Upgrading Windows XP to Windows 8?

Instead of buying a new computer, you have decided that you want to upgrade your computer running XP to Windows 8. I hope that you checked and made sure your computer meets all of the minimum requirements to run Windows 8 before you bought a copy of Windows 8. (You can check the requirements by visiting http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/system-requirements)  While Windows 8 runs on many older machines, I did recently find a computer where I work that would not run Windows 8.

Once you are positive your computer will run Windows 8, all you have to do is go out and buy a copy of Windows 8, put the disc in, and the computer will update from Windows XP to Windows 8, right?

Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple. Microsoft has an internal policy that their programs will not upgrade a computer more than two versions. You might say well there were Windows XP, then Windows 7, and finally Windows 8, so that is only two versions. However, like me, many of us forget (or want to forget) there was Windows Vista that also followed Windows XP, making it three versions instead of two. Therefore, Microsoft will not allow us to simple put a disc in and upgrade.

What is necessary is a clean install. This means during the Windows 8 installation process, it erases everything on the hard drive.  For this reason, it is important to backup any important document, photo, video, game, and music files before you install Windows 8. You will also need to backup any contacts lists and calendar dates if you use a program like Microsoft Outlook to manage your email. You will also need to be prepared to reinstall all the programs you use on your computer if they are compatible with Windows 8. If they are not compatible, you will need to purchase Windows 8 compatible versions.

The best way to back up your files is to go out, purchase some flash drives or an external hard drive and then cut, and copy your documents from the hard drive to the flash or external drive. This way you know exactly what files you have backed up and which you have not.

There are backup programs out there that can assist you in this task.  I have not researched them enough to recommend a program however. In some cases, your flash drive or external hard drive may have a free backup program with them. I did try Microsoft’s Easy Transfer program and it works beautifully if you want to back up your Windows XP computer and upgrade to Windows 7. However, the two version policy prevents the Windows 8 Easy Transfer file from reading a Windows XP Easy Transfer file. Fortunately, I was able to use a Windows 7 computer with Windows 7 Easy Transfer, to unpack and then repack the file. From there I used the Windows 7 repacked file on the Windows 8 computer.

To contacts lists, calendars, and game files, you will need to check with the software’s manufacturer. In many cases, you will need to use a file export option. Using that option allows you to save the crucial files to your backup drive. Once your new computer is running and you have reinstalled the software, you will be able to import the files and everything should run as before.

Once you are sure you have everything backed up, you are ready to install Windows 8. The installation process is simple when compared to early Windows installations.  Rather than reiterate all the steps, I suggest you visit http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/clean-install which is Microsoft’s website outlining how to do a clean install of Windows 8.

After you complete the installation of Windows 8, install your programs and then cut and paste your files back to your old computer. If you used a backup program, install that program and then restore your files. And there you have it; your Window XP computer is now running Windows 8.

Replacing You Windows XP Computer?

You may have decided that you need to replace you old computer because it is running Windows XP and you know Microsoft has decided to no longer support XP after April 8. The question becomes what should you replace the old system with?

My recommendation is to first decide if you want a tablet, laptop or desktop version. There are pro’s and con’s with each version. So let us take a moment to briefly look at them.

1)      Tablet: Tablets are getting a lot of attention these days, but they might not be the best choice for you. Why? Because tablets are designed around portability, long battery life, and being able to be hand held, they don’t usually have a very powerful computer processor. They are also designed not to be upgraded, meaning if you want something better, you have to buy a new tablet. Because of their design, tablets are very hard to fix. They are great for checking email, playing Candy Crush, watching a movie on Netflix, and your favorite social networking site. A tablet can do word processing and spread sheets but because of their small screens they are not practical if you use them daily.

2)      Laptop: Like the tablet, the laptop is designed around the idea of portability. However, because they are not designed as a hand held device, they have more space in them to hold more components. This translates into more powerful processors as well as access points for upgrade to memory. Laptops are easier to have repaired than tablet, but their small parts do offer a challenge. In some cases there is also room for a DVD drive which is great if you still load programs from disc and/or you burn discs for home movies.  Unlike many tablets, laptops usually will USB and Video ports which allow you to connect a wider selection of peripherals.

3)       Desktop: Because the idea of portability if not a chief concern when building a desktop, the manufacture has a lot of room to add components to a computer.  It also usually allows for you to upgrade your computer as your needs grow. Also, due to their size, they are the easiest to fix. However, if you need to take it somewhere, you have a box, keyboard, and monitor to lug around.

If you need portability, but not a lot of horsepower, a tablet might be the way to go. If you need portability and horsepower, then a laptop is the way to go. If you don’t need the portability, and looking for something upgradeable, a desktop is the way to go.

If you choose to go with a tablet, I should stress that Windows based tablets have one of two different versions of Windows 8.x installed on them. The reason for the two versions is tablets either run what is known as an ARM processor which needs a specific set of directions to make it work, while other tablets run on an Intel processor that takes a total different set of directions to make it work.  This is why when the original Microsoft Surface came out there were two versions: the Surface RT and the Surface. The Surface RT ran on an ARM processor and used Windows 8 RT. The Surface on the other hand had an Intel processor and used Windows 8. There are pro’s and con’s to both versions which I don’t have the space to expound upon here, so I offer this link to Microsoft’s website which outlines the differences -http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/windows-rt-faq

If you choose to go with a laptop or a desktop, you need to consider the amount of memory the computer, the size of the hard drive, the type of processor and video card you need.  Fortunately, they first two questions are easy to answer.

To run most programs, 4 gigabytes (or 4 GB) of memory is all you need for your computer unless you are doing video editing or playing high end games; then you might want to go to 8 GB.  You can now get computers which hard drives as large at 1 terabyte (1 TB or approximately 1,000 GB).  If you do a lot of photo editing, or you have a large collection of videos or mp3 files, you might need that large of storage. However, I believe a maximum of 500 GB will suffice for most users.

To recommend a specific processor and video card is difficult. The reason being there always seems to be a new processor and video card coming out daily. There are some general guidelines I do offer however. If you are a casual computer user (internet, email, solitaire) you don’t need a real powerful processor and video card. At the time of this writing, an Intel I3 processor and an on board, video card would be fine.   If you are a business user, a middle of the road processor and standard video card should suffice. In this case, and Intel I5 processor and a lower end Radeon video card. If you are a gamer, you will need a higher end processor and video card. You definitely want an I7 and two video cards in a Crossfire or SLI configuration. (However, if you are a gamer, most likely you know that already since we are all about power computers.)

Before you buy anything, decide how you want to use the computer and if you need portability. Then look for something that fits your needs. Don’t settle for something that is under powered because it was a good deal. Also don’t buy something you don’t need. Granted it will meet your needs, but if you are not going to use the horsepower, you spent money on something you are not going to use.

Also do not buy anything at the spur of the moment. If possible talk to a sales person to get his/her impression of the product. Ask if other customers seem to be happy with the computer or are they getting a lot of returns. Check online and read reviews on the computer you are interested in.  Be careful of the “customer reviews.” These reviews can be faked. Look at the 1 and 2 star ratings. What issues are these people having? Sometimes they are people who had unrealistic expectations, but other times they point to real issues with a computer. Also go to the manufacture’s website and look and the support forums. What issues are listed there? How are they being handled by the manufacture?

Know what you want and doing a little research will go a long way in helping you find a computer that will meet your need.

Need to Leave Windows XP?

Recently, I have had to change 5 computers at work from Windows XP to Windows 8.1. The reason for the change is that Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP starting April 8, 2014. Due to a tight non-profit budget, I updated most of the computers to Windows 8.1 and I bought a new computer to replace a system I could not update.

How does this relate to you the reader of this article? Why do I the need to change to Windows 8.1 and why did I need to buy a new computer? You might be asking yourself, “Does this lack of support mean any computer running XP will stop working?”

Fortunately, the answer to the last question is no. If your computer is running XP, it will not stop working at 12:00 am on April 8.  However (to answer the first to questions), there may be a need for you to stop using your computer until you replace XP or get a new computer. Why to do I say “may” instead of “you need”?

For those who do not have their computer connected to another computer or the internet, they can keep running your computer with little risk of having a security issue. In most cases, this applies to people who bought the computer for word processing and playing solitaire. My mother-in-law uses her computer strictly for “typing letters to her friends”, and there really is no need to update or buy a replacement computer at this time.

If you fall in the above category, I need stress that just because all you do is play solitaire or write letters means your computer is safe. You need to check your computer to make sure you do not have the computer connected to the internet or another computer. While you do not use the internet, your computer is still vulnerable if it can connect to the internet.

Therefore, after April 8, 2014 make sure your computer does not have a phone cord or a patch cord (look like a thick phone cord) attached to it. This cable means you are connected to the internet or have the potential to be connected to the internet. In addition, if your computer has Wi-Fi, make sure you turn off or disable it.

However, if check your email or go out on the internet to do your banking, visit Facebook, or read the local paper, you will need to replace the operating system or get a new computer. The reason being is the Microsoft will no longer patch security holes in XP and your computer becomes more and more vulnerable to attack each day.

Does this mean you need to rush out and get a new computer before April 8? Do you need to replace the operating system by April 8th? In my humble opinion, the answer is no. April 8th is the day the last patches will be coming out. Therefore, if you need to wait a couple of weeks after that date, you should be relatively safe if you have a good anti-virus program and stay away from unsafe emails and internet sites.

So should you buy a new computer or upgrade the OS from XP to Windows 8.1? In most cases, I suggest buying a new computer instead of updating your OS. While Windows 8.1 does run on a lot of computers that are currently XP, the process is not straight forward.

First, you need to have a DVD drive on your computer to use the Windows 8.1 install disk and some older computers do not have DVD drives. Second, you need to make sure your processor and video card are compatible with the new OS. Third, you need to check to see if you have enough memory and a large enough hard drive to run the new OS. Finally, you need to backup all your data because installing the new OS will erase your hard drive; if you miss something, it is gone and you will be unable to retrieve it. (I made that mistake on one of the computers I updated.)

Another reason I suggest getting a new computer is your computer is probably around 10-12 years old. Why spend $100 or more getting your old computer to work and risk it breaking down in the year or two.

If you go with a new computer, get a faster computer that meets all the hardware requirements for Windows 8.1. You then can more leisurely transfer data from the old computer to the new computer using a flash drive or an easy transfer cable. (Or you can pay a technician to move the data for you.) If you notice something missing, you can go back into the old computer and get the missing data.

Whatever option you choose, there is a short time before April 8.