was not on the US .com website but Wacom EU had posted a deep link in their forum directly to Pro-605-7_int.exe (ta-daa!). In fact all Wacom Windows drivers can be found on Wacom Europe’s FTP site or go to the root for other files for Mac, etc. The 6.05-7_int.exe file is critical if you want to use an old Wacom Intuos in Windows 7 32 bit, so grab it while you can.
It was fingers crossed whether this driver would work, or I would be doomed ? I downloaded V6.05-7 and found it installed perfectly on Windows 7 Professional (32 bit). It made all the normal ‘I am installing’ noises and then after a reboot I was relieved to see that it was working properly on my COM port. A new item in Windows Control Panel also pulled up the familiar Wacom applet.
Very interestingly, Windows 7 also installed extra hardware support which was a very pleasant surprise. For example I could now handwrite text on the graphics tablet for capture by Windows 7 handwriting recognition, which would then enter it directly into a Word text file. A handy new applet opened whenever I wanted to use handwriting. Using V6.05-7 against the odds, Windows 7 had recognised the old serial tablet and automatically installed these extra features perfectly!
The next problem was how to share the tablet with the Windows XP PC nearby. The obvious way is to use a classic serial data switch to select between the two PC’s serial ports, but (long story short) I also needed a null modem cable to switch over the serial inputs and output lines and then the changeover switch worked perfectly!
An unholy mix of DB9 and DB25 male and female connectors was messy and eventually I swapped the null modem cable for a very cheap DB9 null modem adaptor which eliminated a cable. The serial RS232 changeover switch cost about £10 and the null modem adaptor £1.60 from ebay. The data switch is old 1990s league comms kit but it saves a lot of messing with wires.
Here’s a list of the final setup and parts.
- PC #1 (Windows XP 32 bit) has a DB9 male COM port (A)
- PC #2 (Windows 7 Professional 32 bit) has a DB9 male COM port (B)
- My RS232 Data Switch has 3 x DB25 female ports (IN, OUT A, OUT B)
- 2 x DB25 male to DB9 female serial leads (1.8 metres) connect PC #1 and PC #2 to the A & B ports of the Data Switch.
- A classic DB25 male - DB9 male adaptor converts the Data Switch IN port to a DB9 male receptacle.
- Last of all, the Wacom tablet’s DB9 female plug connects through a DB9 male-to-female null modem adaptor to the Data Switch DB9 IN male receptacle.
- The Wacom plugs into the 12V supply as before.
Now by selecting A or B on the switch the Wacom tablet can be connected to either PC successfully and it works very well under Windows 7 (32 bit). I have no idea whether the same will hold true under Windows 8 yet but the fact that the serial tablet is perfectly supported in Windows 7 (32 bit) has been a great bonus, and hopefully will last me a good few years.